The government maintained protection efforts. The government’s national referral system coordinated victim assistance efforts between law enforcement and government-supported NGOs. During the reporting period, the government, with input from two NGOs, updated the referral system process to streamline communication between law enforcement and victim assistance providers and to ensure all stakeholders were represented nationwide. The government’s anti-trafficking agency provided a checklist to law enforcement, NGOs, health care professionals, and social workers on identifying victims of forced prostitution, forced labor, and forced begging and criminality. The government also provided victim identification guidelines to labor inspectors. Civil society reported the health care sector lacked sufficient training on identification for victims of sexual exploitation.
Upon encountering a potential victim, law enforcement personnel conducted an initial standardized risk assessment; individuals deemed vulnerable or at risk were referred to one of five regional multidisciplinary NGO teams to receive specialized shelter and assistance. The multidisciplinary teams comprised psychologists and social workers. First responders and social service providers could refer potential victims to services, but only law enforcement officials could officially “confirm” an individual a victim of trafficking. GRETA reported there was no timeline for authorities to confirm official victim status; the process depended on the duration of the related prosecution. In 2017, authorities identified 171 potential victims and four confirmed victims, compared with 143 potential and 118 confirmed victims in 2016. Potential victims received the same access to services as confirmed victims. In 2017, the government provided approximately €1 million ($1.2 million) to shelters and the multidisciplinary regional teams, the same amount as 2016. Victims and their minor children had the right to shelter, health care, psycho-social, legal, and translation and interpretation services, as well as education and employment training. The three government-funded NGO-operated shelters were exclusively for trafficking victims—two for female victims and their minor children and one for adult male victims. GRETA reported the shelters could each accommodate a limited number of victims and noted a growing need for additional shelter places. Adult victims could leave the shelters at will unless authorities determined victims’ safety was at risk. There were no specialized services for child trafficking victims; child victims instead received care under Portugal’s child protection system and were placed in institutions if they could not be placed with family members. The government reported it would open a fourth shelter solely for child trafficking victims in 2018. The shelter would offer comprehensive assistance tailored to child victims. The government, working through its five regional anti-trafficking teams, conducted 303 training and awareness sessions (220 in 2016), which reached 70,487 beneficiaries, including health care professionals, law enforcement, lawyers, social services professionals, and students.
The government could offer witness protection to victims participating in trials; victims could testify by deposition or videoconference and had access to medical and psychological services to prevent re-traumatization. The government offered victims a reflection period of 30 to 60 days, during which they could recover before deciding whether to cooperate with law enforcement. The law also provided for a one-year residence permit for victims based on cooperation with law enforcement or a personal situation regarding their security, health, family situation, or vulnerability; this permit could be renewed indefinitely. Civil society reported the need for expedited issuance of residency permits for victims. Portuguese law allowed victims to seek compensation from and file criminal proceedings against their traffickers; victims may seek compensation from the government if the convicted trafficker was unable to pay the awarded restitution. The government did not report whether any victims received compensation from their traffickers or the government. There were no reports the government penalized victims for unlawful acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; however, GRETA reported the lack of a specific provision in Portuguese law protecting victims from prosecution for acts they were coerced to commit could leave victims vulnerable to individual prosecutors’ decisions to bring charges.