Portugal Sets Immigration Quota for 2004 at 8,500
EUBusiness, Mar. 24
Portugal will allow a maximum of 8,500 immigrants from outside the European Union to legally settle in the country this year, government spokesman Nuno Morais Sarmento said Wednesday.
The centre-right government had said in January it would allow up to 6,500 immigrants to settle in the country this year but the spokesman told reporters the government revised the figure upward following a study of the needs of the labour market.
Morais Sarmento said the vast majority of immigrants would be needed to fill vacancies in the service, agriculture and construction sectors.
Under a tough new immigration law passed by the government at the end of 2002, migrants from outside the EU wishing to live in Portugal must apply first for a work visa from their homeland.
The new law also allows the government to set annual limits on immigration based on a study of the needs of the labour market and requires firms caught employing illegals to cover the cost of their repatriation.
Under the laws of the EU, which Portugal joined in 1986, citizens of member states enjoy the right to live and work in any country of the 15-nation bloc.
Traditionally a nation that sent immigrants abroad, Portugal has in recent years seen the flow reversed as thousands of workers — primarily from eastern Europe and former colonies in Latin America and Africa — have settled in the country in search of better living conditions.
The number of legal immigrants living in Portugal rose to 434,646 by the end of 2003, a five percent increase over the same time last year, according to border police figures.
Officials estimate there are another 100,000 foreigners living in the country illegally, meaning immigrants now make up roughly five percent of the nation’s population — one of the highest proportions in the European Union — from less than two percent only five years ago.
Polls show opposition to the arrival of more immigrants has been gradually rising in Portugal, especially as unemployment has risen over the past year.