Last Updated: Friday, 29 August 2014, 13:46 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2002 - Portugal

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 31 March 2003
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2002 - Portugal , 31 March 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3e918c447.html [accessed 29 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 31, 2003

The Portuguese Republic is a constitutional democracy with a President, a Prime Minister, and a Parliament freely elected by secret ballot in multiparty elections. The judiciary was independent.

Internal security is primarily the responsibility of the Ministries of Justice and Internal Administration. The Republican National Guard (GNR) has jurisdiction outside cities, and the Public Security Police (PSP) has jurisdiction in cities. The Aliens and Borders Service (SEF) has jurisdiction on immigration and border issues. The civilian authorities maintain effective control of the security forces; however, members of the security forces committed human rights abuses. The Inspectorate General of Internal Administration (IGAI), under the Ministry of Internal Administration, handles disciplinary proceedings against members of the GNR, PSP and SEF involved in violent incidents. IGAI handled 74 cases during the year.

The country has a market-based economy with a population of approximately 10.2 million. The service sector was the leading source of employment, while employment in agriculture and industry continued to be static or declined. Manufacturing provided approximately 30 percent of total economic output. The principal exports were textiles, machinery, cork, paper products, and vehicles.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. Police killed five persons, all Portuguese citizens, during the year. Credible reports continued that security personnel occasionally beat and otherwise abused detainees and prisoners. Prison conditions remained poor. Lengthy delays in holding trials led to hunger strikes by some pretrial detainees. Violence against women was a problem, and the Government took steps to address it. Discrimination and violence against minorities and immigrants also were problems. The Government took active steps to address the problem of child labor. Trafficking in foreign laborers and women also was a problem. Portugal was invited by the Community of Democracies' (CD) Convening Group to attend the November 2002 second CD Ministerial Meeting in Seoul, Republic of Korea, as a participant.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were no reports of political killings; however, police shot and killed five persons during the year.

During an October operation, GNR agents shot and killed Paulo da Silva in Loures. IGAI and criminal proceedings began, and were pending at year's end.

In October Lisbon PSP officers shot and killed Osvaldo Vaz while attempting to serve an arrest warrant. The Public Prosecutor in Loures began a criminal investigation and IGAI began a disciplinary investigation, both ongoing at year's end.

In August a PSP officer from the city of Porto shot and killed 27-year-old Nuno Lucas. The suspect allegedly was trying to flee arrest in a van when he was shot. The PSP claimed that the shooting was accidental; however, Lucas' accomplice alleged that it was intentional. The Justice Ministry's Department of Investigation and Penal Action (DIAP) in Porto and IGAI opened investigations into the case. At year's end, the IGAI process was in the final disciplinary phase and the DIAP investigation was ongoing.

In June a PSP police officer shot and killed Antonio Tavares Pereira during an argument between local residents and PSP officers in Setubal. The police reportedly also shot and injured two youths during the incident. The Government began an investigation into the police shooting. At year's end, both IGAI and the Public Prosecutor were deliberating on the case.

In March PSP officers in Lisbon shot Cesario Marques who resisted arrest. Marques later died in the hospital. The IGAI concluded its investigation and decided the PSP officers acted legitimately in self-defense.

According to the Directorate General of Prison Services (DGSP), in August Marco Filipe Marques dos Santos, a 27-year-old convicted murderer, committed suicide by hanging himself with a bed sheet in a Lisbon prison. However, his parents alleged that prison guards beat him to death, and were awaiting an autopsy report at year's end.

Investigations into the July 2001 killing by a GNR officer of Artur Mendes Pereira in the Algarve region were closed. The IGAI took disciplinary action against the GNR agent, but criminal proceedings did not lead to a conviction.

In September an appeals court in Porto ruled that there was insufficient evidence to determine whether the internal abdominal bleeding that caused the 2000 death of Roma, Alvaro Rosa Cardosa, resulted from a fight before the arrest or the alleged mistreatment by two PSP officers afterwards. The case was dismissed.

The IGAI completed its investigation into the January 2000 death of Paulo Silva, who died of internal bleeding which may have been caused by PSP mistreatment during an arrest in Porto, but at year's end, was waiting for the conclusion of the criminal proceedings before taking disciplinary action.

An appeal by three PSP officers, who were convicted in 1998 on criminal charges related to the death in custody in 1996 of Carlos Araujo, failed. The officer responsible was disciplined by IGAI and sentenced by a criminal court.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits such practices; however, there were infrequent but credible reports that police and prison guards beat and otherwise abused detainees, particularly non-Europeans.

