Update from June 2022:
A new census was conducted in Portugal in 2021 and included a brief explanation of the concept ‘stateless’ in the questionnaire, but preliminary results have not yet been disaggregated to provide any new data on the stateless population. The 2011 census indicated 553 stateless people in the country. Statistics Portugal data on the resident population for 2020 reports 30 stateless people (16 men and 14 women) and 72 people recorded as ‘other non-classifiable’ (34 men and 38 women). No-one was recorded as having ‘unknown nationality’ in 2020.
The Portuguese Nationality Act was amended in 2020, with changes entering into force on 11 November 2020. The revised Nationality Regulation was adopted in March 2022 and entered into force in April 2022. While the amendments do not directly affect statelessness provisions, some of the changes introduced may have an impact on the prevention and reduction of statelessness in Portugal as they widen the scope for acquisition of nationality at birth and facilitate naturalisation for children born to foreign parents in Portugal.
In November 2020, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice, and the Portuguese Bar Association signed a cooperation protocol to ensure provision of legal assistance to people refused entry at the border through the creation of on-site shifts of lawyers. The procedural rules on the implementation of the protocol entered in force on 8 March 2021.
The deadline for registering births in Portugal was suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic through legal amendments enacted in March and April 2020. During the pandemic, all of the Nascer Cidadão desks, allowing birth registration to be performed in hospitals and maternity wards, were temporarily closed and media reports revealed in 2021 that this caused significant gaps in birth registration, particularly for children born to foreign parents.
New resources on Portugal now available include:
Portugal has a relatively good record on accession to relevant human rights instruments, including three of the four core statelessness conventions. Some data on the stateless population is available, but this is limited due to the lack of mechanisms to identify and determine statelessness, inconsistencies in recording, and overlapping data categories. A new census was carried out in 2021, and a brief explanation of the concept ‘stateless’ was included in the questionnaire, but disaggregated results are not available at the time of writing.
There are no procedures through which statelessness can be determined in Portugal nor a stateless protection status established in law.
There are also gaps in protections to prevent the arbitrary detention of stateless people, and it is likely that some stateless people are detained in practice. However, there are relatively strong procedural safeguards in place and cumulative time spent in detention counts towards the maximum (relatively short) time limit.
Portugal performs well on the prevention and reduction of statelessness, although some improvements could be made. For example, the legal safeguard for otherwise stateless children born on the territory is not necessarily automatic in practice, and the burden of proof in evidencing statelessness lies with the child. However, successive recent amendments to the Nationality Act have broadened the scope for children born in Portugal to foreign parents to acquire nationality at birth. In practice, foundlings acquire nationality by birth, there is no risk of statelessness in adoption procedures, and no discriminatory conditions on the acquisition of nationality by children born to nationals abroad. The registration of all births in Portugal is mandatory and facilitated even if parents cannot prove their identity or miss the registration deadline; however, facilitated birth registration in hospitals and maternity wards (‘Nascer cidadão’) was suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially impacting (prompt) birth registration with increased risks to children born to foreign parents. Portuguese nationality law contains safeguards to prevent statelessness as a result of deprivation or renunciation of nationality.
Information below by theme was last updated in March 2021.
Inês Carreirinho and Rita Santos, Portuguese Refugee Council