Trafficking in Persons Report 2017 - Country Narratives - Portugal


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. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by increasing the number of investigations, prosecutions, convictions, and victims identified. The government amended the labor code to expand responsibility for upholding worker protections and liability for violating such protections to employment agencies and firms that hire temporary workers. The government added a fifth interdisciplinary regional anti-trafficking team to assist victims and continued to fund three NGO-operated shelters. Although the government meets the minimum standards, penalties for convicted traffickers were less severe as compared to prior years, and in some cases sentences were suspended. While authorities identified significantly more potential trafficking victims, they identified few sex trafficking victims. The government did not make discernable efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex.


Increase identification of adult and child sex trafficking victims; amend article 175 to clarify that all prostitution of children is child sex trafficking, regardless of force, fraud, or coercion, to ensure these crimes are identified and prosecuted under appropriate statutes; vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict traffickers, issuing sufficiently dissuasive sentences; amend relevant anti-trafficking laws to include specific provisions to shield victims from prosecution for unlawful acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; expand authority beyond police and prosecutors to confirm whether an individual is a victim of trafficking; continue training for all police, prosecutors, and judges to increase trafficking investigations and to encourage the use of trafficking laws for convictions with dissuasive sentences; 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; provide specialized shelter and assistance for child trafficking victims, including Portuguese child sex trafficking victims; continue to train immigration and social workers, law enforcement, labor inspectors, and NGOs on victim identification and referral; strengthen monitoring and regulation of temporary employment agencies, including employing and recruiting domestic workers; and increase efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex and forced labor, including in supply chains and government procurement policy.


The government increased law enforcement efforts. Article 160 of the penal code prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of three to 10 years imprisonment (up to 16 years if there are aggravating circumstances), which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 160 also encompasses illegal adoption and organ removal, crimes that fall outside the U.S. definition of trafficking in persons. Article 159 prohibits slavery and prescribes penalties of five to 15 years imprisonment. Article 175 prohibits child sex trafficking, with penalties of one to 10 years imprisonment, although it classifies these crimes as pimping rather than trafficking. Amendments to the labor code entered into force in September 2016 and extended liability for violations of labor code worker protections to employment agencies and subcontractors, including owners of companies, companies that hire temporary workers, and contractors supplying workers to companies.

In 2016, the government investigated 83 potential trafficking cases, compared with 68 total cases in 2015. Authorities did not report how many cases involved labor or sex trafficking, but noted the majority of the cases involved labor trafficking in agriculture. In 2016, authorities prosecuted 77 defendants in nine cases, a significant increase from the six defendants prosecuted in 2015. Courts convicted and sentenced 15 traffickers in 2016 (including at least four sex trafficking, one forced labor, and two domestic servitude cases), compared with four total convictions in 2015. Sentences for convicted traffickers in 2016 ranged from 18 months to eight years imprisonment, compared with eight to 20 years imprisonment in 2015. Authorities suspended five of the sentences; in three of those cases they ordered the traffickers to make payments to an NGO working to address sexual exploitation. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. The national police provided training in investigations and victim identification to 107 officers across four regions, as well as additional trainings for police, judges, and prosecutors. The national rapporteur developed training programs for first responders in districts vulnerable to labor trafficking, including police, social workers, and health professionals. In October 2016, the government organized a training and technical assistance workshop for judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement personnel in cooperation with a foreign government.


The government increased protection efforts. The government’s national referral system guided victim identification procedures, and its anti-trafficking agency provided a checklist to law enforcement and other front-line responders on identifying trafficking victims. First responders and social service providers could refer potential victims to services, but only police or prosecutors could officially “confirm” an individual a victim of trafficking. GRETA noted, however, the process of confirming the status of a presumed victim depended on the duration of the related prosecution, thus making victims’ status in practice dependent on cooperation with law enforcement. In 2016, authorities identified 261 potential victims—118 of which were confirmed victims and 33 of which were Portuguese nationals exploited abroad—compared with 193 potential and confirmed victims in 2015. Ninety-three percent of the confirmed victims exploited in Portugal were victims of forced labor; 32 of the confirmed and potential victims were children. The government conducted three large-scale anti-trafficking operations that resulted in the identification of 81 victims. The government reported it provided approximately €1 million ($1.05 million) in 2016 for prosecution and protection activities, including funding for shelters, repatriation assistance, and support for its interdisciplinary regional teams’ efforts to identify and assist victims; the government added a fifth team in 2016. Victims and their minor children had the right to shelter, health, psycho-social, legal, and language services, as well as education and employment training. The government-funded three NGO-operated shelters exclusively for trafficking victims—two for female victims and their minor children and one for adult male victims. The government reported it referred 62 victims to these shelters in 2016. GRETA reported the shelters could each accommodate a limited number of victims and noted a growing need for additional shelter places as the number of victims identified annually increased. 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, working through its five regional anti-trafficking teams, conducted 220 training and awareness sessions for 8,159 first responders, including health, security, legal, and social services professionals.

Authorities encouraged victims to assist with investigations and prosecutions and informed victims of their right to protection, assistance, and return to their country of origin. The government provided comprehensive 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 provides for a one-year residence permit for victims cooperating with law enforcement or based on a personal situation; this permit can be renewed for one year if authorities determine it is necessary to protect the victim. Authorities issued 31 residence permits in 2016, compared with two permits in 2015. The government reported it provided 25 victims with assistance to return to either their countries of origin or to the country where their immediate family was located. Portuguese law allows victims to seek compensation from and file criminal proceedings against their traffickers; victims may seek compensation from the government if the convicted trafficker is 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.


The government maintained prevention efforts. The government maintained a multi-stakeholder anti-trafficking network, including a national rapporteur, representatives from various government agencies, and three NGOs. The national rapporteur, who served as the national anti-trafficking coordinator, issued an annual report on the government’s progress in implementing the 2014-2017 national action plan. The government’s anti-trafficking agency also published an annual and three quarterly reports detailing the trafficking situation in the country. The government launched a national awareness campaign in October 2016 that focused on child trafficking and included a hotline to report suspected trafficking, which resulted in 62 victim identifications during the year. Labor authorities conducted inspections of employers and working conditions in an effort to prevent labor exploitation. The government screened visa applicants traveling to Portugal for employment to ensure their job offers were legitimate by vetting 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 also conducted a corporate social responsibility campaign to address labor exploitation and provided training and capacity building assistance to foreign governments. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex but did make efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. Laws prohibiting sexual crimes against children have extraterritorial reach, allowing the prosecution of suspected child sex tourists for offenses committed abroad; there were no reports of Portuguese citizens engaging in child sex tourism abroad during the year. The government provided anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel. In 2016, in preparation for Portuguese troops’ deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions in 2017, the government developed anti-trafficking training for peacekeepers.


As reported over the past five years, Portugal is a destination and, to a lesser extent, transit and source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Trafficking victims primarily originate from West Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, and, to a lesser extent, Latin America. Most victims are subjected to forced labor, with seasonal migrant workers especially vulnerable. Foreign labor trafficking victims are exploited in agriculture, construction, and domestic service, while Portuguese victims are exploited 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 the number of labor trafficking victims from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan in 2016. Foreign women and children, mostly from Africa and Eastern Europe, and Portuguese women and children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Portuguese victims have also been subjected to sex trafficking in other countries, mostly in Europe. Children from Eastern Europe, including those of Roma descent, are subjected to forced begging and forced criminal activity in Portugal. Organized criminal networks operate trafficking rings in the country; some recruit victims abroad to exploit in Portugal, while others recruit domestically to exploit both within Portugal and abroad. 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 to be exploited in sex trafficking.