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The Government of Portugal fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore Portugal remained on Tier 1. These efforts included increasing the number of investigations, prosecutions and convictions, identifying more victims, and increasing victim resources. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it lacked legal safeguards to protect victims against potential prosecution, delayed issuance of victim residency permits, and granted few victims state compensation or restitution from their traffickers.


Enact a legal provision to protect victims from prosecution for acts that traffickers coerced them to commit. • Develop an expedited process for granting residency permits to victims. • Increase victims’ access to compensation and train police, prosecutors, and magistrates on victims’ right to restitution and compensation. • Increase resources for law enforcement and labor inspectors monitoring for labor trafficking. • Increase victim identification training within the health care sector. • Continue to increase and document use of victim services, such as shelters and residence permits, and ensure availability of a sufficient number of places to accommodate all victims in need of shelter. • Strengthen monitoring and regulation of temporary employment agencies, including employing and recruiting domestic workers.


The government increased law enforcement efforts. Article 160 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of three to 10 years’ imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Some child sex trafficking offenses could also be prosecuted under Article 175, which addressed pimping crimes; it prescribed penalties of one to 10 years’ imprisonment. Article 159 prohibited slavery and prescribed penalties of five to 15 years’ imprisonment.

In 2018, the government initiated 114 trafficking investigations, compared with 103 in 2017 and 83 in 2016. Authorities prosecuted 55 defendants, compared with 45 in 2017. 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). Courts sentenced traffickers to significant prison terms; 20 of the 25 sentences issued were more than five years’ imprisonment, and the average sentence was approximately eight years’ imprisonment. Authorities suspended five sentences, compared with one in 2017. Prosecutors charged two national police officials for the exploitation of eight domestic workers; judges acquitted the accused due to lack of evidence. The judiciary police provided training on investigations and victim identification to 80 of its senior officials and 120 new inspectors. Over 100 magistrates from the public prosecutor’s office received compulsory anti-trafficking training. The immigration and border service continued to provide institutionalized victim identification training to hundreds of border officers at all levels of seniority. The government trained law enforcement personnel assigned to the Lisbon airport. Authorities cooperated with Moldova on the extradition request for a suspected trafficker.


The government increased protection efforts. The government’s Observatory on Trafficking in Human Beings (OTSH) provided updated checklists 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 continued to report 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 and referred individuals deemed vulnerable or at risk 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 as 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. Potential victims received the same access to services as confirmed victims.

In 2018, authorities identified 203 potential victims and 49 confirmed victims, compared with 171 potential and four confirmed victims in 2017. Thirty-two of the confirmed victims were male, 17 were female, and 10 were children. The majority of the confirmed victims were forced labor victims from Moldova. The government provided approximately €1.5 million ($1.72 million) to shelters and the multidisciplinary regional teams, an increase from €1 million ($1.15 million) in 2017. 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. Three government-funded NGO-operated shelters were exclusively for adult 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. In 2018, the government funded Portugal’s first shelter for child victims, which offered housing and comprehensive care services for up to six children. Child victims also received care under Portugal’s child protection system. The government, working through its five regional multidisciplinary teams, conducted 162 training and awareness sessions, which reached 4,606 beneficiaries, including health care professionals, law enforcement, lawyers, social services professionals, and students.

During the reporting period, courts permitted some victims to testify by deposition or videoconference. 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; authorities could renew this permit indefinitely. Civil society reported delays in the issuance of residency permits for victims. Portuguese law allowed victims to receive restitution from and file criminal proceedings against their traffickers; victims could 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 restitution from traffickers or compensation from the government; GRETA reported few victims received compensation. NGOs reported many victims were unwilling to come forward and cooperate with authorities for fear of prosecution. GRETA reported the lack of a specific provision in Portuguese law protecting victims from prosecution for unlawful acts traffickers coerced them to commit could leave victims vulnerable to individual prosecutors’ decisions to bring charges.


The government maintained prevention efforts. The government maintained a multi-stakeholder anti-trafficking network, led by the national rapporteur on trafficking, which included representatives from various central and local government agencies and three NGOs. In June 2018, the government published its fourth national action plan for 2018 to 2021. The plan was created with input from the full anti-trafficking network and focused on victim assistance, awareness, and combating criminal networks. OTSH, responsible for the collection and dissemination of trafficking data, published an annual security report detailing the trafficking situation in the country. The government launched a national anti-trafficking campaign and multidisciplinary regional teams held awareness campaigns on sexual and labor exploitation throughout the reporting period. The government screened vetted visa applicants’ work contracts and travel documents. GRETA noted, however, a need to strengthen monitoring and regulation of temporary employment and recruitment agencies, especially those employing and recruiting domestic workers. The government continued to conduct a corporate social responsibility campaign to address labor exploitation, which targeted Portuguese companies operating inside and outside of Portugal. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. Laws prohibiting sexual crimes against children had extraterritorial reach, allowing the prosecution of suspected child sex tourists for offenses committed abroad; there were no reported investigations of Portuguese citizens engaging in child sex tourism abroad. Each of the five multidisciplinary teams operated a hotline available in several languages; the hotlines received over 800 calls relating to victim assistance.


As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Portugal, and traffickers exploit victims from Portugal abroad. Trafficking victims primarily originate from West Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, and, to a lesser extent, Latin America. Labor traffickers exploit foreign victims in agriculture, construction, and domestic service, with seasonal migrant workers especially vulnerable. Traffickers exploit Portuguese victims in restaurants, agriculture, and domestic service, primarily in Portugal and Spain. Poor and uneducated Portuguese in the country’s rural interior are especially vulnerable to forced labor networks in Spain, which may extend into Northern and Eastern Europe. Authorities noted an increase in recent years in labor trafficking victims from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Sex traffickers exploit foreign women and children, mostly from Africa and Eastern Europe, and Portuguese women and children within the country. Sex traffickers have exploited Portuguese in other countries, mostly in Europe. Traffickers exploit children from Eastern Europe, including those of Roma descent, for forced begging and forced criminal activity in Portugal. Authorities report traffickers bring women and children, many from West Africa, to Portugal to claim asylum and obtain false documents before bringing them to other European countries for sex trafficking. Sub-Saharan trafficking networks increasingly use Portugal as a route into the Schengen area to exploit children for both sex trafficking and forced labor.

U.S. Department of State

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