The Ombudsman's Office, on 24 June, delivered a report on its 2020 activity to Parliament, accompanied by the activity as the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture (MNP), which is also the Ombudsman's responsibility.
In the NPM report, the Ombudsman's Office refers to the Temporary Installation Centres (CIT) and the Spaces Equivalent to Temporary Installation Centres (EECIT), recalling that in recent reports it has always signalled risk factors for the occurrence of ill-treatment.
The EECITs are detention spaces in international zones of airports, and have been mentioned in the reports for not having conditions, also because they were made when there was a much smaller flow of migrants than the one verified in recent years. The idea was that immigrants who could not enter the country would stay a short time and be directed to the CIT, and Portugal has only one CIT, in Porto.
"Currently, the creation of alternatives in the centre and south of the country is urgent, to avoid the perpetuation of inhumane detention conditions in EECITs. However, while this does not materialise, it is equally fundamental to ensure dignified conditions for foreign citizens who are deprived of their freedom in EECIT", says the report.
But it also says that due to the pandemic the reference year of the report was atypical for EECITs, either by restricting the number of flights and the arrival of far fewer people not authorised to enter the country, or by works in EECITs.
The Lisbon EECIT closed in April for works (following the death on the spot of a Ukrainian citizen, Ihor Homeniuk) and if it now has a capacity for 43 people the truth, the report says, is that today (due to the pandemic) it has an average occupancy of two to three people, the most common nationalities being Brazilian, Angolan and Guinean (Guinea-Bissau).
The Ombudsman notes that the EECIT "is now designed, and rightly so, for short stays", because it is not a suitable place to keep people for a long time, and says that there is "an enormous urgency to open a new CIT in the Lisbon area, which is all the more urgent because it is essential to enable compliance with the new EECIT rules, particularly with regard to this aspect of not staying for extended periods".
The report highlights the positive aspects of having now a family room at EECIT Lisbon, the fact that it is now possible to use a mobile phone in the rooms, although access to wifi network free of charge remains to be ensured, and the guarantee of access to a lawyer.
As for EECIT Porto, the report recalls, it also closed last year for works, after a violent protest in August by Moroccan citizens, with the Ombudsman pointing out that this was the time for works, but for requalification and transformation.
And works are also needed, according to the document, at Faro's EECIT, which is partially operational following an escape of people who damaged the installations last July.
Regarding the only real CIT, the Santo António Housing Unit, the Ombudsman's document stresses that general conditions are more satisfactory than those of the EECITs. And it recalls that the Covid-19 pandemic also affected the normal functioning of the place, both regarding visits and the use of common spaces.
In the document the Ombudsman says it is necessary to standardise procedures at EECIT, because the rules are not the same at the three airports.