The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many immigrants to leave Portugal in search of better jobs, but the country remains attractive and in demand among both first-timers and those who have left and are returning.
Speaking to the Lusa agency, Solidariedade Imigrante (Solim), coordinator of the association for the protection of the rights of immigrants, emphasized that these people, and women among them, are “excluded from the excluded from society” and that, therefore, “Were greatly affected by the pandemic.”
“In this situation, immigrants went to look for better living conditions, they went to look for work, our daily bread, that’s what people were doing. They went to other European countries affected by the situation with the pandemic to earn money, work and correct the situation,” said Timoteo Macedo.
However, according to the official, the situation is now changing, and he says that there are those who return, and there are still those who come for the first time, with the difference that they come from “other places that Portugal did not know.” away”, “used”.
According to Timoteo Macedo, there are now many immigrants from French-speaking Africa, such as the Gambia, Senegal or other neighboring countries such as Mali, who, for example, work in agriculture.
Cecilia Minascurta, president and founder of the Mundo Feliz Immigrant Association, is of a similar opinion that there are new flows of migrants, although not as large as two years ago.
According to Cecilia Minascourt, these people found jobs in cleaning, catering, hotels, as well as caring for the elderly or driving heavy vehicles.
Analyzing the situation since the beginning of the pandemic and the possible causes of the labor shortage recently reported in some sectors of activity, the official acknowledges that some immigrants returned to their countries of origin, others immigrated to other countries, and there were still those who found other work.
“I know a lot of people who have left the hospitality business and moved to, for example, Uber,” he said, noting that the restaurant sector was one of the first to close, leaving many people out of work.
On the other hand, he said he was aware of those who had returned to their country of origin, citing Brazilian citizens who no longer had a livelihood due to the pandemic as an example.
Timoteo Macedo, among other things, stressed that during the pandemic, it was immigrants who kept the agricultural sector functioning and were “the first on the front to face and suffer the consequences of the pandemic”, while at the same time they were treated as a “jack of all trades”.
“They have used and abused this workforce that is available and needs to work hard to get residency or documents or access to family reunification,” he criticized, stressing that health restrictions were not the same for all people, because that immigrants had to work to maintain their document status and “feed their families”.
Speaking about the reason why there are still migrants who choose Portugal for work, Timoteo Macedo points to the fact that the country needs them and that in many areas of activity there is still a need for this labor force.
Coordinator Solim said that not only is there a lot of work in Portugal, but “more immigrants are needed” and added that there are national companies that are already hiring workers in countries such as Thailand for restaurants and hotels, citing as an example Algarve.
The association’s president, Mundo Feliz, says there is also a labor shortage in the construction sector and that companies have received requests for workers but are actually short of those who want to work in the area.
Despite this, Cecilia Minascurta assures that Portugal remains an attractive country for immigrants, noting that the legalization process is still “a little easier than in other countries”, with the hope of finding a better life here.
As for working conditions, the Solim coordinator assures that they remain the same as before the start of the pandemic, with great instability and low wages, aggravated by poor housing conditions that are not able to meet basic needs.
“This is a very difficult situation, very dangerous. The work is unreliable, with low wages, poor sanitary and hygienic working conditions, more and more accidents. These are exploited and super-exploited people,” he said.
Cecilia Minascurta added that the average cost of rent is a problem, pointing out that immigrants often do not receive a salary that would allow them to cover these costs, and recalling that many landlords require a three-month security deposit upon entry.
According to the president of Casa do Brasil in Lisbon, the pandemic has made it clear “how much immigrants are being exploited in the service sector”: in restaurants, hotels, civil engineering or agriculture.
“Working conditions are actually very precarious, when they have an employment contract, they are lucky, many work even without an employment contract and are in the hands of companies, and when they have an employment contract, it is with a minimum wage,” Cynthia noted. de Paulo.
However, the association continues to receive requests for support from newcomers to Portugal, some of whom have suspended their migration processes due to the pandemic and who are now resuming this project.
“My colleagues in the service have an overloaded agenda, they don’t even realize the real need, we need to double the information capacity to support people,” said Cynthia de Paulo, adding that there is a perception that “there has been a significant increase in the number of Brazilian immigrants seeking work in Portugal.
The official acknowledges that a “significant” proportion of Brazilian immigrants have returned to their country of origin due to the pandemic, but says he does not know if this was more than the number of recent entries, pointing out that the phenomenon cannot be analyzed yet.
He also believes that today’s labor shortages in many sectors can be explained by the fact that people have migrated to other sectors that are more skilled and better paid.