Citizens who have been subject to a criminal offence have the same rights as any Portuguese citizen, namely the right to report the facts to the Police (pressing charges), to receive protection and institutional support (such as medical and psychological support) and to have a lawyer to represent them throughout the criminal proceedings. Nevertheless, there are certain aspects that may hinder or, in certain cases, limit the exercise of such rights. For instance, the unfamiliarity with the existing support institutions in Portugal, the lack of knowledge of the Portuguese language, the lack of a support network in the country (family and friends) and their non-regularized status in the country. These circumstances can lead the migrant citizens who have been victims of a crime into a situation of special vulnerability which requires specific support.


Whether or not documented in the country, all foreign citizens have the right to press charges if they have been victims of a crime. No police or judicial authority may refuse to receive a report/complaint based on the fact that the victim does not possess a visa or residence permit in Portugal. In case the person is refused assistance, he/she should file a complaint in the Official Complaints book and also to the superior of the public servant who has refused said assistance.

Even if the migrant citizen is currently in an irregular situation, he/she cannot be prevented from the possibility of pressing charges. However, the Police authorities have the obligation of contacting the Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) and report that they have been in communication with an undocumented migrant citizen. This will result in the migrant citizen being notified by the SEF so as to mandatorily regularize his/her situation, in order to avoid a legal order to voluntarily leave the country. If you are undocumented and you have been a victim of a crime, get in contact with APAV | Support Network for Migrant and Discrimination Victims so that we may inform you of your rights and help you find a solution to your case. To know more about your rights as a crime victim, please visit the website of Project Info victims.


Whether a national or a foreign citizen, even if undocumented, every victim of crime has the right to request compensation. There are two possible types of compensation requests: request made to the person who committed the crime, within the criminal proceedings, and the request made to the State, in case of either violent crimes or domestic violence.


Every person has the right to receive medical care through the public healthcare system, even foreigners in an irregular situation. No hospital or medical care center may refuse assistance to a person on the grounds that they are foreign citizens or undocumented, especially in situations where that person has been a victim of a crime. However, in case the person who requires medical attention did not make any contributions to Social Security, all medical services provided will be charged in its entirety. For more information about the access to public healthcare for migrant citizens in Portugal, visit the website for the High Commission for Migration.


Migrant citizens who have their legal situation regulated in the country (who have a residence permit) can request legal aid from Social Security, for instance for naming a lawyer to represent him/her in the criminal proceedings. Depending on his/her income, Social Security may decide to exempt him/her from expenses related to legal representative and court fees or facilitate payment in installments. APAV | Support Network for Migrant and Discrimination Victims can assist in filling in the form to solicit legal aid and also in the selecting the accompanying documents required.


People affected by crime may experience some emotional and even physical reactions, which result from the negative impact of the victimization. In the case of migrant citizens, these reactions may have some specific characteristics, eventually leading the migrant to question the perception that he/she has of him/herself and of his/her acceptance in the host community.

  • - State of Emotional shock;
  • - Panic;
  • - Strong physical and psychological reactions (crying, lack of physical strength, apathy, shivering, etc.);
  • - Fear of death;
  • - Feeling of living in a nightmare;
  • - Desire to return immediately to their country/ community of origin;
  • - Feeling of not being welcome into the Portuguese community;
  • - Disorientation;
  • - Loneliness, especially if there is an inexistent network of family and/or family in Portugal;
  • - Feeling of helplessness;
  • - Feelings of rage and need to seek justice by their own means.
  • - Doubt concerning the normality of their reactions;
  • - Emotional ambivalence;
  • - Sudden mood changes;
  • - Reassessment of their migratory project (questioning whether it is still worth remaining in Portugal);
  • - In cases of discrimination and hate crimes, questioning of their own personal characteristics that were attacked as part of the criminal offence (skin colour, religion, ethnicity, nationality).
  • - Lack of energy;
  • - Apathy;
  • - Insomnia or lack of sleep;
  • - Decrease of resistance levels;
  • - Muscle pain;
  • - Headaches and/or migraines;
  • - Menstrual cycle disturbances;
  • - Shivering and/or Indisposition;
  • - Digestive problems (increase or decrease of appetite, nausea);
  • - High blood pressure;
  • - Changes in sexual behavior.
  • - Guilt;
  • - Feeling of injustice;
  • - Rage;
  • - Distrust;
  • - Sadness;
  • - Flashbacks (imagining of images and thoughts related to the crime);
  • - Lack of motivation.
  • - Loneliness;
  • - Marital and family tensions;
  • - Fear of being alone;
  • - Heightened feeling of absence and missing the family and friends support network from the country or community of origin;
  • - Feeling of being misunderstood by others;
  • - Avoidance of places that may cause a sense of insecurity.

The management of these symptoms, through the psychosocial and psychological support that APAV provides can help minimize these effects, bringing some comfort and stability to migrants or foreigners both victims of crime and discrimination.