Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
N i nety-first session
Summary record of the 2501st meeting
Held at the Palais Wilson, Geneva, on Wednesday, 30 November 2016, at 10 a.m.
Consideration of reports, comments and information submitted by States parties under article 9 of the Convention (continued)
Fifteenth to seventeenth periodic reports of Portugal (continued)
The meeting was called to order at 10.05 a.m.
Consideration of reports, comments and information submitted by States parties under article 9 of the Convention (continued)
Fifteenth to seventeenth periodic reports of Portugal (continued) (CERD/C/PRT/15-17, CERD/C/PRT/Q/15-17)
Mr. Bártolo (Portugal) said that, following the comments made by the Committee the previous day, he had contacted the relevant authorities in his country about the possibility of hosting the next regional meeting on the International Decade for People of African Descent in Portugal in 2017. The possibility would be seriously considered, in light of the historical ties between Portugal and Africa and the former’s wish to build a present and future that would be an example of good practice in Europe and around the world.
Mr. Calado (Portugal) said that it was important to take into account the specific context in his country, which had resulted in different approaches to racial discrimination. In 2015, the public opinion index of the European Union, Eurobarometer, had noted that in Portugal, unlike in other European States, migration was not a main source of concern. While certain movements around the world sought to capitalize on discontent caused by migration, his country recognized the positive impact of migration, despite the socioeconomic crisis and high levels of unemployment. There were 5 million Portuguese migrants living in other countries; indeed Portuguese had been the most spoken language at breakfast in his delegation’s hotel that morning. His country had not forgotten the international assistance received following the volcanic eruption in the Azores in 1957 and therefore wished for others what it hoped for its own citizens around the world.
Given his personal experience of working in Cova da Moura in the past 16 years, it should be noted that, while the area provided an interesting case study on exclusion, the problems it experienced were the same as those seen in council estates in the north of the country, where the population was mostly of Portuguese origin. Social exclusion and poverty did not have a colour. The problem in Cova da Moura was poverty rather than race. Policies to combat racial discrimination covered the entire country and targeted different ethnic groups that experienced the same difficulties. The Choices Programme was one example of a programme that tackled a specific problem and brought together native Portuguese, foreigners and persons of migrant descent.
Since 2010, for the first time since the 1960s, more people had been leaving Portugal than arriving. The High Commission for Migration had taken on and expanded the mandate of the High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue to include Portuguese communities abroad, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There were approximately 60 local migrant support centres that dealt with an increasingly diverse group of persons with common problems. The High Commission for Migration was responsible for integrating resettled migrants and ensuring assistance in the key areas of housing, health, education, vocational training, employment, Portuguese lessons and psychological support. That decentralized support was provided through a well-established network of institutions in the 76 municipalities that had received refugees.
Complaints of discrimination could be received by a number of bodies. While the Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination was competent to receive complaints of racial discrimination, discrimination in specific areas was reported to the relevant authorities; for example, discrimination in the workplace was reported to the Working Conditions Authority.
He agreed that a new legal framework on discrimination was needed. A draft bill on the matter had been forwarded for comment to consultative bodies, civil society organizations, the public administration and parliament. The Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination had consulted migrants and anti-racism organizations about the draft and the resulting bill had been submitted through the usual channels. The bill would strengthen the mandate of the Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination and introduce heftier sanctions for discrimination.
Discrimination was a social problem that could not be tackled through the law alone. The previous day a meeting had taken place between young people from Cova da Moura and the police, in order to establish dialogue. As High Commissioner for Migration, he had previously made a complaint about the situation in Cova da Moura. As a result, victim support had been provided and a meeting had taken place between young people, residents’ associations and members of the police and Government. An early warning commission had been set up to ensure that immediate police action could be taken in response to incidents. All sides had indicated their willingness to sign a local security contract that would establish preventive contact between residents and the police.
Mr. Nicolau (Portugal) said that the European Union-Turkey Statement on irregular migration had not restricted the observation of obligations under international law and persons in need of international protection continued to be resettled. The Portuguese model was considered exemplary and allowed swift resettlement and relocation, in accordance with humanitarian need and through the national coordination of public bodies, civil society organizations and local authorities.
