Since the beginning of the armed conflict in Ukraine, there has been a strong mobilisation of Portuguese public authorities, social services and welfare organisations based on an integrated strategic plan for the reception, management and integration of displaced persons from Ukraine.
The initiatives implemented in Portugal have taken various forms based on the relevant legislation (Resolution of the Ministers’ Council 29-A/2022 and Decree Law 24-B/2022), which enables the integration of people displaced from Ukraine, speeding up the process of their access to health, housing, education, training and employment.
The platform Portugal for Ukrainians, offered in Portuguese, English and Ukrainian, presents initiatives and actions in various areas such as employment, training and education. To overcome the language barrier in communication between refugees and public services, a translation/interpreting telephone service has been made available.
Another aspect considered a priority by the Portuguese Government is the protection of unaccompanied refugee minors. A multidisciplinary task force made up of members of the labour ministry, the justice ministry, the Borders and Immigration Service (SEF) and the High Commission for Migration is responsible for monitoring and helping them find foster care.
Education and training
Children and young people from Ukraine have the same rights to education as Portuguese pupils. To promote prompt access to the education system the government has set up special measures:
- simplification of transferability procedures for foreign qualifications recognition and integration of refugees in a school year and/or training path;
- systematic learning of Portuguese as a second language;
- gradual integration in the Portuguese school curriculum;
- establishment of multidisciplinary teams (school headmasters, teachers, psychologists, special education teachers, social workers, interpreters), with the mission of developing personalised strategies for specific refugee cases;
- specialised support by multidisciplinary teams at the shelter;
- school social action support (meals, school materials, field trip fees and insurance).
In higher education, all citizens granted temporary protection from the Foreigners and Borders service may apply for emergency student status for humanitarian reasons. The recognition of foreign academic degrees is completed within a period of maximum 30 days. Admission to higher education institutions is not subject of quantitative limitations and may occur in all study cycles.
Refugee students may benefit from scholarships and other support measures providing meals, accommodation and health services.
Within this scope, the implemented measures enable a simplification of procedures for recognition of professional qualifications of Ukrainian nationals by exempting them from the requirements established in the sectoral legislation, such as:
- legalisation formalities for documents issued by foreign entities;
- certification or authentication for translations of documents written in a foreign language into Portuguese;
- official validation for photocopies of original documents;
- registration fees or other taxes;
- recognition of driving licenses and certification of professional drivers.
The Public Employment Service (IEFP) runs a set of actions aimed at social and professional integration, addressing both employers (by raising awareness of the need to hire displaced persons from Ukraine) and refugees (by disseminating job offers and promoting Portuguese language courses).
Finally, there is a special platform where employers register job offers declaring their intention to hire exclusively displaced workers from Ukraine.
Despite all these initiatives and the mobilisation of the Portuguese society, there are still some integration challenges, such as war trauma and unfamiliarity with the Portuguese language.
The language barrier is one of the constraints that is addressed by holding Portuguese language courses for children, young people and adults.
Central government networking with municipalities, the social sector, civil services and employers have been factors enabling the integration of refugees both in the labour market and in society.