Grupo Operativo Único (GOU) - Single Operative Group
The project in brief
The project is implemented by the High Commission for Migrants (ACM) in Portugal to establish a single system for the reception and integration of applicants for and beneficiaries of international protection, ensuring greater effectiveness and efficiency in their reception and integration. It began in December 2020 and is currently ongoing.
Accompanying the growing trend of international mobility, the last decade saw the increase in Portuguese numbers of asylum applications, being necessary to find quick and innovative ways of responding. Single Operative Group was set up, and operates in restricted or extended committee, with coordinating and technical-operational functions. The restricted committee is constituted by the High Commission for Migrations, I.P., the Immigration and Borders Service and the Social Security Institute, I.P. and the extended committee is constituted by the aforementioned and entities from the different government areas.
Main activities of the Good Practice
The extended committee work has focused on sharing experiences within the scope of the hosting and integration process. Streamlining, articulating, resolving critical situations are presented to these entities, implying the creation of a reporting mechanism. The entities have made great efforts to try and resolve the constraints identified in the integration of applicants and beneficiaries of international protection in Portugal, which were highlighted at the monthly meetings, in close collaboration in the different areas of integration, namely:
- Documentation - regularization in national territory;
- Access to social support;
- Access to housing;
- Access to health, mental health and discussion of COVID-19 issues, quarantine and isolation;
- Access to employment and vocational training;
- Access to education;
- Access to Portuguese Language courses, among others.
When solutions cannot be found to the constraints identified they are reported to restricted committee for analysis and strategic planning.
Within the scope of this Single Operative Group, sub-working groups have also been set up. Subgroup - Social monitoring of applicants and beneficiaries of international protection, constituted by ACM, SEF/CPR, ISS/SCML:
- Fortnightly meetings - cases are analyzed and passed on between institutions, depending on each one's responsibilities at each stage of the document regularization process in National Territory. Reports on all critical situations that arise during the process of integrating the applicants for and beneficiaries of international protection are reported to extended committee, to unblock, streamline and standardize procedures with the entities.
Subgroup - Monitoring Unaccompanied Minor Children, constituted by ACM, ISS, SCML, CPL, DGEstE, DGS, CPR, UNHCR, IOM, CNPDPCJ and SEF:
- The work has focused on presenting a proposal for improvement and a legal framework for the model of integrating Unaccompanied Minor Children into the education system; mapping the constraints encountered; drawing up a Pre-Departure Reception Guide; creating a Monitoring and Evaluation System; providing training for reception bodies; developing joint and individual efforts to respond to all the needs identified during the reception of Unaccompanied Minor Children.
Subgroup - Planned Movements, constituted by ACM, SEF, ISS, UNHCR and IOM:
- The work has focused on discussion of carrying out online selection missions and their planning; funding of reception programs; discussion of pledges; total numbers of transfers to national territory and Humanitarian Admission from Afghanistan.
- High Commission for Migrations, I. P. (ACM);
- Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF);
- Social Security Institute, I. P. (ISS);
- Directorate-General for Higher Education (DGES);
- Directorate-General for School Establishments (DGEstE);
- Portuguese Institute of Sport and Youth, I. P. (IPDJ);
- Institute for Employment and Vocational Training, I. P. (IEFP);
- National Agency for Qualification and Vocational Education, I. P. (ANQEP);
- Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa (SCML);
- Central Administration of the Health System, I. P. (ACSS);
- Directorate-General for Health (DGS);
- Housing and Urban Rehabilitation Institute, I. P. (IHRU);
- General Directorate of Education (DGE);
- Portuguese Council for Refugees (CPR);
- International Organization for Migration (OIM);
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (ACNUR);
- National Coordination of Mental Health Policies (CNPSM);
- Casa Pia de Lisboa, I.P. (CPL);
- National Commission for the Promotion of the Rights and Protection of Children and Young People (CNPDPCJ).
What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?
The existence of differences between the reception and integration models (non-programmed and programmed) implemented in Portugal.
The mechanism for entry into national territory determines the entities involved throughout the process, the social support provided and the guarantee of material reception conditions for the applicants and beneficiaries of international protection, which differs between the programs.
With regard to access to health care, difficulties were identified in terms of access to health care for the applicants and beneficiaries of international protection (issue of a national health number; registration at a health center; reimbursement of medication).
How they were overcome
In the course of 2021/2022, we witnessed two major conflicts, in Afghanistan and Ukraine, during which Portugal urgently and emergently took in citizens from these countries, that weren’t included in any of the existing programmed movement programs. ISS and ACM took part in these receptions from the moment the citizens arrived in Portugal. This collaboration established the starting point for the discussion and technical vision of creating a single reception and integration system.
In terms of health constraints, the creation of a more appropriate national training plan aimed at technicians at local level, in order to better streamline procedures.
Results of the Good Practice
- The work of the Single Operative Group is based on cooperation between the partner organizations with responsibilities in the reception and integration of refugees, allowing a closer look at the challenges and constraints identified and create more concerted, thoughtful and effective response, improving the work of the reception and, as a result, promoting better integration of refugees in Portugal.
- The coordinated work and coordination between the entities, has made possible the development of specific reception systems in response to the international solidarity commitments made by Portugal, in particular the reception program for Unaccompanied Minor Children under the voluntary relocation mechanism from Greece, promoted by the EU.
- The streamlining of common consensual procedures to meet the needs of complying with the legal framework of international protection, in particular the definition of coordination between SEF and ISS considering the reception of non-programmed applicants for international protection.
- The setting up of specific Working Groups to deal in depth with issues related to the different dimensions of international protection. This allowed for coordination and constraints resolution between participating entities.
- The work carried out in emergency reception, namely in the Afghanistan Humanitarian Admission and in the temporary protection reception of citizens from Ukraine, are concrete examples that can serve as a starting point for the development of a single reception system, in accordance with the provisions of RCM no. 103/2020 of November 23.
Which of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees does the programme meet?
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
Objective 3: Expand access to third-country solutions
Maintenance of the work of the Single Operative Group, with the aim of encouraging all the partners involved to adapt their procedures to create a single reception and integration model.
Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?
As this is a national project, we will continue to count with the participation and support of all the entities involved. To maximize the scalability of the work of the single operative group, we can publicize it, as we have been doing, in international forums.