The government decreased protection efforts. To offer additional protections to trafficking victims during the pandemic, the government categorized actions related to anti-trafficking as an essential activity, absolved trafficking victims of orders mandating restricted movement in emergency situations, and created a website where victims could access services available to them during the pandemic. In 2020, authorities and government-funded NGOs initially classified 228 individuals as possible victims of trafficking (219 in Portugal and nine abroad); however, authorities only “confirmed” 13 as trafficking victims after the conclusion of a criminal investigation. This compared with 44 confirmed victims in both 2019 and 2018 and three in 2017. Of the confirmed victims in 2020, five were female sex trafficking victims, eight were male labor trafficking victims, all were adults, and they were predominantly from Pakistan and Romania. Front-line responders, including police and NGOs, could identify and refer presumed victims to services, but only law enforcement officials or the National Rapporteur could formally “confirm” an individual as a trafficking victim. Law enforcement officials were the primary body responsible for formal confirmation of trafficking victims, while identification by the National Rapporteur was typically only used in exceptional circumstances. The government reported that police, judges, and prosecutors determined whether to confirm a victim by analyzing evidence and the presence of trafficking indicators. However, experts argued that, in practice, formal identification of trafficking victims depended on the initiation of an investigation and the outcome of criminal proceedings. GRETA reported there was no timeline for authorities to confirm official victim status; the process depended on the duration of the related prosecution. While presumed victims could receive assistance from government-funded NGOs, such as shelter, they were not entitled to all of the same benefits as confirmed victims, including entitlement to a residence permit. Furthermore, if during legal proceedings, law enforcement re-classified the crime as a non-trafficking crime, victims would remain “presumed” rather than confirmed. Since 2013, GRETA has urged the government to ensure the formal identification of trafficking victims did not depend, in practice, on their cooperation with law enforcement and on the presence of sufficient grounds to initiate a criminal case. In 2020, of the original 228 possible victims, NGOs identified 13 “presumed” victims, while an additional 79 victims with continuing investigations continued as “presumed” victims, and the remaining victims were determined not to be trafficking victims—this totaled 92 presumed victims. Of the 92 presumed victims, at least 69 were presumed victims of labor trafficking, mostly in agriculture; six were Portuguese; and five were children. Thirteen confirmed victims and 92 presumed victims in 2020 was a decrease compared with 44 confirmed victims and 130 presumed victims in 2019 and 44 confirmed victims and 67 presumed victims in 2018. Experts raised concerns regarding gaps in the government’s efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims, as the government has not reported identifying any victims among the asylum-seeking population—presumed or confirmed—and there were no Portuguese or children among the confirmed victims.
The government continued to utilize its national victim identification and referral mechanism, which was widely used and distributed to all relevant front-line officials, including NGOs, social service workers, and health care workers. In May 2021, the government adopted a national identification and referral mechanism specifically for child trafficking victims; the mechanism was developed by a multidisciplinary group composed of various ministries, NGOs, and international organizations. The OTSH 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 government- funded multidisciplinary NGO teams to receive specialized shelter and assistance. The multidisciplinary NGO teams included psychologists and social workers.
In 2021, the government maintained its 2019 and 2020 funding amounts for trafficking shelters, victim repatriation, and the multidisciplinary regional teams at €1.5 million ($1.7 million), with €1.5 million ($1.7 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 provided 23 presumed victims (17 men and six women) with shelter, medical, and psychological services in 2020, a decrease compared with 57 in 2019 and 36 in 2018. Fifteen victims received legal services, eight received training and education, and seven received support with labor market integration in 2020. The government also enrolled four trafficking victims in its reintegration program in 2020, which included accommodation in an independent apartment. The government had 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.
The government offered victims a recovery and reflection period of 30 to 60 days, during which they could recover before deciding whether to cooperate with law enforcement. During the recovery and reflection period, victims were entitled to emergency medical treatment, psychological assistance, protection, interpretation, and legal assistance. The government provided funding to assist victims with voluntary repatriation, which it provided to several victims in 2020. The law also entitled victims to a one-year residence permit if they cooperated with law enforcement or had a personal situation regarding their security, health, family situation, or vulnerability; authorities could renew this permit indefinitely. In 2022, the Council of Ministers passed a resolution that granted temporary protection in the form of one-year residence permits to refugees fleeing Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which included social benefits, and established a reception and integration mechanism. Of the 25 permits requested by trafficking victims in 2020, 20 temporary residence permits were issued to victims; an increase compared with 16 residence permits issued in 2019. Under Article 109 of the Law 23/2007, presumed victims could obtain a residence permit even if they did not cooperate with law enforcement, but the process was complex, and there were more stipulations. Furthermore, waiting periods for obtaining a residence permit could be a year or longer, which could result in victims missing important judicial deadlines in the meantime. The government reported that presumed and confirmed victims had access to services regardless of cooperation with law enforcement; however, civil society noted that outside the recovery and reflection period, access to legal aid, health services, and work permits without a residence permit, which could sometimes take a year to obtain, was particularly challenging for undocumented presumed trafficking victims.
Courts permitted some victims of crime to testify by deposition or video conference, and the law entitled victims to psychological assistance during interviews. The government reported informing victims of their right to legal aid, to claim damages or request compensation, and to interpretation. In July 2021, the government also reported issuing a directive, initially proposed by a multisectoral working group to promote victim empowerment, which required documents to be easily understood by victims; consequently, specialized services revised the documents to simplify legal and procedural technical language. 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 continued to lack comprehensive data on restitution, damages, and compensation awarded to victims. While prosecutors were not required to systematically request restitution during trials, courts awarded restitution to at least seven victims in 2020. Portuguese law allowed victims to file civil suits against their traffickers, but the government did not report whether any victims filed suits or if it awarded 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; however, the government did not report providing any such compensation to trafficking victims, and GRETA noted this rarely occurred. 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. NGOs reported many victims were unwilling to come forward and cooperate with authorities for fear of prosecution.