A Portuguese Town Welcomes Migrant Families

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Tourists visit the Monastery of Batalha in Batalha, Portugal. The town's name means "battle." (suhajdab/Flickr)
Tourists visit the Monastery of Batalha in Batalha, Portugal. The town's name means "battle." (suhajdab/Flickr)

As some European nations seek to restrict the flow of Middle Eastern migrants across their borders, the town of Batalha in central Portugal is planning to find homes, jobs and schools for four migrant families.

Portugal is emerging from a recession, and some employers in the city of Batalha can't find enough workers. Cintia Silva, deputy mayor of Batalha, tells Here & Now host Meghna Chakrabarti, "we can't think about refugees as only, 'we're going to help them'... but they will help us too."

Interview Highlights: Cintia Silva

Why did you send the proposal to host four refugee families?

"I think that the main issue here is about the human rights. We are talking about people who are fighting for their lives and Batalha was contacted and two companies came forward to offer jobs for the refugees. So we started working on a plan to receive the refugees and migrants."

Batalha is home to 16,000 people. In comparison, four families seems like a very small number. Could you possibly house more?

“We want to start with four families. We don't know if each family has five, six, seven people – children, older people. So now we have conditions to receive them tomorrow - if it happens - but maybe in the future, we can receive more. Like Europe is going to receive half a million refugees, so in Portugal we started with a number maybe more or less 2,000 refugees and now we know that we're going to have 5,000. So it depends and we're hoping that a lot of Portuguese people and other city halls ask too. People want to help in this issue. We're not a very rich country, but we here have some good lives and we have stability. So it's an honor, I think, for the Portuguese and for every state that are receiving these people and helping because it's international – a global question and a human rights question that's so basic that some people don't have even the basics to live in this world.”

What would you say to the European states debating how many people to let into their countries?

"So that's a difficult question because every country, every town, have different positions. I think when we're talking about human rights, and people who are suffering, and children that are running away, and mothers and fathers and older people – everybody. I think that everybody has to put their hands together and help. But some countries maybe don't have the same conditions, don’t have the same views, and we have to respect those views too... But we know that some people are afraid, so I think every time when we do something different – when we have a change – we get a little bit frightened. But we don't have to be frightened by little changes like this one when we're talking about human rights. We have to get together and see the opportunities that they can bring to our country, to our city hall, to our community and to Portugal."


This segment aired on September 14, 2015.


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