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The Government of Portugal does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included investigating more suspects and awarding restitution to victims. The government also updated its national referral mechanism and issued slightly more residence permits to trafficking victims than the year prior. However, these efforts were not serious and sustained compared to the efforts during the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the government’s anti-trafficking capacity. The government prosecuted fewer suspects and did not report convicting any traffickers at the time of this report. The government identified significantly fewer victims for the second consecutive year and the fewest since 2008. The government did not identify any Portuguese or child victims as a result of ongoing gaps in victim identification. The government also continued to lack legal safeguards to protect victims from prosecution for crimes their traffickers compelled them to commit. Therefore Portugal was downgraded to Tier 2.

Improve efforts to proactively identify victims within the country, including Portuguese nationals, children, and sex trafficking victims, by systematically training government officials, particularly immigration police, labor inspectors, and law enforcement, on proactive victim identification among vulnerable groups. • Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including complicit officials and sentence those convicted to significant prison terms. • Coordinate the collection of trafficking data across the government, including for convictions and sentencing, and improve documentation of the use of victim services. • Enact a legal provision on the non-punishment of victims to ensure that trafficking victims are not inappropriately penalized for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit, including administrative and immigration-related offenses. • Increase victims’ access to restitution, including by training police, prosecutors, and magistrates on victims’ right to restitution. • Allow formal victim identification and referral from entities other than the police, including civil society, social workers, and health care professionals. • Implement strong regulations and oversight of labor recruitment companies that are consistently enforced by investigating fraudulent labor recruitment and ensuring cases with indicators of labor trafficking are prosecuted under the trafficking statute. • Allocate additional resources and capacity for labor inspectors to detect labor trafficking. • Utilize the witness protection program for trafficking victims. • Enforce the law prohibiting recruitment fees charged to workers and ensure any recruitment fees are paid by employers.

The government decreased 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 response to the pandemic, the government ordered a national lockdown for three months in 2020. However, it categorized actions related to anti-trafficking as an essential activity and orders mandating restricted movement did not apply to trafficking victims in emergency situations. Additionally, although some procedural changes were required, the government reported that anti-TIP officials, units, and coordinating bodies continued to operate during the reporting period, allowing anti-trafficking efforts to continue unimpeded, including investigations and criminal proceedings in courts. The government did not have specialized investigation units dedicated to human trafficking, but the government reported there were several teams who had received special training to investigate trafficking. In 2020, the government initiated a total of 82 human trafficking investigations (42 for sex trafficking and 40 for labor trafficking) with an additional 95 ongoing cases from prior years (23 for sex trafficking and 72 for labor trafficking); compared with 63 in 2019, 114 in 2018, and 103 in 2017. Authorities prosecuted 23 defendants in 2020 based on preliminary data provided, a significant decrease compared with 58 in 2019. In 2020, the government did not report convicting any traffickers; a decrease compared with three in 2019 and 25 in 2018. The investigation and prosecution of a Portuguese consular officer, who was indicted in 2019 on several charges including human trafficking and falsification of documents, continued during the reporting period; the diplomat allegedly committed the trafficking crime, which involved a housekeeper, while in Guinea-Bissau. In 2020, the government co-organized and led six online training events for more than 163 migration professionals; immigration officials provided training on human trafficking to 101 consular officers and an unknown number of regional law enforcement officials. A government-funded NGO developed and delivered a training program for 87 participants in the law enforcement, social work, health, education, justice, and employment sectors. The government also provided a webinar to 81 labor inspectors on labor trafficking in 2020, as well as a training on trafficking indicators to 16 law enforcement officials.

