Opinion » Columnists
Author`s name Ольга Савка

Portugal: Immigrants take to the streets

Massive demonstration puts pressure on new government to end slavery

Residence YES!! Slavery NO!! These were the slogans chanted by hundreds of immigrants from five continents in Lisbon today, in protest against Portugal's xenophobic immigration laws, which create a situation in which many immigrants are forced to contribute to the state without having any rights in return. Slavery in the third millennium.

Portugal's modern version of slavery has created a two-tier system for immigrants, in which some have the right to Residence (and enjoy practically the same rights as the Portuguese, except the right to vote) and others are restricted to what is called a Permanence visa, under which scheme the state imposes on them the same obligations to pay taxes and make social security contributions but in return gives them nothing.

They cannot buy a house, they cannot open a firm, they cannot employ anyone.

The wave of outrage was tangible in Lisbon today. PRAVDA.Ru contacted members of the associations of Russians, Ukrainians, Angolans, Guineans and Brazilians and the message was the same: a human being has the basic right to be treated equally. In Portugal, there is a two-tier system of first-class and second-class immigrants, in which the Portuguese state treats the latter as slaves.

Welcome to the European Union.

We heard from three Ukrainians who could not go home for the funerals of close family members because the Portuguese state had not granted their right to Residence, although this had been applied for more than a year before. This means if they leave the country, they will not be allowed back in, although they have their livelihoods here.

The callous and inhumane system which constitutes Portugal's immigration policy is as follows: immigrants who arrive in a legal situation are given what is called a Permanence visa, which is renewed annually for five years. This visa has to be renewed every year before the expiry date but the new visa is only conceded some months later. To renew, the immigrant has to spend a whole morning in the respective delegation (ACIME), waiting to receive a paper which sets the date for the visa to be renewed. In the case of a visa which expires on March 13th, the renewal is set for August 13th.

One whole day to receive a stamp in the passport

During these five months, the immigrant lives in a quasi-legal situation, not completely illegal but also not enjoying full rights, for instance, the right to travel freely. When the visa is conceded five months later, it will involve a whole day spent in the ACIME building, plus a payment of 75 Euros, just to receive a stamp in the passport. One whole day.

After five consecutive years of going through this ludicrous situation twice a year, the immigrant can apply for Residence. PRAVDA.Ru has documented cases where this has still not been conceded two and a half years after it was applied for.

Enough!!

Today several Portuguese organisms (the Trade Union CGTP-IN, Solidariedade Imigrante, SOS Racismo, ATTAC) supported by the Portuguese Communist Party and Left Block, together with associations of immigrants, took to the streets in a campaign to ask for equal and basic human rights for all immigrants.

It is time for an end to slavery and an end to a system in which certain immigrants have to make the same contribution to society as those who receive something in return but without enjoying the same rights. Surely the E.U. law has something to say about this?

In a country which has far more Portuguese emigrants than foreign immigrants, the Portuguese authorities would do well to reconsider a policy which is xenophobic, racist, discriminatory, and is today’s version of slavery.

Either the immigrants (of which there are 200.000 Russian speakers) are legal, or not. If they are legalized, why not give them all the same rights? Why deny some the same rights as those enjoyed by others? These are the questions which the immigrant associations place before the new Socialist government of Jose Socrates today.

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