Portugal, which includes the archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, is a constitutional semipresidential representative democracy with a president, prime minister, and parliament elected in multiparty elections. Observers considered regional elections in Madeira on September 22 and national legislative elections on October 6 free and fair.
The Ministries of Internal Administration and Justice are primarily responsible for internal security. The Ministry of Internal Administration oversees the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF), Public Security Police (PSP), and Republican National Guard (GNR). The SEF has jurisdiction over immigration and border issues, the PSP has jurisdiction in cities, and the GNR has jurisdiction in rural areas. The Judiciary Police is responsible for criminal investigations and reports to the Ministry of Justice. The Inspectorate General of Internal Administration (IGAI), in the Ministry of Internal Administration, operates independently, investigates deaths caused by security forces, and evaluates whether they occurred in the line of duty or were otherwise justifiable. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
There were no reports of significant human rights abuses during the year.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press
The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press. The law criminalizes the denigration of ethnic or religious minorities, as well as Holocaust denial, as an offensive practice. Prison sentences for these crimes run between six months and eight years.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
d. Freedom of Movement
The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.
f. Protection of Refugees
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: According to NGOs and media reports, authorities kept in detention some asylum seekers who submitted their applications for international protection at border points. If asylum seekers appeal a negative decision, they can await the decision in housing provided by the Portuguese Refugee Council (CPR), the Social Emergency Bureau of Lisbon’s Holy House of Mercy (almshouse), or the Salvation Army’s shelter center.
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The government considers all other EU countries to be safe countries of origin or transit. It returned asylum seekers to their country of entry into the EU for adjudication of their applications.
Durable Solutions: The government fulfilled its commitment and received refugees under the EU’s relocation plan for refugees who entered the EU through Greece and Turkey. It offered naturalization to refugees residing within the country’s territory, and other durable solutions such as the right to work, education, access to healthcare, and housing support.
Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees, and provided subsidiary protection to 405 persons in 2018, according to SEF’s 2018 Immigration, Borders and Asylum Report.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.
Recent Elections: On September 2, the country held an election in the Autonomous Region of Madeira that observers considered free and fair. National legislative elections of October 6 were also considered free and fair.
Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were reports of corruption in the executive and legislative branches of the central government during the year.
Corruption: Media reported corruption involving central and local government officials.
On January 4, a Lisbon court cleared most of the defendants in a corruption trial linked to the government’s “golden visa” program, which aims to fast-track residence permits for major foreign investors. Of 21 indictments on charges including corruption, money-laundering, and influence-peddling, courts gave two individuals suspended sentences, and two Chinese nationals were fined. The most high-profile defendant, Miguel Macedo, who was forced to resign as interior minister from the previous center-right government in 2014, was among those acquitted of bribery and influence-peddling charges. The court also acquitted former SEF director Manuel Jarmela Palos, who had been accused of running a network that profited from the granting of residency permits to foreign investors.
Financial Disclosure: The law requires appointed and elected officials to disclose their income and assets. The law also mandates the Constitutional Court to monitor and verify disclosures. The court’s declarations are available to the public. The criminal penalties for noncompliance are up to five years’ incarceration or a fine equivalent to 600 days of the person’s income, administrative sanctions including removal from office, or both.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally were cooperative and responsive to their views.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The country has an independent human rights ombudsman appointed by parliament who is responsible for defending the human rights, freedom, and legal rights of all citizens. The Ombudsman’s Office operated independently and with the cooperation of the government.
The ombudsman had adequate resources and published mandatory annual reports, as well as special reports on problems such as women’s rights, prisons, health, and the rights of children and senior citizens.
Parliament’s First Committee for Constitutional Issues, Rights, Liberties, and Privileges oversees human rights problems. It drafts and submits bills and petitions for parliamentary approval.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law makes rape, including spousal rape, illegal, with a penalty of three to 10 years’ imprisonment. The government generally enforced the law when the victim chose to press charges and if the cases were not settled out of court through mediation. The law provides for criminal penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment in cases of domestic violence by a spouse or by a person other than the spouse. The judicial system prosecuted persons accused of abusing women.