The government decreased protection efforts. In 2020, authorities identified 13 confirmed victims and NGOs identified 13 presumed victims, a decrease for the second consecutive year and the fewest total victims since at least 2008. This number compared with 45 confirmed victims and 33 presumed victims in 2019 and 49 confirmed and 203 presumed in 2018. Of the confirmed victims, five were female sex trafficking victims, and eight were male labor trafficking victims. Five of the confirmed trafficking victims were from Romania, seven were from Pakistan, and one was unidentified. Of the presumed victims, 10 were female, and three were male; at least eight were from India; and at least nine were exploited in labor trafficking. Experts raised concerns regarding gaps in the government’s efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims—the government did not identify any Portuguese victims in 2020 and, unlike 2019, the government also did not identify any child victims. The government continued to utilize its national victim identification and referral mechanism, which was widely used and distributed to all front-line officials who had a role in victim identification and referral, including NGOs, social service workers, and health care workers. The government updated the referral mechanism in 2020 to include new organizations providing services to trafficking victims. The government’s Observatory on Trafficking in Human Beings continued to distribute checklists to law enforcement, NGOs, health care professionals, labor inspectors, and social workers on identifying victims of sex trafficking and forced labor, including victims of forced begging and criminality. The government continued to provide a victim identification handbook to labor inspectors. Upon encountering a potential victim, law enforcement personnel conducted an initial standardized risk assessment and systematically referred individuals deemed vulnerable or at risk to one of five regional multidisciplinary NGO teams to receive specialized shelter and assistance. The multidisciplinary teams included psychologists and social workers. Front-line responders, including police and NGOs, could identify and refer presumed victims to services, but only law enforcement officials could formally “confirm” an individual as a trafficking victim. Police, judges, and prosecutors determined whether to confirm a victim by analyzing evidence and the presence of trafficking indicators. GRETA reported there was no timeline for authorities to confirm official victim status; the process depended on the duration of the related prosecution.

In 2020, the government maintained 2019 funding amounts for trafficking shelters, victim repatriation, and the multidisciplinary regional teams at €1.5 million ($1.84 million), with €1.5 million ($1.84 million) earmarked each year through 2022. Adult victims and their minor children had the right to shelter; health care; psycho-social, legal, and translation and interpretation services; a reintegration program; and education and employment training. The government referred 23 total victims (17 male and six female) to shelter services in 2020, a decrease compared with 57 in 2019. The government also enrolled four trafficking victims in its reintegration program, which included accommodation in an independent apartment. However, aside from shelter and reintegration, the government did not report how many victims utilized other available services provided by the shelters during the reporting period. The government had a total of five government-funded NGO-operated shelters exclusively for trafficking victims—two for adult female victims and their minor children, two for adult male victims, and one for children. In response to the pandemic, the government implemented additional protective measures for human trafficking victims in shelters, including social distancing and quarantine rooms, which may have reduced overall capacity. Adult victims could leave the shelters at will unless authorities determined victims’ safety was at risk. Child victims received care under Portugal’s child protection system or through its shelter for child trafficking victims, which could accommodate up to seven children.

Courts permitted some victims of crime to testify by deposition or video conference, but the government did not report whether this protection was extended to any trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government had a comprehensive witness protection program that could be utilized by trafficking victims, but it did not report whether any were afforded this protection during the reporting period. 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. In response to the pandemic, the government issued an order to grant foreign national victims with pending applications permanent residency. Of the 25 permits requested by trafficking victims in 2020, 20 temporary residence permits were issued to victims from Guinea, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Senegal; an increase compared with 16 residence permits issued in 2019. Courts awarded restitution to at least five victims from four cases in 2020, an increase compared with none reported in 2019. Portuguese law allowed victims to file civil suits against their traffickers, but the government did not report awarding damages to any victims during the reporting period. Victims could seek compensation from the government if the convicted trafficker was unable to pay the awarded damages, but the government did not report providing any compensation to trafficking victims during the reporting period and GRETA noted this rarely occurred. 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 compelled them to commit could leave victims vulnerable to individual prosecutors’ decisions to bring charges.