In September the DIAP in Lisbon and IGAI began investigations into the alleged aggression of three PSP officers against Aizhong Lin and his wife Qiaolian Zhou, a Chinese merchant couple. According to Lin, he and his pregnant wife were taken to the Mouraria police station in August after he refused to sign a notification of a fine. At the station, he alleged that police officers beat and kicked him while he was handcuffed. Forty witnesses, who viewed the incident through a broken glass door in the police station, signed a testimonial corroborating Lin's story. The police alleged that it was Lin who initiated the aggression toward the officers. Investigations were ongoing at year's end.

In August PSP officers in Faro allegedly beat Artur da Conceicao in Faro. Criminal and IGAI proceedings began, and were ongoing at year's end.

During a July incident in front of a Lisbon nightclub, a PSP officer struck Pedro Miranda with a baton, resulting in loss of sight in one eye. Criminal and IGAI proceedings were ongoing at year's end.

According to Amnesty International, and documented by television news footage, a celebration of Brazil's June victory in the 2002 World Cup in the vicinity of the O Eletrico bar on the Costa da Caparica involved clashes between PSP riot police and fans, many of whom were either of Brazilian nationality or descent. Six Brazilians and at least one police officer were injured in the incident. The Government investigated the incident, and IGAI concluded that the PSP officers acted appropriately given the danger of the situation, and that they used force only as a last resort.

The criminal trial in a military tribunal in Coimbra of GNR agents implicated in the mistreatment of detainees in 1999 concluded. They were found not guilty and were not subject to any disciplinary action.

The Government investigates reports of police mistreatment. According to its 2001 activity report, the IGAI opened investigations into 307 complaints against agents of the Ministry of Internal Administration, and determined that 36 cases were of particular importance and relevance. Of these 36, three were related to allegations involving the deaths of citizens. An independent ombudsman is chosen by the Parliament and the IGAI to investigate complaints of mistreatment by the police; however, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been critical of the slow pace of police investigations in general and internal investigations by the police in particular. A 1999 law provides detailed guidelines covering all aspects of arrest and custody. According to an NGO, the law has led to some improvements but has not completely eliminated abuses. During the year, police officers receive extensive professional training and the Government regulates their actions through mechanisms established by law.

Credible information from independent reports and NGOs indicated that prison conditions remained poor. The Director General of the DGSP resigned in November. In an April report to the Justice Ministry, he complained of a lack of finances and prison guards, the degradation and lack of facilities and equipment, and dangers (including from organized crime) to both prisoners and prison guards. The Justice Ministry subsequently added 345 guards and promised 255 more.

The DGSP Director General's April report also mentioned worsening health conditions including infectious diseases, mental health, oral health, and drug abuse. According to his report, 25 percent of prisoners had viral hepatitis and about 11 percent were HIV-positive. Prison overcrowding remained a serious problem, with a reported rate of overcrowding of 21.8 percent (out of a population of 13,963 prisoners) in October. Some NGOs and the media also strongly denounced prison health conditions, citing even higher infectious disease rates and poor medical treatment for prisoners.

There were continued reports regarding the mistreatment of prisoners by prison guards. According to a press report, the Justice Ministry received approximately 200 complaints from prisoners in 2001, 20 of which concerned prisoner mistreatment by prison guards. According to Government officials, violence among inmates was a more common problem.

Men and women were housed separately. While there is a youth prison in Leiria, juveniles were at times held with adults. Pretrial detainees were held with convicted criminals.

The ombudsman investigated complaints of mistreatment by the police and prison authorities. The IGAI also conducted internal investigations in cases of alleged mistreatment in prisons.

The Government permitted visits by independent human rights observers, such as the Council of Europe's Committee for the prevention of Torture.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government generally observed these prohibitions.

Under the law, an investigating judge determines whether an arrested person should be detained, released on bail, or released outright. A person may not be held for more than 48 hours without appearing before an investigating judge. Investigative detention is limited to a maximum of 6 months for each suspected crime. If a formal charge is not filed within that period, the detainee must be released. In cases of serious crimes such as murder or armed robbery, or of more than one suspect, investigative detention may last for up to 2 years and may be extended by a judge to 3 years in extraordinary circumstances. A suspect in investigative detention must be brought to trial within 18 months of being charged formally. If a suspect is not in detention, there is no specified period for going to trial. A detainee has access to lawyers, and the State assumes the cost if necessary.

