Migration patterns

Lisbon is one of the municipalities with the largest number of foreign nationals in Portugal. While foreigners represented 4% of Portugal’s population in 2011, this proportion was more than double for Lisbon (10%), and more than five times higher for the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (22%). A look at the spatial distribution of these migrant populations indicates a greater presence in the capital’s outskirts and city centre.

Decolonisation, economic crises and also its accession to the European Union, have had a fundamental impact on the net migration and demography of Portugal. From being a country predominantly of emigration (more pronounced from the 1960s to the 1980s), Portugal became in the 1990s and 2000s a country of destination for immigrants. More recently, the financial and economic crisis has led to a new spike in emigration from the country and decrease in net migration. Over the past few years, Lisbon’s increase in foreign population has run counter to an overall trend of population decline across the metropolitan area and country as a whole.

Migrant population

The main countries of origin of the foreign population in Lisbon are Brazil, Cape Verde, China and Angola. However, resident permits requests over the last decade show a rising prominence of share of Indian immigrants in the capital. In contrast to other countries, Portugal has relatively low number of refugees residing in its territory.

Between 2008 and 2014 it received on average around 250 asylum seekers per year, mostly from Syria, and Ukraine (after 2013). In light of the European response to the refugee situation as of 2015, Portugal has committed to relocating 4 574 refugees, 10% of whom are due to settle in Lisbon.

While there has been a global decline of male immigrants in the period 2008 –2015 in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area, in the city of Lisbon, men still represent a little over half of foreign nationals (52%). There is a higher rate of young adults among foreign nationals than in the local population.

The level of education of foreign nationals in the metropolitan area is higher than that of the Portuguese, although this varies according to nationality. Unemployment rates also vary according to nationality, with foreign nationals from the European Union unemployed at rates lower and comparable to those of Portuguese (6%), while other migrant groups have higher unemployment rates, reaching as high as 18% for nationals from Portuguese - speaking African countries.


This text is retrieved from: ICMPD, MC2CM, (2016). City Migration Profile: Lisbon; Mediterranean City-to-City Migration; Dialogue, Knowledge and Action. 

Other Sources

CÂMARA MUNICIPAL DE LISBOA (2015). Plano de Desenvolvimento de Saúde e Qualidade de Vida da Cidade de Lisboa; Perfil Municipal de Saúde de Lisboa, 1.

Juzwiak, T. (2014). Lisbon, Portugal - A case study from: Migrant and Refugee Integration in Global Cities, The Role of Cities and Businesses; The Hague Process on Refugees and Migration.

ACIDI (2010). One Stop Shop: Mainstreaming Integration; Cities of Migration.

Fonseca, M., Malheiros, J., Esteves, A. and Caldeira, M. (2002). Immigrants in Lisbon: routes of integration; Centro de Estudos Geográficos; Universidade de Lisboa.


MC2CM Publications
City Migration Profile Executive Summary
City Practice Poster
Attachment Size
City Practice Poster - Lisbon 2.47 MB
General Overview
Political and Administrative Context

The city of Lisbon is the capital of the Republic of Portugal. It forms part of the Lisbon Metropolitan Area and comprises of 24 boroughs.

City and Migrant Population Data
Total population 506,088 (Municipal Lisbon)
2,833,679 (Metropolitan Lisbon)
Migrant population 66,184
Year 2018/2011
Source Statistics Portugal and MC2CM City Migration Profile: Lisbon
Metadata Migrants are defined here as "foreign-born individuals" (MC2CM)
City Migration Profile Executive Summary - Lisbon
City Migration Poster - Lisbon