The proposal by the Liberal Initiative (IL) to broaden the scope of the definition of refugee, by removing the word “political” that qualifies him in the Constitution, garnered some sympathy between PS and PSD during the meeting of the possible constitutional review committee this Tuesday . BE’s claim to enshrine the “climate refugee” in the fundamental law was not opened by the two major parties, whose favorable vote is essential for the approval of any amendments to the Constitution.
Within the scope of the discussion of article 33 of the Constitution, referring to the right of asylum, the IL reformulates the current wording of number 9 by proposing that “the law defines the status of the refugee”, removing the word “political”. Although cautiously, PS deputy Isabel Moreira considered that the IL proposal is the one that “seems to encompass broader positions”, without committing to “another type of subcategorization that may be changed over time”.
On the table was also BE’s proposal, which for the same number, intends to change to: “The law defines the status of climate refugee”. While admitting that we live in a time of climate change, the deputy reserves the PS’s position for later and recalls that, in the future, the more specific characterization of the refugee may even be “for health reasons”.
The social-democrat Catarina Rocha Ferreira assumed that she understood the bloc’s proposal in terms of current affairs, although she considers that practical application problems could arise, since “climate and economic refugees are linked” to each other. The extension of the refugee status proposed by IL “may make sense”, she said, in a position that was also agreed by Chega.
The PSD deputy said she preferred the IL’s formulation to the one presented by Livre, which refers the international protection of the status of refugees to the United Nations Convention and to the “applicable European law”. This wording also “does not make sense” for the PS. Rui Tavares argued that the explicit consecration of the 1951 convention would allow him to “be more relaxed” so as not to be subject to the will of future majorities in the definition of refugee, not least because in the coming years the country is not expected to navigate “in calm seas”.
Pedro Filipe Soares, in turn, tried to counteract the rejection of the consecration of the climate refugee in the Constitution, arguing with future allegations of unconstitutionality if this principle were to be contemplated in ordinary law, as defended by IL deputy João Cotrim Figueiredo. “If we do not refer to a climate refugee, we are saying that the law does not have to provide for it. The Chega parliamentary group will later say that it is unconstitutional, ”he said.
In the same article 33, Chega proposed that the right of asylum be granted “provided that the circumstances” of its request are proven and duly supported, which was rejected by the other parties on the grounds that the law already provides for justification.
Another reason for the discussion was the IL’s proposal that focuses on the terms of extradition, proposing that extradition is not admitted in cases where there is a serious risk of “submission to torture or inhuman and degrading treatment” in addition to the death penalty or of another penalty that results in irreversible damage to physical integrity, provided for in the current article.
The PS refers to its position later, the PSD agreed with the idea of not allowing extradition to certain countries. André Ventura, from Chega, recalled that in several non-European countries “prisons can be considered degrading” and that this would prevent, for example, Portugal from extraditing citizens to South American countries. The leader of Chega also condemned the PCP’s proposal in this area, which is even more restrictive to extradition by excluding countries with life imprisonment and “cruel” sentences by pointing out an extreme example: “Let’s imagine that Bin Laden had Portuguese nationality and after the attacks 2001 he had come to Lisbon and was arrested. He could not be extradited to the US and he would already be out there”.
Over three hours, the constitutional review commission also finalized the debate on article 27, which makes references to the health emergency, in which the PS reiterated its availability to accept the PSD proposal that provides for a court decision that confirms the confinement or hospitalization for public health reasons by a person with an infectious disease.