Current Portuguese law and practice on asylum seekers and refugees complied with international standards. The number of asylum seekers received each year was low; an informal paper containing figures on asylum seekers and their countries of origin for the period 2010-2015 had been issued to Committee members. Action had been taken to address overcrowding at reception centres caused by increased migration and the Government continued to fund the Portuguese Refugee Council’s support activities for asylum seekers. Recent migrants to Portugal came from a broader range of countries of origin than before. Although most migrants came from Portuguese-speaking countries, increasingly migrants came from other countries, including Ukraine, Romania, China, Nepal and Iran. Migration resulted in greater cultural diversity and had an impact on demography and public finances, but the overall impact on Portuguese society could be said to be positive.
Although migrants in an irregular situation had entered illegally, the law provided them with opportunities to regularize their status. If they could not regularize their situation and lacked the resources to return home, they could leave Portugal voluntarily under a programme operated in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration. The authorities were vigilant with regard to the exploitation of migrants and intervened where necessary, in particular where seasonal agricultural workers and domestic workers were concerned. In 2015, 17 victims of domestic servitude had been identified.
Ms. Carvalho (Portugal) said that, under article 8 of the Constitution, the rules and principles of internal law formed an integral part of Portuguese law and the principles established in international treaties, including the Convention, were binding and applicable throughout the country, including in the autonomous regions of Madeira and the Azores, and on all entities — private and public — and could be invoked directly by the courts. No examples of judicial decisions referring to the Convention were available, due to the system of classifying rulings in broad groups — such as criminal or civil — rather than by the legal grounds invoked. Her Government was aware of recommendations by the Committee and other bodies to improve data collection.
Racial discrimination was criminalized under article 240 of the Criminal Code and discriminatory practices or acts committed on discriminatory grounds were considered an aggravating circumstance in relation to other crimes, including attacks on physical integrity and homicide. The criminal statistics provided in the report should be updated — in 2014 there had been 21, not 19, crimes involving racial discrimination registered. In 2015, there had been 19 such crimes. No data on convictions for crimes of racial discrimination were available for the period 2012-2015 under confidentiality rules that prevented the release of statistics in cases where less than three cases had been recorded. With a view to ensuring an effective legal framework on discrimination, law 72/2015 of 20 July would address crimes involving racial discrimination, with particular attention given to vulnerable groups, such as ethnic minorities.
Training in the justice sector, which started at university and was followed up through continuous professional development, was intended to avoid discrimination within the justice system and improve public confidence in that system. Action taken included the establishment of a partnership between the Judicial Police and an association for victim support, and the launch of a project to create a handbook for the justice sector on best practice when dealing with victims of hate crime. Prison guards were receiving training on human rights and the prevention and detection of discrimination.
Mr. Calado (Portugal) said that a sample of the welcome kit provided to refugees would be left with the Committee.
Ms. Chamiça (Portugal) said that police violence and racial discrimination were prohibited by the ethical codes of the security and law enforcement forces. The fundamental principles of those codes included integrity, impartiality and non-discrimination and underpinned the training of police officers. The use of force by the police was regulated and adhered to the principles of need and proportionality. Any violation of those principles was investigated and punished. Police officers who worked with vulnerable populations, including ethnic minorities, received special training that was regularly assessed and adjusted as needed. Good practices were identified and integrated into that training.
The National Republican Guard and the Police of Public Security (PSP) worked closely with ethnic and minority groups to establish a better relationship with them and provide training on preventive action and information about whom to contact if they felt threatened or suffered violence or discrimination. The issues of cyberbullying, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and domestic abuse were also covered. The police were inspected by the oversight body for PSP and the General Inspectorate of Internal Affairs, including through unannounced visits.
Ms. Almeida (Portugal) said that the Commission for Equality and against Racial Discrimination attached great importance to training in methods of awareness raising. A range of actions aimed at combating racial discrimination had been developed in coordination with target groups. Awareness-raising campaigns included the publication of a booklet based on the idea that a grey city became multi-coloured when it opened up to people of different backgrounds from all over the world. The booklet was accompanied by six pencils in different shades reflecting diverse skin colours. It had been distributed to 3,500 public schools attended by some 150,000 children.