The government maintained prevention efforts. The government’s multi-stakeholder anti-trafficking network, led by the national rapporteur on trafficking, included representatives from various central and local government agencies and three NGOs, met an unknown number of times in 2020. The government had a national anti-trafficking action plan for 2018-2021, which the National Rapporteur, under the auspices of the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality, monitored and coordinated. In 2020, the government launched a national anti-trafficking public awareness campaign that targeted potential trafficking victims and front-line officials and aimed to increase cooperation with NGOs, international organizations, universities, and health centers. The campaign included web conferences with high-level participation, events in all five regions by the multidisciplinary NGO teams, and the dissemination of 296 victim identification cards to law enforcement agencies, social workers, and health professionals. The National Commission for the Promotion of the Rights and the Protection of Children and Young People published materials highlighting the risks of trafficking on its website, which targeted children, parents, and civil society. The government also created a second website, available in several languages, that targeted migrants and aimed to disseminate information to trafficking victims during the pandemic. A government-funded NGO trained 250 victim support officers, health professionals, and social workers on trafficking prevention, available services to victims, and how to raise awareness of human trafficking.

Temporary employment agencies required a license to operate and were prohibited from charging a recruitment or placement fee to workers. Though illegal, the immigration and border service asserted that this practice still frequently occurred; recruitment companies would charge foreign workers for the issuance of employment contracts, social security registration, transportation, lodging, gas, water, and electricity, deducting funds directly from their salaries, which could increase vulnerability to debt bondage. Portuguese law criminalized passport withholding and contract switching; however, fraudulent labor recruitment remained a concern during the reporting period. GRETA noted a need to strengthen monitoring and regulation of temporary employment and recruitment agencies, especially those employing and recruiting domestic workers. Though the government made efforts to raise awareness among labor recruiters and brokers during the reporting period, including through the continued offering of workshops on corporate social responsibility pertaining to the prevention of human trafficking, the government did not report any efforts to investigate or prosecute labor recruitment agencies for fraudulent recruitment or labor trafficking. While labor inspectors could refer suspected labor trafficking cases to the police, the government did not have a dedicated budget or staff to detect labor trafficking cases. The government did not report the number of labor inspections conducted in 2020, nor if any labor trafficking victims were identified as a result. Labor inspectors frequently conducted joint inspections with the immigration and border service when foreign workers were present, which may have intimidated undocumented potential victims and posed a barrier to the identification of victims. The government, in partnership with international organizations, provided international anti-trafficking training to Tunisia and Morocco, as well as to Angola, where the government provided training to 50 police officers and magistrates. The government also signed a bilateral cooperation agreement in December 2020 with the Government of Cabo Verde’s Observatory for Monitoring and Identification of Trafficking Victims, though no concrete results were reported. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Each of the five multidisciplinary government-funded NGO teams operated a hotline available 24 hours a day and in several languages, additionally there was a shelter and protection center phone line also operated by a government-funded NGO and a government hotline for children in danger; however, the government did not report how many calls these received and how many, if any, trafficking victims it identified through any of the hotlines in 2020.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Portugal, and traffickers exploit victims from Portugal abroad. The majority of trafficking victims are from India, Moldova, Pakistan, and Romania, but victims also originate from West Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America, specifically Brazil. Labor traffickers exploit foreign victims in agriculture, construction, and domestic service; seasonal migrant workers are especially vulnerable. Traffickers transport victims to farms located in the interior of the Alentejo region or western Portugal, where they are comparatively isolated. Cubans working in Portugal may have been forced to work by the Cuban government before the Government of Portugal ended the use of Cuban medical professionals in December 2019. A few doctors reportedly remained in the country until their contracts ended in 2020. Traffickers often use fraudulent recruitment methods to exploit Portuguese victims in restaurants, agriculture, and domestic service, primarily in Portugal and Spain. 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 citizens in other countries, mostly in Europe. Traffickers exploit children from Eastern Europe, including Romani children for forced begging and forced criminal activity in Portugal. Authorities report traffickers facilitate the transfer of asylum-seeking women and children, many from West Africa, to Portugal; traffickers obtain false documents before moving 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. Traffickers sometimes exploit soccer players in labor trafficking; these victims, including some children, are often from Brazil.

U.S. Department of State

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