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Delay in issuing post-Brexit ID cards puts Portugal’s border agency under spotlight

Nearly 35,000 British citizens called Portugal home in 2019, the year that Britain left the European Union. Their rights were protected under the withdrawal agreement.

SEF told them to exchange EU residence permits for biometric identification cards. However, the vast majority of them have not received these cards. They were given temporary documents and a QR code by campaign groups, which aren’t widely recognized.

Tig James, co president of British in Portugal, stated that without the card, people had difficulty accessing healthcare, exchanging their driving license, finding jobs, and some were even threatened with being denied entry to Portugal by other EU countries who do not accept the temporary document.

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James stated that SEF officials have used holiday periods, COVID-19, staff shortages and the arrival of Ukrainian refugees as reasons for the three-year delay.

James stated that the seriousness of not having the card )… is unimaginable. It has paralysed and harmed UK citizens… financially, emotionally, and physically.”

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SEF stated that the QR code and temporary document guarantee access to social and health services. The card will not be issued until they are accepted. The statement stated that other European countries were aware.

The issuing process began in February on Azores and Madeira where less than 1,500 British citizens live. SEF stated that it would begin the process this month in Cascais, a seaside municipality near Lisbon.

SEF didn’t respond to a question about how many cards had been issued thus far.

The SEF has been accused for being slow and inefficient over the years. Diaspora, which supports migrants from Brazil, the African continent and other countries, claims that people have to wait between two and three years for appointments.

Helena Schmitz, Diaspora said that waiting times brought insecurity and instability to the lives of migrants. Migrants often have to work hard and fear discrimination because they don’t have ID documents.

Schmitz said that it is more than just not having a residence permit. He also explained to Reuters that “privileged” groups often have greater access to SEF as they can afford lawyers to handle the process.

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