Four practical guidebooks on combating discrimination against the Roma community had been produced for law enforcement officers, the media, NGOs and persons working in the justice sector. A national competition had been organized in 2014 to mark the International Day for Racial Discrimination. People had been invited to submit anti-racist stories and poems. More than 500 had been submitted and 39 had been selected and published. The “Discover your colour” campaign had been launched on Facebook in March 2015. The message was that racial discrimination based on skin colour should be denounced. More than 60,000 people had participated in the campaign. A flash mob had performed in the final Portuguese Football Cup match with the message “Football against discrimination”. As the match had been broadcast live, the message had reached millions of people.
The campaigns had led to an increase in the number of complaints received. The Commission for Equality and against Racial Discrimination had received 232 complaints between 2012 and 2015. Eighty-four complaints had been received in 2015, compared with just 60 in 2014. There had been 4 convictions for every 100 complaints during the period under review, compared with only two during the previous period.
Mr. Pina (Portugal) said that the Commission for Equality and against Racial Discrimination was chaired by the High Commissioner for Migration and included representatives elected by Parliament and appointed by the Government, as well as representatives of the education sector, employers’ associations, trade unions, immigrant associations, anti-racist bodies and associations of human rights defenders. It was also common practice to select a representative of the Roma community. Regular meetings of the Commission were held every three months and extraordinary meetings could also be convened by the Chair. The Commission had a Standing Committee to oversee its work. It was composed of the Chair and two elected counsellors.
Ms. Reis Oliveira (Portugal) said that, as noted in the report, the Constitution and Law 67/98 imposed restrictions on the collection of data based on ethnicity or race. However, monitoring centres and observatories had been established to keep track of the situation on the ground. The Migration Observatory, which had been established in 2002, had produced its 56th qualitative study based on extensive questionnaires distributed among the immigrant community. All the studies produced recommendations aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of public policy. In recent years, the collection of statistics and administrative data had been systematized. Information was obtained from 27 different sources on 11 dimensions of migrant integration. The first statistical report had analysed data for the period 2002 to 2012, and a report published just 15 days previously provided updated information. The Observatory of Roma Communities had produced a national study to underpin the National Roma Communities Integration Strategy.
There were admittedly wage gaps between Portuguese nationals and foreign workers. Migrants’ wages were on average 8 per cent lower than those of other workers. However, when the data were disaggregated in terms of occupational groups, it emerged that the lower wages were due to the large proportion of certain communities employed in specific occupations. For example, many were employed in the building sector, which had been severely hit in recent years by the economic crisis. As a result, migrants had moved to other sectors and many were also setting up their own businesses.
Ms. Casas (Portugal) said that the Migration Observatory had been undertaking studies for 15 years and had made important recommendations aimed at reforming existing policies and redefining the indicators included in its Migration Strategic Plans. The first two plans, which had covered the periods from 2007 to 2009 and from 2010 to 2013, had also incorporated contributions from civil society organizations. A permanent monitoring body had been established and meetings had been held with the entities responsible for implementing measures under the plans. Annual reports had been submitted to the High Commissioner for Migration, and the Standing Committee conducted detailed analyses of the measures implemented. Steps were taken to ensure that all public and private entities involved in implementing migration policy participated in discussions with representatives of migrant communities. The latest Migration Strategic Plan (2015-2020) reflected the significant progress made in that regard. Independent external bodies would conduct an interim assessment in 2017 and a final assessment in 2020.
Mr. Abrantes (Portugal) said that the Portuguese education system was based on the principle of inclusion, and vigorous action had been taken against failure and dropout phenomena. Diversity education was a fundamental principle in public schools, which encompassed about 80 per cent of school-age children. Affirmative action was taken on behalf of Roma and migrant children to promote equality of opportunity. About 30 per cent of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds benefited from a social support programme involving school transport and meals. Schools located in underprivileged areas were provided with additional resources to combat failure and drop out. Support for migrant and Roma children in nursery schools was also vitally important. The Educational Territories for Priority Intervention project covered 7 per cent of schools at an annual cost of about €20 million. As a result, the school dropout rate was just 3 per cent above the national average and national examination results were on a par with the rest of the country.
