Type of practice:
Considering the difficulties experienced by migrants that limit their access to services and aiming to consolidate a modern and integrated migratory policy, more appropriate to contemporary migration dynamics, a National Support Network for the Integration of Migrants (RNAIM) was officially created in 2016 (although existing since 2003, but not aggregated to CNAIM). At the same time, Local Support Centres for the Integration of Migrants (CLAIM) were set up in partnership with municipalities, civil society organizations, and higher education institutions to provide decentralized information and support to migrants.
In 2004, acknowledging several difficulties faced by the immigrants, the High Commission for Migration (ACM) created the National Support Centres for the Integration of Migrants (CNAIM) – “one-stop shops” that offer migrants free access to a wide range of governmental services under one roof, such as regularisation, nationality, family reunification, housing, voluntary return, work, health or education. With the adoption of the National Plan for the implementation of the Global Compact for Migration, in 2019, Portugal sought to give an impulse to the national network (RNAIM), which translated into the inauguration of 44 new CLAIM and 1 new CNAIM. And today, RNAIM is composed of 144 CLAIM and 4 CNAIM. This expansion allowed for a greater diversification in the support services provided and a wider geographical reach. Moreover, the expansion of the Network focused in the areas where the influx of migration tends to concentrate and, consequently, demand for support is higher.
The RNAIM also includes the Migrant Support Line that offers general information on migration issues to both individuals and organizations, and the Telephone Translation Service which provides simultaneous telephone conference to clear linguistic barriers. The main beneficiaries of the Network are migrants, that regardless of legal status benefit from free support, information, referral, advice, and mediation services which are delivered in several languages. Key resources include staffing and infrastructure.
Benefit and Impact
Overall, the RNAIM contributes to reduce barriers in migrants’ access to public services, increase access to and dissemination of relevant information and promote migrants’ integration.
The greater and more agile the network of contacts and partnerships established at the local level, as well as the proximity work developed between the various bodies, the more the migrant citizen benefits.
The impact of the RNAIM is measured through several indicators, including the number of appointments carried out, and main areas of intervention sought out by migrants.
Since 2004, CNAIMs carried out more than 5 million consultations – in 2021, during the pandemic, 137.770 consultations were provided to migrants. The CLAIM Network, in 2021, had 132.028 attendances, the highest number of attendances per year since its creation.
Regarding positive secondary benefits, the RNAIM has contributed to increase the levels of awareness and information on migration issues among migrants and migrant associations, employers, public administration bodies and other interested citizens, in line with the whole-of-society approach. Furthermore, it has also been a fundamental instrument to deliver capacity building on migrant issues to local actors and also to foster dialogue between migrant communities and host society.
The role of mediation is also very relevant, particularly for people who have recently arrived in the country. The use of mediators with a migrant background may facilitate the reception and integration, not only because of the language issue but also because of the contextualization of cultural aspects.
One of the added values is also the networking and the development of local dynamics, for an articulated service with all the public entities present in each territory.
Although the CLAIM Network's work is focused on assisting migrants, it develops numerous activities with local communities, intending to integrate the migrant population into the host society and also promote the involvement of the community in general, such as intercultural events and awareness-raising/training actions for migrants, technicians and the host society.
This practice is based on and relies upon developing and strengthening partnerships with stakeholders across sectors, namely Public Authorities (national and local level), Immigrant and Refugees Associations, Higher Education Institutions and Civil society organisations. These organizations play a fundamental role in providing information and services to every migrant, including specific groups, like international students or migrant women. Without the collaboration and commitment of all its partners, the RNAIM would not be possible. At the same time, the implementation and expansion of this network helps to consolidate a whole-of-society approach to migrant integration.
Recommendations(if the practice is to be replicated)
• Give voice to and work together with associations representing immigrant communities.
• Ensure the existence of a specialized unit to connect and work with local actors and support the work on the ground, notably by making regular field visits.
Furthermore, the practice is highly scalable. It relies on the efforts to maintain and deepen a permanent dialogue with local actors and an investment in building networks of partners across society. The High Commission for Migration also plays a pivotal role in setting up partnerships with municipalities, civil society organizations and higher education institutions, provide training and oversee implementation of local support structures.
This practice has also catalyzed several other related activities, including awareness raising activities; the development of a network of Immigrant Job Centres (currently 23 across the country); the implementation of Municipal Plans for the Integration of Migrants (currently 25), which give Municipalities and local actors the possibility of identifying local priorities and measures to improve the integration of immigrants; the Intercultural Municipal Mediators Project (to date 32 projects have been implemented), which seeks to training mediators from Roma and Migrant communities in order to deepen the intercultural dialogue between different communities and the host society, promote social cohesion and improve citizen’s quality of life.