During the year, prisoners went on hunger strikes to protest, among other things, prolonged periods of preventive detention. The average number of prisoners returned to custody by court order ("remand") is high. Statistics showed that 4,029 individuals (28.7 percent) of the prison population were in preventive detention. Preventive detainees remained in prison under this status for an average of 26 months. Judges argued that preventive detention was justified by the high incidence (40 percent) of repeat offenders. The Government began implementing the use of an electronic monitoring device as an alternative to preventive detention. There were 50 preventive detainees participating in the program at year's end. One difficulty in expanding the program was that detainees must have a fixed residence with a telephone connection and electricity. Many preventive detainees were drug addicts who lacked these requirements.

In February the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in the Magalhaes Pereira v. Portugal case that the Government violated Article 5-4 of the Convention. Joaquim Magalhaes Pereira challenged his continued confinement in a psychiatric hospital on the basis that it was unlawful, that the Government took too long to determine the lawfulness of the continued confinement, and that the Government failed to provide him legal assistance in challenging his confinement. The Court determined that the Government unlawfully confined Pereira and failed to provide him adequate legal representation. The Court awarded Pereira $5,300 (6,000 euros) for non-pecuniary damages and $2,845 (3,221 euros) for legal costs.

The law prohibits forced exile, and the Government did not employ it.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respected this provision in practice.

The court system, laid out in the Constitution, consists of a Constitutional Court, a Supreme Court of Justice, and judicial courts of first and second instance. There is also a Supreme Court of Administration, which handles administrative and tax disputes, and which is supported by lower administrative courts. An audit court is in the Ministry of Finance.

The Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforces this right. All trials are public except those that may offend the dignity of the victim, such as in cases of sexual abuse of children. The accused is presumed innocent. In trials for serious crimes, a panel of three judges presides. For lesser crimes, a single judge presides. At the request of the accused, a jury may be used in trials for major crimes; in practice, requests for jury trials are extremely rare.

Critics pointed to a large backlog of pending trials resulting from the inefficient functioning of the courts. A 2001 law aims to reduce the case backlog by increasing the number of judges. The bill also has provisions to reduce the time it takes a lawyer to become a judge. Another 2001 law provides that witnesses may testify in cases heard in distant jurisdictions via teleconference. The Ministry of Justice also has implemented a plan to speed up the serving of subpoenas. Many factors contributed to the backlog, including the underutilization of technology (case folders were still sewn closed by a large number of "needlemen/women"), the confusing and drawn out method of serving subpoenas, and the reluctance of the justice system to accept change.

In January and March, the ECHR ordered the Ministry of Justice to pay a fine to three plaintiffs in three separate civil cases. These cases involved violations of Article 6-1 of the Convention. The first case concerned compensation for a breach of contract claim that lasted 14 years and 2 months. The second case was not resolved after 11 years and 1 month. In six other civil cases brought before the ECHR, the Court concluded that the resolution of the cases lasted beyond a reasonable amount of time, and awarded non-pecuniary damages. Many similar examples of judicial delay and backlog were reported in the press.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution prohibits such actions, and the Government generally respected these prohibitions in practice.

2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the Government generally respected these rights in practice. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combine to ensure freedom of speech and of the press, including academic freedom.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the Government generally respected these rights in practice.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice.

The Roman Catholic Church is the dominant religion. Although the overwhelming majority of citizens are Roman Catholic, other religions, including Islam, Judaism, and Eastern Orthodox, practiced freely.

A 2001 Religious Freedom Act created a legislative framework for religions established in the country for at least 30 years, or recognized internationally for at least 60 years. The Act provides qualifying religions with benefits previously reserved for the Catholic Church: full tax-exempt status, legal recognition for marriage and other rites, chaplain visits to prisons and hospitals, and respect for traditional holidays. The Act specifies that rules must be established within 60 days after passage; however, the Government had not created rules enabling this legislation by year's end.

The Church of Scientology, although recognized as a religious association since 1986, did not benefit from the Religious Freedom Act, since it had not been established in the country for 30 years or recognized internationally for 60 years, as required under the law. The Church's leaders claimed that they suffered no discrimination or opposition in the country. However, they were concerned that exclusion from the benefits accorded under the Act might have a negative impact on their ability to practice their faith.

For a more detailed discussion see the 2002 International Religious Freedom Report.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution and laws provide for these rights, and the Government generally respected them in practice. The law provides for the granting of refugee and asylum status in accordance with the provisions of the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The Government cooperated with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. Persons who qualify as refugees were entitled to residence permits. The Government rarely ruled that an asylum seeker had a "valid" claim and did not grant first asylum during the year. Immigration authorities attempted to distinguish among political, humanitarian, and temporary refugees, but the Government continued to maintain that the majority of asylum seekers were economic refugees using the country as a gateway to the other EU countries.

