Portugal's government is celebrating rising immigration numbers after the number of foreign nationals living in the country hit half a million for the first time in its history.
The government said Portugal had "overcome" barriers to attracting more migrants, who it says are needed due to the country's relatively low birth-date and ageing population. "in 2019, for the first time in our history, the barrier of half a million foreign citizens residing in Portugal has been overcome," interior minister Eduardo Cabrita told the country's parliament. There were 580,000 foreign nationals were living in Portugal at the end of 2019, up from 490,000 at the end of 2018.
Portugal is one of ten EU states where fewer than five per cent of residents are foreign-born; between 2011 and 2016 it also suffered strong emigration due to the fallout from the global financial crisis and austerity. In 2017 prime minister António Costa's government passed new laws to boost immigration, with the legislation taking effect in the autumn of 2018.
“We need more immigration and we won’t tolerate any xenophobic rhetoric,” Mr Costa said at the time.
The debate in Portugal over migration contrasts with that in other EU countries, notably the UK – where the government has been aiming to reduce immigration.