Segregated classes were avoided, but special programmes existed for children who were unable to attend school, for instance those from traveller families, and children who had fallen well behind the normal educational level. The Government gave priority to the goal of attaining 12 years of education for all and had allocated a budget of €5 million to support more than 1,000 local activities aimed at combating school failure, especially in nursery and primary schools. It looked forward to achieving excellent results on behalf of migrant and Roma children and children of African descent.
Ms. Alexandre (Portugal) said that school syllabuses fully acknowledged the country’s past history, including the contribution of invaders of the Iberian Peninsula to the national identity. They addressed imperialism, dictatorship, slavery and the Inquisition, and highlighted the importance of self-determination and the independence of the Portuguese colonies. Priority was given to an intercultural approach and education for citizenship. The Ministry of Education and Science collaborated with the High Commissioner for Migration and the Aga Khan Foundation Portugal, and an Intercultural School Award was issued for outstanding practices.
External bodies had been assessing school textbooks since 2008. It was essential to respect constitutional principles of non-discrimination, gender equality and pupils’ cultural diversity. Portuguese was the language used in schools, but classes were also provided for students whose mother tongue was not Portuguese. Different evaluation criteria were applied in examinations. Roma children had lived in the country for centuries and spoke Portuguese. They were therefore integrated into normal schools.
Ms. Marques (Portugal) said that a study of the prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) had been issued in summer 2016. It had estimated the number of victims or females at risk and had established the geographic location of the largest number of cases. The effectiveness of public policies aimed at eradicating the practice had been assessed and awareness-raising initiatives had been launched in local communities. Two campaigns had also been conducted at Lisbon international airport in conjunction with the High Commission for Migration and national and foreign NGOs, including the National Committee for the Elimination of Harmful Practices of Guinea-Bissau. The study had estimated that 6,576 women over the age of 15 had been subjected to FGM, or 49 per cent of women residents born in countries where FGM was a common practice. During the period from April 2014 to December 2015, a total of 99 cases had been detected by the health services. The average age of the victims was 5.9 years.
Ms. Pereira (Portugal) said that the national health system was universal and holistic, and took people’s economic and social conditions into account. All residents, including migrants, had access to the system. There were different fees for primary, hospital and continuous care. Persons lacking the requisite financial resources were exempted from paying the fees. Irregular migrants who had been present in the country for more than 90 days without a residence permit nevertheless had access to the health system if they presented a document certifying the length of their stay.
Ms. Ávila (Portugal) expressed regret that Portuguese NGOs had not attended the interactive dialogue with the Committee. The Portuguese National Human Rights Committee had encouraged NGOs to submit shadow reports and had presented them with the draft report prior to its submission so that they could comment on the content. A meeting had also been convened once the report had been finalized, but unfortunately it had not been attended by many NGOs. The final version had been disseminated by electronic mail, but very little feedback had been received.
Mr. Calado (Portugal) said that the High Commission for Migration had a number of consultative platforms with civil society organizations. The ten largest migrant communities were represented on the Migration Council, which would discuss the new law on migration.
The Chair suggested that the State party might in future facilitate the participation of an NGO representative in its delegation as an observer.
The meeting was suspended at 11.30 a.m. and resumed at 11.45 a.m.
Ms. Shepherd (Country Rapporteur) said that she had noticed that in the English version of the State party report there was a tendency to utilize language that was not gender neutral, and she wondered whether that was a translation issue or a matter of general policy. She noted with interest the fact that there had been so little input into the State party’s report from NGOs, particularly in view of the fact that the Committee itself had obtained information from NGO reports and websites. She shared the view of the Chair that more needed to be done to engage with NGOs.
She noted that, as a result of changes in migratory patterns in Portugal, both outward and inward migration were now being handled by the same agency. She wondered what causes were underlying the increase in outward migration and whether that phenomenon had affected the work relating to immigration. As to the links between poverty and social exclusion, while she had heard the delegation say that social exclusion affected all sectors of society and was not more prevalent in particular ethnic groups, it was clear that the causes of poverty weighed more heavily on certain sectors. In the absence of data disaggregated by ethnic group, however, it was difficult to make further assessment.
