Below you will find information on how to apply for asylum in Portugal if you are under 18 year and you came without parents or caregivers.
What does it mean to ask for asylum?
If you have not done so already, make sure you tell adult staff who you are in contact with, that you are under 18 years old and travelling without your family or other caregiver as soon as possible.
As a child without an adult caregiver, an unaccompanied child, you should be able to seek support from:
- a case worker
- an Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) official
- a police official
These people can give you information about services and procedures in Portugal.
If you fear you might be in danger if you return to your country of origin because of war, violence or because your rights are not respected, talk to your social worker, the police or SEF – you may be eligible for international protection in Portugal if your country cannot or will not protect you.
Asking for asylum allows you to share your story and be considered for protection in Portugal. If your request for asylum is granted you will be able to remain in Portugal.
Examples of reasons to seek asylum:
You are afraid that in your country, you will:
- be killed or harmed physical or sexually
- be forced to join the army or another armed group
- be forced to marry someone
- experience female genital mutilation
- be forced to do dangerous or illegal types of work
- be discriminated against or suffer violence for who you are, or how you act
The next steps are:
- Speak to your case worker, the police or SEF about whether it would be a good idea to ask for international protection or
- Your case worker should be able to put you in touch with a legal adviser who can give you information and advice about applying for asylum. You should be able to receive information and support from a legal adviser who knows all the rules and procedures to apply for asylum. Click here to see organizations which give free legal advice.
Am I a victim of human trafficking?
If you have been sold or exchanged for profit from one adult to another, you may be a victim of human trafficking. This can include forced work, sexual acts, or the removal of body parts. If you have had an experience like this you should speak to your case worker, a SEF official or an adult you trust.
How to ask for asylum - what do I have to do and what will happen?
- Communicate your request for asylum to SEF or to any police authority. You have the right to do it in presence of your legal adviser.
- You will be asked to present all the documents you brought with you to Portugal.
- You will be interviewed. A SEF official will ask questions about your story and why you are asking for asylum. Your legal adviser can be at the interview with you and you are also entitled to interpretation support.
During the process you may be asked many questions to understand your story, your life, your family and the journey that brought you to Portugal. It is important to give the reasons why you are afraid to go back to your country, and to share what happened with you honestly.
People around you may tell you what to say when you apply for asylum – it is much better for you to tell the truth so that it does not negatively affect your asylum application and decision at a later stage. Ask advice from your legal adviser or case worker, who are familiar with the rules and procedures.
It may help you to write your story down, to help you remember and for the interviewing/asylum officer to understand.
If you don’t understand the language being used during the process, you should ask for the assistance of an interpreter. You have a right to receive information in a language you understand.
Asking for asylum and receiving a decision can take time: you may have to wait a long time before the end of the process. Until you have a final decision, you have the right to remain in Portugal and continue to receive support and services.
Want to know who you will meet, your rights, the services you can access?
You will be asked to share the following documents:
- Completed application form – you should complete this with your legal representative
- Identity documents – for example, your passport, a birth certificate – to confirm your nationality and age. If you don’t have any proof about your date of birth, it is possible to provide other documentary evidence (such as school records, sports club cards) that will show your age.
- Travel documents
- Any other document you brought
It is important that you only submit real documentation, as submitting fake documents can negatively impact your asylum decision. If you were given identity documents by a smuggler or a trafficker, talk about this with your guardian/legal adviser.
Don’t forget, while your asylum application is pending:
- You have the right to have your basic needs met, for example food, accommodation, medical help.
- You have the right to know what will happen to you, and where you will go: to a reception centre, or another country (for example if you are to be reunited with your family), and to receive this information in a language you understand.
- You have the right to know and to be in touch with relatives or friends in the country you are now.
- Every time your fingerprints or facial images are registered, you have the right to know how the data will be stored, who will have access to it and how long it will be accessible.
- You can get information about support, rights and benefits from your case worker and about your asylum process from your legal adviser.
Tell the adult staff who you are in contact with, that you are under 18 years old and travelling without your family or other caregiver as soon as possible.
In some cases, authorities may ask you to do an age assessment, to verify your age. It is an important procedure, as you may have additional rights and safeguards if you are under 18 years old. During the age assessment procedure your asylum application will be put on hold until the assessment is concluded.
- Before undergoing the age assessment
Before the age assessment procedure starts, you should be informed about:
- When it will take place
- How long it will take
- When you can expect a decision
You must be informed about the aim of the procedure and the method, as well as the language that will be used during the assessment.
If you don’t understand the language, you should ask for the assistance of an interpreter.
You have the right to disagree to go through the age assessment procedure, but this decision may have consequences. Make sure your case worker informs you about them.
- During the age assessment
During the process you will be accompanied by a case worker or other person, usually someone from the reception center for refugee children. You have the right to bring your case worker with you to attend the age assessment procedure with you.
The doctor might ask you a few questions to get to know you better, your story and also the reasons that made you leave your country. It’s also important to tell him if you have ever had illnesses.
During the assessment, you should be protected from humiliation. The procedure should not violate your dignity.
