In a statement, the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) reports that the contact centre, a telephone service for scheduling an appointment, has been registering in recent days “an overload of calls caused by the use of diallers on multiple mobile phones that make calls at the same time”.
SEF states that between 8:00am and 8:00pm on October 17, more than 29 million call attempts were made, equivalent to more than 671 per second, the vast majority originating from services available on the internet or mobile applications that allow automatic redialling, which end up overloading the system.
SEF adds that it is studying alternatives to implement “a new solution based on a service model on digital channels, in order to considerably reduce the number of current callers”.
According to SEF, this model of "multichannel and segmented service will allow, once implemented, a greater volume of contacts directed to automatic channels, as well as quick sorting for the correct channels with the exception situations to be directed to an operator”.
SEF said that it communicated to the Public Prosecutor (MP) “when it became aware” of complaints with suspicions about the scheduling system, with some of the resulting investigations taking place in the SEF by delegation.
3,000 calls a day
The SEF contact centre currently has 50 operators who answer, on average, more than 3,000 calls daily, from Monday to Friday, in 21 languages: Portuguese, German, Amharic, Arabic, Kazakh, Cape Verdean Creole, Creole of São Tomé Príncipe, Spanish, French, Georgian, Hindi, Hungarian, English, Nepali, Persian, Romanian, Russian, Tiger, Turkish, Ukrainian and Uzbek.
SEF points out that, as a “way of mitigating the problem, the service model convened by SEF itself has already been implemented for some matters, such as, for example, the attribution of new residence permits, in which applicants are called by the chronological order of submission of applications.
Thousands of immigrants, most of them Brazilians, have been unable to renew their residence permits, which have expired, for some time now, making it impossible to leave Portugal and, many, unable to find work or open a bank account.
There are also thousands of other immigrants, estimated at more than 200,000, who have submitted an expression of interest to SEF and are awaiting contact to obtain a residence permit.
The foreign population residing in Portugal exceeds 800,000 people, the Brazilian being the largest community, with more than 250,000 people.