Portugal at crossroads of anti-racism, say UN experts

Portuguese version (PDF)

GENEVA (8 December 2021) – People of African descent in Portugal experience systemic racism in similar ways despite varied individual circumstances, UN human rights experts found after visiting the country.

“Portuguese identity continues to be defined by its colonial past, as well as enslavement and the trade and trafficking of Africans, and racial equality efforts have not confronted the importance of a broad-based renegotiation of Portuguese identity,” Dominique Day, head of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, said in a statement .

Large anti-racism protests in 2020 called for the revision of colonial narratives, consistent with global conversations on systemic racism in Portugal, the group said.

Members of the Working Group visited Lisbon, Setubal and Porto, to gain first-hand knowledge on racism, racial discrimination, Afrophobia, xenophobia and related intolerance affecting people of African descent in Portugal.

“The Government should import the welcoming narrative it has built in the migration space in order to demonstrate that excellence and innovation rely on embracing diversity and anti-racism. Human rights should not be undermined by political considerations,” Day said.

The delegation, which also included human rights experts Catherine Namakula and Miriam Ekiudoko, welcomed ongoing efforts by the administration to address racial discrimination faced by people of African descent, including the recently approved National Plan to Combat Racism and Discrimination 2021-2025- Portugal Against Racism.

“We note that the emerging discourse on systemic racism in Portugal and its roots in historical processes, has motivated the Government’s engagement with civil society and in defining its anti-racism agenda,” Day said.

However, the Working Group noted with concern the prevalence of systemic racism and racially motivated violence and ill-treatment, racial profiling, abuse of authority, frequent police brutality towards people of African descent.

During the mission, the human rights experts engaged with representatives of Government, human rights institutions and civil society.

They also promoted the International Decade for People of African Descent, which runs from 2015 to 2024 and aims both to highlight the contribution of people of African descent to societies and strengthen national, regional and international cooperation to ensure the human rights of people of African descent are respected, promoted and fulfilled.

The Working Group will present its findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council in September 2022.


The  Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent  was established on 25 April 2002 by the then Commission on Human Rights, following the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001. It is composed of five independent experts: Ms. Dominique Day (United States of America) current Chair-Rapporteur; Ms. Catherine S. Namakula (Uganda); Ms. Miriam Ekiudoko (Hungary); Ms. Barbara Reynolds (Guyana) and Mr. Sushil Raj (India).

The Working Group is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human Rights, country page –  Portugal

For inquiries and media requests please contact: Niraj Dawadi  ( +41 076 691 0826 /  niraj.dawadi@un.org ) or write to

ohchr-africandescent@un.org .

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts: The Media Unit (+ 41 22 928 9855 /  jeremy.laurence@un.org  )

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