If you believe it does, reach out to your case worker or the police. They will help you.
You may be asked to undergo different medical examinations.
You have the right to know what will happen to you at any time. You can also refuse to do the medical examination in which case the Tribunal will have to decide how to proceed in your case.
The medical examination takes place in the doctor’s office, where certain exams will be conducted, such as, an x-ray to your teeth or to the bones of your hand, wrist or clavicle.
The doctor may also ask you to partially undress for the purposes of the examination.
However, if you feel judged, uncomfortable, humiliated or ashamed, you must speak out.
At any time during the exam, do not hesitate to ask the doctor to explain something he has said to you or asked and that you didn’t understand.
You always, at any moment, have the right to say NO.
- After the age assessment
The decision happens at different levels, including the administrative level and judicial level. You have the right to fully understand the reasons of law and fact on which the decision is based. If you don’t, ask your legal adviser.
In case an x-ray was conducted, the doctor will study the result to assess your age. The doctor can’t tell what your exact age is. He/she can only say that your age is, for example, between 12 and 16 years old, or between 14 and 18 years old, which is called an age range.
After this, the result is sent to the Court Judge or the Public Prosecutor’s Office, who make the final decision. In case they still have doubts about your age, they can ask you to go to their office at the courthouse so that they talk to you about their concerns before making a final decision.
In the end, you will receive a letter with the result of the assessment. It will say if you’re considered under or over 18 years old.
There are two possible outcomes of the assessment:
- If you are recognised as a child (meaning: any person under 18 years old), you should be informed of your rights:
- Social rights: accommodation, education, health care, educational and social support
- Legal representation and guardianship
- Immigration and asylum status
- Services available now
- Services available when you turn 18 and leave care
- If you are recognised as an adult, over 18 years old, it may have legal and administrative results; according to those results, your rights, duties and benefits may change. Consult your case worker/legal adviser to plan the next steps.
You may also be informed about the possibilities to re-establish your identity documents, particularly if they have been confiscated.
You disagree with the decision?
After a decision about your age has been made, you can challenge it. Ask your case worker/legal adviser for information and advice about how to do this.
Decision about your asylum claim
After the age assessment process is concluded, the asylum process will continue. The asylum officer will look at all the information and documents you have shared and make a decision. This stage can take a long time. The decision will be shared with your legal adviser and case worker, who should explain the decision to you.
There are two possible decisions:
1 → Portugal gives you international protection
- If you receive refugee status, this means you can stay here as a resident for 5 years. The Residence Permit you will receive can be renewed for periods of 5 years each time.
- If you receive subsidiary protection status, this means you can stay here as a resident for 3 years. The Residence Permit you will receive can be renewed for periods of 3 years each time.
2 → Portugal can’t give you international protection.
You may still be able to stay in Portugal under certain conditions. If your asylum claim is rejected, you may, with the support of a legal adviser, apply for a Temporary Residence Permit which is valid for 1 year, renewable for periods of two years. It is a humanitarian protection given to you because even if you don’t meet the criteria for refugee status, you still need protection in Portugal. It allows you to reside legally in the country and access education, health and other services and support.
If you disagree with the decision and think it is wrong or unfair, you can ask for your case to be looked at again. This is called appealing.
Don’t hesitate to discuss it with your lawyer or legal adviser.
Where can I find help?
If you want to apply for asylum, you can contact the Asylum and Refugees Department (GAR) of the Immigration and Border Service (SEF), that is responsible for the registration and analysis of asylum applications:
- Asylum and Refugees Department (GAR)
- Rua Passos Manuel, n. 40 – 1169-089 Lisbon
- E-mail: [email protected]
The following institutions support and promote children’s rights:
- SOS CRIANÇA – Institute for support of children at risk
- Call 116111
- National Commission for the Promotion of the Rights and Protection of Children and Youth
- Helpline for children at risk 96 123 11 11
- E-mail [email protected]
- The Portuguese Ombudsman Office
- Help line for children 800 20 66 56
- E-mail [email protected]
If you encounter inappropriate behaviour, physical, psychological or sexual violence from anybody, including police authorities, staff members of social services, asylum services or organisations, you can report them at the following addresses:
- Public Ministry, Department for Family, Child and Youth
- E-mail [email protected]
- Call213 921 900
Do you have relatives in another European country?
If you have relatives in another European country, there is a law, the Dublin Regulation, that can help you reach them in a safe and legal way. If you wish to be with them, let your case worker/legal adviser know, to see if it can work for you. In some cases, the Dublin Regulation allows your transfer from Portugal to another European country, even if you have made an asylum request and had your fingerprints taken in Portugal.
If you do not know where your family members are and you need support in locating them, you can contact Portuguese Red Cross, an organization which provides support in family tracing:
- The Portuguese Red Cross
- E-mail [email protected],
- Call +351 213 913 935, or +351 967 071 359 (mobile phone)
Do you want to return to your country of origin?
Make sure to communicate this desire to the case worker and legal adviser who supports you. In order for the institutions to support you to go back to your country, the Tribunal will need to assess whether going back is in your best interest.