In October a judge who had been convicted of domestic violence by a lower court was acquitted by the Portuguese Supreme Court of Justice (STJ). The judge had been found guilty of domestic violence by the Guimaraes Court of Appeals in September 2018, and received an 18-month suspended prison sentence and was ordered to pay 7,500 euros ($8,250) in damages for psychological abuse to the victim, his former wife. According to media, the couple was married from 2006 to 2011 and the judge refused to accept the end of the relationship. The case was based on insulting text and email messages exchanged by the couple. In its ruling, the STJ argued that “the type of language was reciprocal” between the couple.
Violence against women, including domestic violence, continued to be a problem. According to preliminary data from NGOs and media reports, in the first six months of the year, there were 16 deaths related to domestic violence.
According to data from the government’s Annual Internal Security Report, in 2018 there were 22,423 reports of domestic violence, a small decrease from 2017. In 2018 police registered 421 reports of rape, an increase of 13 cases from 2017.
The law allows third parties to file domestic violence reports. The government encouraged abused women to file complaints with the appropriate authorities and offered the victim protection against the abuser. The government’s Commission for Equality and Women’s Rights operated 39 safe houses and 26 emergency shelters for victims of domestic violence and maintained an around-the-clock telephone service. Safe-house services included food, shelter, health assistance, and legal assistance. The government-sponsored Mission against Domestic Violence conducted an awareness campaign, trained health professionals, proposed legislation to improve legal assistance to victims, and negotiated protocols with local authorities to assist victims.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is a crime punishable under the law. The State Secretariat for Citizenship and Equality reported that some immigrant communities practiced FGM/C on young girls, particularly among Bissau-Guinean immigrants. According to the Healthy Practices Project, established by the government in November 2018 to prevent and combat FGM/C, the country reported 63 cases of female genital mutilation in 2018 and 54 cases through mid-August, although none of the FGM/C procedures occurred in the country.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a crime, with penalties ranging from one to eight years in prison. If perpetrated by a superior in the workplace, the penalty is up to two years in prison, or more in cases of “aggravated coercion.”
The Commission on Equality in the Workplace and in Employment, composed of representatives of the government, employers’ organizations, and labor unions, examines, but does not adjudicate, complaints of sexual harassment. In 2018 the NGO Association for Victim Support received reports of 23 cases of sexual harassment.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The constitution and the law provide women full legal equality with men, and the government enforced the law.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory and from one’s parents. Authorities registered all births immediately.
Child Abuse: Child abuse was a problem. The Association for Victim Support reported 941 crimes against children younger than 18 in 2018. According to the 2018 Annual Internal Security Report, Romani parents used minor children for street begging. A child-abuse database was accessible to law enforcement and child protection services. The government prohibits convicted child abusers from work or volunteer activities involving contact with children. It also carried out awareness campaigns against child abuse and sexual exploitation.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18 for women and men, but both sexes may marry at 16 with the consent of both parents exercising parental authority, or a guardian, or, in default of the latter, a court decision.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Statutory rape is a crime with penalties ranging up to 10 years in prison, and authorities enforced the law. The minimum age for legal consensual sex is 16. The law prohibits child pornography. Penalties range up to eight years in prison.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
Estimates placed the Jewish community at 3,000-4,000 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
After the country passed a law in 2015 granting descendants of Jews forced into exile centuries ago the right to citizenship, the government received 47,560 requests, and naturalized 9,711 applicants for citizenship as of February 27. The largest numbers were from Israel, Brazil, Turkey, Argentina, and the United States.
The institutions of the Jewish community in Lisbon or Porto vetted each application. These institutions are responsible for checking documentation of the applicants’ ancestors and making recommendations to the government.
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government generally enforced the law effectively. The law mandates access to public buildings, information, and communication for persons with disabilities, but no legislation covers private businesses or other facilities.
The Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination (CICDR) is the dedicated body to combat racial discrimination. Its mission under law is to prevent and prohibit racial discrimination and to penalize actions that result in the violation of fundamental rights or in the refusal or constraint of the exercise of economic, social, or cultural rights by any person based on his or her race, ethnic origin, color, nationality, ancestry, or territory of origin. According to its annual report, the CICDR received 346 complaints of discrimination in 2018, an increase of nearly 50 percent from 2017. The CICDR explained that this increase might have been due to greater awareness of racial and ethnic discrimination issues and an improved understanding of the mechanisms available to victims.
The government estimated the Romani population to be between 40,000 and 50,000 persons. A large number of Roma continued to live in encampments consisting of barracks, shacks, or tents. Many settlements were in areas isolated from the rest of the population and often lacked basic infrastructure, such as access to drinking water, electricity, or waste-disposal facilities. Some localities constructed walls around Romani settlements. Media reports of police harassment, misconduct, and abuses against Roma continued.
In some localities the government provided integration and access to services for the Roma, including vaccination campaigns, monitoring of prenatal care, scholarship programs, assistance in finding employment, and a mediation program staffed by ethnic Romani mediators in the Office of the High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue.
The constitution and the law prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
A 2018 gender identity law allows transgender adults to update their name and gender marker in the civil registry to reflect their gender identity without having to submit a medical certificate. Transgender minors ages 16 and 17 are also able to update their name and gender marker in the civil registry to reflect their gender identity, but they must present a clinical report.
On August 16, the government issued a directive that allows children to make choices that correspond with their gender identity, including choosing a bathroom, wearing a girl’s or boy’s school uniform, or using a new gender name. The directive sets out administrative procedures stemming from a law passed by parliament in 2018 that seeks to eliminate discrimination against transgender persons. The measure caused controversy among parents of school-aged children and disapproving right-of-center opposition politicians called for the Constitutional Court to intervene. An online petition against the directive surpassed 23,000 signatures in two days, newspaper opinion pages weighed the advantages and disadvantages, and social media provided a platform for parents worried that boys might enter girls’ bathrooms, but there were no further developments.
Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The law provides for the right of most workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The government generally respected these rights. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.
While the law provides for freedom of association and collective bargaining, several restrictions limit these rights. The rights of police officers and members of the armed forces are limited. The Judiciary Police, the Foreigners and Borders Service, and prison guards may strike; the Public Security Police and the Republican National Guard may not. If a long strike occurs in a sector deemed essential, such as justice, health, energy, or transportation, the government may order strikers back to work for a specified period. Unions considered the list of essential sectors to be overly broad. Unions reported that compulsory conciliation and arbitration as prerequisites to strikes, restrictions on the scope of strikes, and restrictions on the types of strike actions permitted could limit the effectiveness of strikes.
The law requires unions to represent at least 50 percent of workers in a sector for collective bargaining units to be extended beyond the enterprise level. Public-sector employee unions have the right to discuss and consult with their employers on conditions of work, but they do not have the right to negotiate binding contracts. There remained a lack of clarity regarding criteria for union representation in the Permanent Commission for Social Partnerships, a tripartite advisory body. The law names specific unions, rather than giving participation rights to the most representative unions.
The government was generally effective in enforcing these laws. Resources, including inspections and remediation, were adequate. Penalties for violations range from fines to imprisonment and were sufficient to deter violations. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays or appeals.
Authorities generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Worker organizations could generally operate free from government interference. Requirements for enterprise-level bargaining by work councils sometimes prevented local union representatives from bargaining directly on behalf of workers. There were instances of employers undermining strikes using last-minute minimum-service requirements. According to labor union representatives, some workers received threats that union participation would result in negative performance reviews.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits all forms of forced and compulsory labor. The law places responsibility for complying with legal provisions on temporary employment agencies and employers of temporary workers. It provides that the contractor and the developer, company, or farm, as well as the respective managers, administrators, or directors, and companies with which they are connected are jointly liable for violations of the legal provisions relating to the health and safety of temporary workers and are responsible for entitlements, social security contributions, and the payment of the respective fines.
