Over the last decade, the number of foreigners denied entry to Portugal, despite having bought an airline ticket and, in the majority of cases, being in possession of a valid visa, was something in the order of 10 people a day. Practically none of them were given the opportunity to mount a legal defence to counter the police charges brought against them.In order to reveal the truth about these procedures that offer no right to a defence, and which over time have been relegated mere police statistics, we decided we would get together witnesses, interview them and then publish the interviews.
If you have been interrogated at a European or Portuguese airport, if you have been expelled with no right to a defence, we would very much like to hear your story.
The aim of collecting witness statements is to demand transparency of police procedures.

Send us your testemony by email


Mamadou Ba, Senegal, November 1999
«In November 1999, on my return from Finland, where I’d taken part in a summit on immigrant rights, I was interrogated by two officers of Lisbon Airport’s Customs and Immigration police. SEF do Aeroporto de Lisboa. After a gruelling interrogation lasting several hours, they told me I wouldn’t be allowed back into Portugal because my visa had expired, and that I would be put on a Royal Air Maroc flight back to Senegal within hours.
I’d been living in Lisbon for several years; I had a foreign national’s Identity Card, the blue one, valid until 2014, and I had applied for my student visa to be renewed, but hadn’t yet received an answer to my application.
I explained all of this to the police. I knew that as long as I had not been refused an extension on my student visa, my situation was, to all intents and purposes perfectly legal.
It was a Sunday. To counter my arguments, the police inspector produced a letter right there at the airport notifying me that my request for a student visa extension had been denied. He handed me a document he had written and asked me to sign it. Naturally, I refused. I told him that to start with, he couldn’t tell me of an administrative decision made in Portuguese territory, in the international area of an airport; secondly, that as it was not a judicial act, he could not notify me of an administrative decision on a Sunday, and thirdly, that even if my extension request were to be denied, which was a remote possibility, I still had the right to appeal that decision.
It is not what they are used to hearing, and they didn’t like it.
After eight hours arguing, and after a lot of public pressure from the Association SOS Racism, I managed to get a special 72-hour visa (which they tried to make me pay for, but I refused since I had never asked for it!), and notification to appear at SEF on Monday to hear their decision on my visa extension. I’m still here!

Cristiane, Lisbon, June 2009
I am 33 years old, Brazilian and I had come to Portugal as a tourist before. In 2009, I came back to meet my boyfriend, who is Portuguese, and I was stopped in the airport of Lisbon. They told me I was missing a document, but I was never informed which document this was.
As I refused to sign the declaration of SEF (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras – Service for Foreigners and Borders), I was detained for one night.
I have never entered a penitentiary, but I believe that it should be similar to the “Centro de Instalação Temporária” (Center for temporary installation) of the airport. It is a reinforced cell with a sleeping quarter for men and one other for women. I was in the cell with other three Brazilian women. Next to us there were five men of different nationalities: one was a drug dealer and the others were war refugees. They had been there for two weeks.
Neither the bedrooms nor the bathroom had a lock, therefore we were afraid and could not sleep. The windows were weld with plates and when I leaned against the door I lost my breath, since there was no ventilation system. When I complained about the situation to a police officer, she answered “if something happens, scream”.
As I had no privacy, I did not use the toilet for three days and did not take a shower. One of the women was menstruating. She stained her white pants and had to go back to Brazil with her stained clothes, since they did not allow her to access her luggage.
I had to listen to ignorant and rude insinuations from one officer who told me that in order to remain in Portugal I had to leave escorted. It seems that these policemen think all Brazilian women who travel alone to Portugal are prostitutes.
I do not understand why they did not let me in. I had a return ticket, an invitation letter from a friend who is a Portuguese citizen and an international credit card. After much insisting I managed that one of the officers gave me the complaint book.
When I insisted, he told me that what had happened to me had been a mistake and that the solution was for me to come back the following week and try again. As if an intercontinental plane ticket would cost the same as a bus ticket…”