The National Immigrant Support Centres (CNAI) were created in 2004 in order to give response to some difficulties felt by the immigrants in their process of integration in Portugal. The cultural differences, organizational and legislative, together with the quality of the different services, to which the immigrant must apply, took the High Commission for the Migrations (ACM) to create a place to gather, in the same space, different services, institutions and Cabinets of Support to the Immigrant. A place thought specially to the immigrants. Portugal
Currently there is a CNAI in Lisbon, Oporto and Faro, placed in the Citizen Shop as an attendance station.
See in the map.
The National Immigrant Support Centres(CNAI) are formed by different cabinets, some of the responsibility of public institutions, other of the responsibility of ACM, created to give response of specialized scope.
At the CNAI of Lisbon are present the following institutions: Foreigners and Borders Services (SEF), Social Security (SS), Authority to the Work Conditions (ACT), Central Registry Office CRC), Ministry of Education (ME) and Ministry of Health (MS). At the CNAI in Porto the same institutions are there with the exception of the Cabinet of Health.
Besides the institutions, the CNAI also have specialized cabinets, created by the ACM, which aims to render support and information in diverse and specific areas.
They are, namely, the Cabinet of Support to the Family Regrouping (GARF), the Cabinet of Legal Support to the Immigrant (GAJI), the Cabinet of Social Support (GAS), the Cabinet of Housing Support (GAH), the Cabinet of Employment Support (with two new versions, one coordinated by the Network GIP Immigrant – Cabinet of Professional Insertion – and other specialized in the area of entrepreneurship), the Cabinet of Support to the Immigrant Consumer (GAIC) and the Cabinet of Support to the Qualification (GAQ).
As a Cabinet of support to the general operation the CNAI exists also a Cabinet of Hosting and Triage, known as GAT. It is a Cabinet where the triage is made, a process is created and where, in resume, the subject that is in need of solution is described, proceeding to the adequate addressing of the clients that want to have access to institutions or specific cabinets. In this Cabinet there are also given information of general scope, that need no specialized support-
All the cabinets and services work in strict collaboration. Gather in a common physical space they aim to, in a complete and integrated way, render service, information, forwarding, advising and, sometimes, developing mediation activities to the questions/ problems that are presented by the clients.
To the completion of the above referred, the CNAI was always and aims to continue to be a dynamic structure characterized by the constant adaptation of procedures, methods of work and functioning, to the needs felt by the clients who seek it.
The innovative stake in the image and dynamics of the CNAI has been, since the respective launchings, the usage of intercultural mediators, from different origins, mastering different languages to render services of support to the immigrant citizen.
Important as an aspect of hosting and closeness is, indeed, the fact that the mediators speak the same language, know the different cultures and, several times, lived identical migratory experiences to those who seek them,
It is through protocol, signed between ACM and the Immigrant Associations (AI) or Non-Governmental Organizations (ONG) to work in the immigration area, that the mediators are recruited to work at CNAI.
The mediators ensure attendances in 14 languages and different dialects:
- Cape Verdean creole
- Guinea-Bissau creole
If a client speaks a languages that none of the mediators of GAT master there is always the possibility to go the the Telephonic Translation Service, which covers around 60 languages.
In 2004, the ACM, before ACIME – High Commission for the Immigration and Ethnical Minorities opens two National Immigrant Support Centres, one in Lisbon and the other in Oporto, created after acknowledging, in 2003, several difficulties faced by the immigrants in their process of integration.
At that time, it was identified a great complexity shown in the immigrants' interaction with different Public Services, in several places, with different ways of operating and, sometimes, with incompatible times.
Other difficulty felt by a great number of immigrants in Portugal was the communication both by the linguistic differences and cultural differences.
Considering the proven success of the Citizen Shop was them felt the need to gather and promote the cooperation in the same place with an identical operating philosophy the several Services related to the immigration: Foreigners and Borders Services, Social Security, Authority to the Work Conditions (then General Inspection to Work), Health Ministry and Education Ministry.
The following step, together with the civil society (immigrant associations and ONGs), was the creation of some other innovating services that would meet the specific need of the immigrants that has an incomplete response by the existing services, namely, the support to family aggrupation, legal support, social and employment support.
The CNAI of Lisbon, Oporto and Faro are the result of the identification of these needs. Today, the immigrants that go to CNAI can find, in the same place, different public institutions and cabinets of support created with the goal of solving, in the very same visit, the several questions related to their integration in Portugal.
Mainly the purpose was and is to invest in the management of a place that provides a comfortable staying and a functional flow in the attendance by sociocultural mediators, themselves, once more, to immigrants, allowing a cultural, linguist and emotional bridge with the clients.
The project CNAI was distinguished in 2005 with the 1st place of the Prize Good Manners in the Public Sector, in the category of clients support, featured by Deloitte and Economic Diary and was also considered an example of Good Practice in the “Guide of Integration by political decision-makers and professionals (in November of 2004) by the General Direction of Justice, Freedom and Security of the European Commission.