Government resources dedicated to prevention of forced labor, including inspections and remediation, and enforcement of the law remained inadequate. Penalties ranging from three to 15 years’ imprisonment were sufficient to deter violations, and convictions remained low. Convicted offenders frequently avoided imprisonment, undercutting enforcement efforts and victim protections, according to NGOs and media. Government efforts to prevent and eliminate forced labor during the year included a countrywide awareness campaign and training security forces to identify, flag, and direct victims to assistance services. In 2018 courts convicted and sentenced 25 traffickers (17 sex trafficking and eight forced labor), compared with 12 in 2017 (one sex trafficking and 11 forced labor).
According to the Portuguese Observatory on Trafficking in Human Beings, foreign labor trafficking victims were exploited in agriculture, construction, and domestic service, while Portuguese victims were exploited in restaurants, agriculture, and domestic service, primarily in the Iberian Peninsula.
Traffickers subjected children to forced labor (see section 7.c.).
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The statutory minimum age for employment is 16. The law prohibits the employment of persons younger than 18 at night, for overtime work, or in sectors considered hazardous. The Working Conditions Authority (ACT) in the Ministry of Solidarity, Employment, and Social Security has primary responsibility for enforcement of the minimum age law, and enforced it effectively in major industries and the service sector. The government effectively enforced the applicable laws, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations.
Child labor occurred in very limited cases. Children of Romani descent were subjected to forced begging and coerced to commit property crimes (see section 6, Children).
Resources and inspections were adequate. Penalties for violations included imprisonment and were sufficient to deter violations.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
Labor laws and regulations prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation, and the government effectively enforced these laws.
The law requires equal pay for equal work. According to the Ministry of Solidarity, Employment, and Social Security, however, women’s average salaries were approximately 17 percent lower than those of men.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The minimum wage covers full-time workers, rural workers, and domestic employees who are at least 18 years of age.
The legal workday may not exceed 10 hours, and the maximum workweek is 40 hours. In 2016 the government approved a return to the public sector’s traditional 35-hour working week, down from the 40 hours that had become standard in the private sector. There is a maximum of two hours of paid overtime per day and 200 hours of overtime per year, with a minimum of 12 hours’ rest between workdays. Premium pay for overtime worked on a rest day or public holiday is 100 percent; overtime performed on a normal working day is paid at a premium of 50 percent for the first hour and 75 percent for subsequent time worked. Unions raised concerns regarding working hour provisions on flexibility schemes and time banking, which the government noted were designed to make working hours more flexible and increase productivity. Occupational safety and health standards set by ACT were current and appropriate. Information on enforcement of these laws in the small informal economy was not available.
ACT was responsible for enforcement of minimum wage, hours of work, and safety standards in the formal sector, and effectively enforced these measures. Resources, inspections, and remediation were adequate. Penalties ranged from fines to prison sentences and were sufficient to deter violations.
Workers have the right to lodge confidential grievances with ACT regarding hazardous conditions or circumstances they believe endanger their health. Inspectors have the right to conduct inspections at any private or public company at any time without warning, and they may shut down a workplace or a business permanently or temporarily if there is imminent danger to the workers’ health or safety. Workers are registered with social security services, whose funds cover their mandatory insurance for occupational diseases and work-related accidents. ACT conducts studies on labor accidents, salaries, and working conditions. It may impose administrative penalties and file lawsuits against employers. It has the right to access company records, files, and archives, and it may provide mediation services to resolve individual or group labor disputes. Labor enforcement tended to be less rigorous in sectors such as construction and agriculture, where most immigrant workers were employed, according to NGOs. ACT reported that there were 131 deaths from work-related accidents in 2018, an increase of 10 percent from 2017. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation.