Union president asks Marcelo to stop SEF extinction calling the GNR and PSP “xenophobic and racist”

Written By Lara Silva

The President of the labor union for the Portuguese Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF), Acácio Pereira wrote an open letter directed at President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa asking for the extinction of SEF not to happen. Published in the Diario de Noticias, Acácio Pereira wrote on Tuesday that “immigration is not a case for the police” because GNR and PSP have “structural problems of xenophobia and racism”.

The extinction of SEF will mean that the “policing” aspect of immigration will be transferred to PSP and GNR, while the Portuguese Agency of Migration and Asylum (APMA) will be created to take care of administrative issues such as visas.

Pereira said in his letter that “Portugal will be worse off without this service (SEF). Worse because it will have fewer safe borders. Worse because it will lose a specialized service in the investigation and fight against transnational criminal networks. Worse because it will no longer have a criminal police unit specialized in the protection of trafficked humans”.

He says that the workers of SEF are not the only ones to recognize that SEF is necessary for the interest of the Portuguese and immigrants looking for a better life in Portugal. He states: “PSD, PCP, and CDS also know this, founding parties of the democratic regime after the 25th of April revolution”.

While Pereira says what was promised was a separation between immigration issues and law enforcement functions, believing in the consensus that immigration should not be a case for the police. He says that “creating the APMA and removing immigration issues of law enforcement sphere, does not mean destroying a competent and efficient service, renowned internationally, and transferring its competencies to the GNR and PSP”.

He believes that transferring immigration work to police forces is dangerous as they “have structural problems of xenophobia and racism”. He goes on to present examples, such as how in Vila Nova de Mil Fontes, there are members of GNR and PSP in prison for torturing immigrants. He tells the President that “these cases in PSP and GNR are not isolated cases – nor are they constrained to Alentejo”.

Pereira says that although PSP and GNR’s cases of xenophobia and racism are structural, the death of the Ukrainian citizen at the airport of Lisbon at the hands of SER inspectors was “an isolated act”. He goes on to say that the report conducted by the government after the murder found that there are no major issues at SEF.

The President of the Police Union for PSP, Paulo Santos, told TSF that he condemns the comments made by Pereira, reminding audiences of the “noble mission” of police in society. Carlos Nogueira, the representative of the Association of GNR said that “racism and xenophobia and transversal issues of all of society” and that although there are “isolated cases”, the GNR acts immediately against these.

The extinction of the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) in Portugal has been postponed once again, without a particular extinction date set. SEF was set to be extinct on May 12 and be replaced by the Portuguese Agency of Migration and Asylum (APMA).

The Minister of Internal Administration, José Luís Carneiro stated the “transition should occur in a tranquil and safe manner” and that this transition is not yet ready. He also guaranteed that the fundamental rights of the workers at SEF will be safeguarded during the transition.

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