She asked whether any feedback had been received in relation to the colouring book and pencil project and, in particular, how schoolchildren had reacted to the different skin tones represented by the colouring pencils; what aspects were expected to be included in the new anti-discrimination law that would distinguish it from the existing legislation; who was responsible for writing history textbooks in Portugal; and whether teaching staff came from diverse ethnic backgrounds. In that connection, noting that mention had been made of the “age of discovery”, she wondered how that period of history was taught in schools. She questioned the concept of “discovery” in view of the fact that Europeans had encountered people and political structures on their arrival in Africa and the Americas. While it was pleasing to hear that the issue of slavery was taught in history lessons, she expressed the hope that when it came to independence and the abolition of slavery children were taught that it did not just come about through monarchical benevolence but also through the resistance and will of the people. Lastly, she would be interested to know to what extent the contributions made by different cultures to the history and culture of Portugal were acknowledged and commemorated through the politics of memory and represented in the landscape.
Mr. Calado (Portugal) said that although the 2008 economic crisis had signalled a major increase in departure flows from Portugal, it had not been the only reason for emigration. Outward migration was characterized by two main trends: the need to leave, which related to unemployment and the economic crisis; and the will to leave, which was more to do with taking advantage of the opportunities presented by freedom of movement within the European Union and by globalization. Data from the past two years had shown, however, that the migration outflux had now stabilized and that the country was once again moving towards a positive net migration rate. The higher rates of emigration had not notably impacted the work of the bodies responsible for immigration, since they were still performing the same tasks as before. They had, however, now been brought under the umbrella of the strategic plan on migration, which allowed for greater synergy of approach and essentially created a one-stop shop for migration and emigration.
The response to the colouring book and pencils initiative had been overwhelmingly positive and hundreds of very colourful drawings had been received from schoolchildren, so many, in fact, that there were plans to display them in an exhibition. Moreover, feedback from educators indicated that it had been a very useful learning tool at a most opportune time — at the height of the refugee crisis — and it was likely that a second edition of the resource would be created.
While it was true that racism and discrimination were additional risk factors for social exclusion and poverty, in particular for migrants, Roma and persons of African descent, Portuguese persons who were not from ethnically diverse backgrounds were also affected by poverty. For that reason, some policies were designed to address poverty in broader terms rather than specifically in relation to certain population groups. As to the new anti-discrimination legislation, the High Commission for Migration had three main expectations: namely, that the High Commission’s powers of inspection would be enhanced; that it would be able to raise awareness of its authority to receive and efficiently handle complaints, thereby encouraging more people to file complaints; and to strengthen its capacities in relation to application of the law.
Ms. Alexandre (Portugal) said that, in the main, history books were written by authors selected by publishing houses. They were then submitted to independent committees of university and school representatives for validation before being admitted onto school reading and teaching lists. Teachers were able to select the books they wished to use as the basis for their lessons from a list of approved texts. Teaching staff came from a range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. It should be noted that the term “descoberta” (discovery) was no longer used in the school curriculum when teaching that period of history; instead, the term “expansão” (expansion) was preferred. Moreover, the decolonization process and people’s right to self-determination also formed the basis of history lessons.
Ms. Ávila (Portugal) said that the country report had been drafted in English, not Portuguese and, in view of the guidelines and word count constraints, gender-neutral language had been avoided in the interests of brevity. In Portuguese, efforts were being made to move towards gender-sensitive language, although such a change took time. The suggestion to include NGOs as observers was a good one and it was pleasing to hear that the Committee had been able to obtain information directly from NGOs. Lastly, regarding the politics of landscape, the statue of Eusébio, an icon in a football-mad country, was just one example of such memorials across Portugal. For example, in the city of Lagos in the Algarve, a new museum chronicled the city’s involvement in the slave trade, demonstrating that progress was being made in the cultural as well as educational sectors.
