“About the SEF [Foreigners and Borders Service] investigation of Anafre, no official document has arrived that would allow us to be aware of this situation,” said the president of the association, Jorge Veloso, at the parliamentary committee on Public Administration, Land Planning and Power, where he was heard about the issuance of “mass” residence certificates in some parishes in the country.
At the hearing requested by Chega, deputy Bruno Nunes, from that party, questioned the president of Anafre about an alleged investigation into the high number of certificates of residence issued in three parishes in Lisbon, with a special focus on Arroios, as well as in other municipalities of Setúbal, Braga and Porto.
Citing the example of Rua da Bem Formosa, in the parish of Arroios, regarding which it was reported that the road “which is just over 400 metres long has 10,000 inhabitants”, the deputy of Chega considered that the “mass” issue of residence certificates “has supported and assisted illegal immigration”.
The accusation was refuted by the president of Anafre who assured the deputies that “the parish councils comply with the law” and that the association has intensified training on issuing certificates, with “many parishes already requiring the presence of two witnesses” who confirm the applicant's statements, to “avoid so-called fraud”.
Jorge Veloso admitted, however, that there is “a network installed in such a way” that certificates with false statements have already come to his attention, “with the bottom part bearing the signature of two elements from a parish of Coimbra and the header of the municipality of Caldas da Rainha”.
“The network, sometimes, does not even need to go to the council”, he said, adding that “it is organised in such a way that it is enough to make some copies, arrange stamps [...] and move forward with these situations of fraud”.
Questioned by deputies about what measures Anafre understands should be taken to avoid the situation, as well as whether or not the law should be changed, Jorge Veloso maintained that it is not up to the association to supervise the parishes, a position corroborated in the hearing by the vice-president Jorge Amador.
Inspection is the responsibility of the parish assemblies, said Jorge Amador, arguing that, “in the event that many certificates are issued” and “the same people are always asking for them, SEF must be informed” and, if any parish council does not is complying with the law, it "should be penalised".
On August 12, Expresso newspaper reported that the SEF is investigating at least three parish councils in the municipality of Lisbon “due to fraudulent schemes to obtain residence permits for immigrants”, revealing that “there are addresses with more than 100 certificates issued”.
Questioned by Lusa agency, on August 31, about whether it is investigating the issuance, by Lisbon parish councils, of true residence certificates with false data for the legalisation of immigrants in Portugal, SEF only said that “it does not give information about ongoing investigations, which are supervised by the Public Prosecutor's Office”.