The High Commission for Immigration and Ethnic Minorities (ACIME) was set up in 1996 (see chapter 4.1.1).
In recent decades, the number of foreigners living in Portugal has grown substantially: between 2000 and 2008, the number of foreigners holding legal resident permits in Portugal more than doubled, from 207 587 to 436 020, according to data from the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF). The largest proportion of residence permits issued in 2005 – 46%, according to the SEF, was given to African citizens, in particular those from the countries having Portuguese as their official language (PALP), while, in recent years, there has been exponential growth in the numbers of East European immigrants (having on average higher educational attainment levels than others, but likewise working in less-skilled occupations) and those from Brazil.
Recent changes to the Nationality Law (Organic Law 2/2006, regulated by Decree-Law 237-A/2006) and the Immigration Law (Law 23/2007) have allowed for Portuguese nationality to be granted directly to the third generation and have simplified the legal requirements for the second generation, in addition to granting all legal immigrants uniform legal status and helping to combat traffic in human beings and illegal immigration. Following these measures, inter-ministerial strategies were approved, such as the National Inclusiveness Action Plan, which targets more than just immigrant and ethnic minorities, and the Immigrant Integration Project (Council of Ministers Resolution 63-A/2007). Family reunification, employment and occupational training, help with learning Portuguese in schools, and extending information networks and support mechanisms are some of the priority areas in these projects.
Several other programmes are currently in operation to integrate cultural minorities, mostly of gypsy origin – it is estimated that there are some 50 000 Portuguese gypsies – and immigrants, by working directly with these population groups; developing a network of support offices of various types; helping them to obtain training and find jobs; and also by deconstructing the prejudices and stereotypes associated with them; using the media; initiatives in schools; youth exchanges, etc.; and encouraging scientific research, supported or coordinated by the new High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue – ACIDI – that replaced in 2007 the former ACIME (see also chapter 2.5.1).