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.