Mr. Calado (Portugal) added that in the municipality of Lisbon walking tours were providing the opportunity to understand the history of the slave trade and the contribution of persons of African descent to the city. It was important to understand that 15th century Lisbon had already been a globalized city and that the first generation of migrants had already arrived by then.
Mr. Amir said that in view of the different cultures that had inhabited the Iberian peninsula over the centuries, such as the Romans, the Visigoths, the Phoenicians and the Moors, and the indelible mark that they had left on its past, it was clear that Portugal had a history not only of integrating different ethnic backgrounds but of fully embracing them into its own culture, history and society. The positive and negative aspects of the country’s past, including its involvement in the slave trade, should form part of the national memory and, in particular, be understood by those who were implementing the provisions of the Convention.
Mr. Marugán said that he wished to thank Portugal for rising to the challenge of holding a regional conference as part of the International Decade for People of African Descent. He asked, on the other hand, what action was being taken by the State party to combat underreporting of offences related to racial discrimination; whether the public authorities were empowered to automatically report such offences to the Public Prosecution Service; and what measures were envisaged to remedy the fact that there was no data on sentencing. Lastly, he asked whether Portugal was compiling data in relation to the 16 immigrant integration indicators established by Eurostat and, if so, whether updated statistics on the situation of migrants could be provided.
Mr. Avtonomov said that he would welcome further information regarding the type of Creole used in bilingual school textbooks. He also wished to know whether there were plans to translate the State party report, which had been drafted in English only, into Portuguese to enable the Portuguese public to read the report.
Mr. Bártolo (Portugal) said that Mr. Amir had made a good point: the diversity of the past had made Portugal what it was today, a country in which citizens from diverse backgrounds and ethnic origins lived side by side. It was important to recognize the tragedy and suffering of slavery, and he expressed a hope that the Committee would consider drafting a general recommendation to that effect. History must never be forgotten; while there were no slaves or masters in present-day Portugal, the best way to make restitution for the suffering caused by the slave trade was to ensure that that scourge and its effects remained in the public memory.
Mr. Calado (Portugal) said that the Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination had established a nationwide network of young people from minority groups who served as role models in their own communities and were referred to as “ambassadors” of the Commission. They were trained to assist victims of discrimination in their communities, including by helping the victims to lodge complaints online. Further expansion of the network was planned, with a view to combating racial discrimination at the grass-roots level.
Mr. Abrantes (Portugal) said that the system of indicators used to gather data on education had improved significantly in years. Statistical data specifically on the education of Roma or migrant children was not available, because the Constitution prohibited such distinctions. Nevertheless, statistics on school attendance, school performance and dropout rates did indicate that some minority communities performed better than average, while others performed slightly below average. In the case of the latter, below-average performance was largely due to socioeconomic factors. Efforts to promote success in school therefore focused on inclusion and on providing appropriate responses tailored to each student and each community.
Ms. Reis Oliveira (Portugal) said that the statistical report on integration previously cited was more ambitious than the Declaration of the European Ministerial Conference on Integration and took into account 11 different dimensions of integration, including demography, education and political participation. The report was based on 147 indicators from 25 different statistical and administrative sources. Her Government had found administrative sources to be very useful in gaining a better understanding of the situation. The initial report had covered the period from 2002 to 2012, whereas the recent update covered the period since 2012. The full report as well as a summary were both publicly available. The data previously provided on salaries was just one example of the type of data contained in that report.
Ms. Ávila (Portugal) said that her delegation took due note of the recommendation to make the report of Portugal to the Committee available in Portuguese. While the limited resources available might pose a challenge, her Government would aim to issue its next report in both English and Portuguese.
Mr. Murillo Martínez said that he welcomed the news that Portugal would consider hosting a regional conference in connection with the International Decade for People of African Descent. He was surprised to learn that female genital mutilation was such a widespread problem among immigrant communities in Portugal, and he hoped that the Government would make diligent efforts to address the issue. He commended the State party for the campaigns it had conducted to raise awareness about racism, and he asked whether school examinations included questions about the history of people of African descent.
