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Portugal offers to take in limited mix of extra refugees

22 February 2016 10:56


Portugal has offered to take in up to 5,800 extra refugees from countries struggling to cope with the influx of asylum seekers into Europe to boost its workforce with skilled laborers and students and help maintain its population.

Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa last week sent letters to Austria, Greece, Italy and Sweden – some of the countries that have been bearing the brunt of the refugee influx – and said that Lisbon can welcome up to 5,800 more asylum seekers on top of the 4,500 it has already agreed to take.

The southern European country plans to take 2,500 to 3,000 refugees qualified in the agriculture and forestry fields, 2,000 university students, and 800 vocational students.

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

According to the head of the Portuguese Refugee Council Teresa Tito Morais, those areas constitute “the jobs that the Portuguese do not take.”

Portugal, a country of 10.5 million people, has been hammered by the global financial crisis. Almost half a million Portuguese have left the country either permanently or temporarily in search of jobs in the last four years. Unemployment remains high at 12 percent.

“The arrival of refugees will benefit the regions in the country that have become deserted,” Morais said, adding, however, that Portugal is little known and “needs to make its voice heard to migrants arriving in Europe.”

Lisbon has taken just 32 asylum seekers so far. The country’s ambassador to Greece, Rui Alberto Tereno, recently paid a visit to a Greek refugee camp in a bid to encourage the asylum seekers to travel to the sunny coastal country.

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