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Portugal: Platform to Support Refugees announces immediate availability of dwellings to host 420 refugees (Unofficial translation)

On Wednesday 14 October, the main hall of the rectory of the University of Lisbon was full of people representing institutions and agencies willing to help welcoming and integrating refugees who will arrive in Portugal soon. Since its creation, a month and a half ago, the Platform to Support Refugees (PAR) has succeeded to gather 68 host institutions willing to put 85 dwellings at disposal of the same number of refugee families (equivalent to 420 individuals). More have expressed interest in hosting refugees.

Mr. Rui Marques, the elected coordinator of the new civil society organisation, said that "the technical staff members of the institutions that will host and integrate the refugees, will be trained". The so-called "host institutions" comprise religious institutions (26%), associations and foundations (25%) and private institutions of social solidarity (19%). The programme, which has been set up under time pressure, involves experts from various institutions of higher education, ranging from the Catholic University to the University of Coimbra. It contains 14 modules that address gender issues, mental health and trauma, ethics of care, interreligious dialogue, etc. "The technical staff members of the host institutions will complement the skills they already have with specific training to ease the reception of- and support to integration to refugees" explained Mr. Rui Marques. The training will take place in November and December. Each host institution must be able to ensure, through own resources and / or in partnership with other organisations, housing, food, health support, education, classes of Portuguese language and help in labour integration of adults.

During the meeting at the University of Lisbon, representatives of various enterprises and organisations that recently joined the PAR came forward to explain their commitment. For example:

  • The publishing house Porto Editora will provide kits for teaching Portuguese as non-mother tongue (materials for children, adults and volunteer teachers);
  • The Portugal Telecom Foundation promised to provide mobile phones and services;
  • Microsoft Portugal will grant an extra day of volunteering to its employees and assure the funding of hosting one family;
  • The Islamic Foundation of Palmela secured apartments for 150 refugees, made available by the community; etc.

Inspiring was the word used by Mr. Pedro Calado, the High Commissioner for Migrations, to describe the Platform to Support Refugees (PAR). The High Commissioner for Migrations who has as mission to contribute to "inform the public" and avoid the "spread of prejudice" wants "take this topic to all the country's classrooms". There will also be a campaign on television and a magazine called Refugiados (presented by Mr. Rui Marques), to be distributed by various newspapers in order to tackle "myths and fears" and mitigate prejudice in the public opinion.

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