Portugal offers to take more refugees to revive workforce

Portugal proposed to accept up to 10,000 asylum seekers from countries dealing with rush of refugees in order to boost its workforce with skilled laborers and students

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Refugees haven't been knocking on Portugal's door, with most opting to go to northern European countries such as Sweden and Denmark

It has been revealed that Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa last week sent a letter to Greece, Austria, Italy and Sweden offering to take up to 5,800 extra refugees in addition to 4,500 it has already agreed to take within the scope of European Union's refugee quota system.

Costa said that he was against "a Europe that closes its borders to block access to refugees" and he repeated his comments in his visit to Berlin, adding that it was unfair to encumber Berlin which concerns "all European leaders".

Germany, which has a population of around 80 million, has welcomed more refugees than any other European country. Almost 1.1 million refugees came in 2015 and officials are keen to ensure that the numbers are lower this year.

Refugees mostly choose to go northern European countries such as Sweden and Denmark rather than Portugal which began to tighten its borders in order to prevent an influx of refugees.

Portugal has been dealing with global financial crisis and almost half a million have left country in order to find jobs in the last four years. Head of the Portuguese Refugee Council Teresa Tito Morais said “The arrival of refugees will benefit the regions in the country that have become deserted,” adding that Portugal is little known and “needs to make its voice heard to migrants arriving in Europe.”

Portugal has welcomed just 32 refugees so far. Rui Alberto Tereno,  the country’s ambassador to Greece, visited a Greek refugee camp in order to encourage asylum seekers to come to Portugal.

The country will be choosy about taking refugees as it attempts to encourage its workforce with students and skilled labourers. It plans to take 2,000 university students, 800 vocational students, and 2,500 to 3,000 refugees qualified in the agriculture and forestry fields.

"These are the sectors that lack manpower and are being forced to recruit workers in Vietnam and Thailand," the government said.

"They are the jobs that the Portuguese do not take," said Tito Morais, adding that it is a myth that refugees come to Portugal to steal jobs.

"The Portuguese are used to emigrating and know what it's like to look for a better life elsewhere," a refugee council official said.