Mr. Khalaf, pointing out that the State party’s common core document (HRI/CORE/PRT/2014) contained information about cases in which the national courts had invoked other international legal instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, asked why the delegation was unable to provide such information about cases in which the courts had invoked the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Mr. Kemal said that there were between 100,000 and 150,000 Portuguese migrants working in Angola and that the amount of money they sent to Portugal in remittances was 20 to 30 times greater than the amount sent by Angolan migrants to Angola. In the light of concerns about violations of the rights of indigenous people by the multinational corporation Sonangol, he wished to know whether the Government had any safeguards in place to protect the rights of those people and to ensure good governance and transparency with regard to Sonangol’s revenues.
The Chair reiterated the Committee’s concern about the need for governments to prevent human rights violations by multinational corporations headquartered within their territory.
Mr. Calí Tzay said that intercultural relations presupposed equality among the various communities involved. That being the case, he asked how the Government could ensure that migrants who did not speak Portuguese and were not familiar with Portuguese culture enjoyed such equality. According to a survey published by Barómetro Eurosondagem in April 2016, 16.4 per cent of Portuguese citizens had admitted to being racist, while 26.1 per cent had said that they would not accept their child dating a black person.
Ms. Carvalho (Portugal) said that the judgments of higher courts were publicly available on the Internet. A manual search of those judgments had not revealed any cases in which the Constitutional Court had invoked the Convention. Portugal did not have the data processing capabilities to perform a search for all cases in which human rights treaties had been invoked by the courts.
Mr. Calado (Portugal) said that his Government was aware that further efforts were needed with respect to data collection. He requested further details on the survey published by Barómetro Eurosondagem in order to better understand the data contained therein. In his Government’s view, an intercultural approach to diversity consisted of not just accommodating differences, but instead focusing on the commonalities shared by different population groups.
Ms. Shepherd thanked the delegation for its open and frank participation in the interactive dialogue. She commended the State party for its policies and procedures relating to migrants, asylum seekers and refugees; those policies and procedures were all the more remarkable in the light of the economic crisis in Europe. Despite the Government’s efforts to create an intercultural dialogue, however, not all citizens of Portugal shared their Government’s views on inclusiveness. She therefore wished to know what strategy the Government had in mind to educate its people, particularly with regard to Afrophobia. Without targeted policies for each ethnic group, it was unlikely that members of those groups would feel accepted and included in Portuguese society. She urged the Government to give greater attention to issues such as data collection, institutionalized racism, and evaluation of the training provided to judges, lawyers and law enforcement officials.
Mr. Bártolo (Portugal) said that it was true that Angola and Portugal enjoyed a close relationship and that large numbers of Portuguese citizens were currently living and working in Angola. Given that Sonangol was not a Portuguese company, he could not presume to answer the question about that company’s practices. He could, however, assure the Committee that Portugal was a staunch defender of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Economic challenges did not have to lead to deepening inequalities and discrimination, and Portugal provided a good example of how that could be avoided.
His delegation had benefited greatly from the dialogue with the Committee. The Committee’s concluding observations were sure to identify not only positive aspects of his Government’s policies but also challenges and difficulties. He fully trusted that the concluding observations would be fair and balanced and tremendously useful for his Government’s future work.
He commended the Committee for the foresight it had shown in its general recommendation No. 33, when it had said that States should be mindful that their response to the financial and economic crisis should not lead to a situation which would increase poverty and underdevelopment and, potentially, a rise in racial discrimination. Unlike some countries, Portugal had heeded that advice and had managed to prevent the exacerbation of racial discrimination even in the face of severe economic challenges. While slavery had disappeared, intolerance, hatred and racism persisted in other forms and must be relentlessly combated. Portugal was ready to rise to the challenge of combating racialized representations of descendants of slaves.
The Chair thanked the delegation for its honest answers and said that the Committee looked forward to receiving updated news about the reform of anti-discrimination legislation in Portugal. She supported the State party’s intercultural approach, and she hoped that António Guterres, the former Prime Minister of Portugal, would take a firm stand against racial discrimination when he took office as the new Secretary-General of the United Nations. She also welcomed the State party’s announcement that it would consider hosting a regional conference in connection with the International Decade for People of African Descent.
The meeting rose at 1.05 p.m.