There were no reports of the forced return of persons to a country where they feared persecution.

3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change their Government

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercise this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections on the basis of universal suffrage. The country is a multiparty parliamentary democracy.

There were 49 women in the 230-member Parliament. The second ranking member of the cabinet, the Minister of State and Finance, was a woman, as was the Justice Minister. Five women held state-secretary positions, which are one rank below cabinet ministers. Some political parties had adopted internal quotas for women.

Race was rarely an issue in politics; persons of minority origin had achieved political prominence.

4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative to their views; however, most groups complained of slow investigations or remedial actions.

5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution forbids discrimination based on ancestry, sex, language, origin, political or ideological convictions, education, economic situation, or social condition; however, some discrimination against women and ethnic minorities persisted.

Women

Domestic and other violence against women reportedly was a common but partially hidden problem for which few sought legal recourse. In 2001 the Portuguese Association for Victim Support (APAV), a non-profit charitable organization that provides confidential and free services to crime victims nationwide, received 7,593 calls on its toll-free hotline in which 8,429 acts of domestic violence were reported. Ninety-five percent of the victims in these cases were women. Of the reported acts, 1,176 were committed against mentally handicapped victims, 88 percent of them women. Although cases of domestic violence occurred throughout the country, more than half of the cases came from the large urban centers of Lisbon and Porto. The Commission for Equality and Women's Rights runs 14 safe houses for domestic violence in the country (4 new ones were opened during the year) and also has a 24-hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week phone service. This phone service received 2,264 calls in 2000 and 2,032 in 2001 (2,009 female and 27 male victims).

The law provides for criminal penalties in cases of violence by a spouse, and the judicial system prosecutes suspects accused of abusing women; however, traditional societal attitudes still discouraged many battered women from recourse to the judicial system. A 2000 law defines domestic violence as a public crime, which obliges the police to follow through on reports of domestic violence. The change gave police and the courts more leverage to prosecute such cases and removed from the victim some of the burden of bringing charges. The Penal Code grants any interested party the ability to file charges in domestic violence cases. Portugal ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1990, and the Optional Protocol entered into force in July.

Parliament continued to address the problem of domestic violence through legislative initiatives. Under the law, perpetrators of domestic violence may be barred from contact with their victims, and in extreme cases, the police may order the immediate expulsion of a perpetrator from the victim's dwelling. The law also calls for the development of new programs to teach anger management to perpetrators and to assist victims with the professional development necessary to live independent lives. The law establishes a national support network and a system of compensation for victims of domestic violence. Another law provided for the expansion of the system of shelters for victims. The Government also strengthened educational campaigns for the public and specialized training for the police.

Prostitution was commonplace and neither prostitutes nor clients are punishable in the country. Under Portuguese law – which is based on the 1982 Penal Code and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of Prostitution – only pimping, brothels, and the registration of prostitutes are illegal. Trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution continued to be a problem (see Section 6.f.). Prostitution was linked closely to other types of organized crime, especially international narcotics trafficking. The Nest, an NGO, operated economic and social recovery programs for prostitutes.

Sexual harassment, a problem that continued to gain public attention, is covered in the Penal Code and defined as a sex crime if perpetrated by a superior in the workplace. The penalties are 2 to 3 years' imprisonment. As in the case of domestic violence, socially ingrained attitudes discouraged many women from taking advantage of the legal protection available. The Commission on Equality in the Workplace and in Employment, made up of representatives of the Government, employers' organizations, and labor unions, is empowered to examine, but not adjudicate, complaints of sexual harassment; however, it received few such complaints.

The Civil Code provides for full legal equality for women. Women increasingly were represented in business, science, academia, and the professions. A gap nevertheless remained between male and female salaries: according to the latest figures available (1998), women earned an average of 77 percent of men's earnings. Women made up a slight majority of university graduates. The Commission on Equality in the Workplace and in Employment reviewed numerous complaints of discrimination by employers against pregnant workers and new mothers, who were protected by law. The law provides for 120 days of maternity leave with full pay and benefits. After return to work, a new mother (or father) may take time off every day to nurse or feed an infant. If pregnant or nursing women or new fathers are fired, they may take their complaint to the Government Equality Commission (CITE), which addresses equal opportunity complaints. If CITE finds that the employee's legal rights were violated, the employer must reinstate the worker and pay double back pay and benefits for the time at work missed due to the wrongful firing.

Children

The Government was strongly committed to children's rights and welfare; it amply funded systems of public education and medical care. The Government provides 9 years of compulsory, free, and universal education for children through the age of 15, most of whom attend school. The Institute of Solidarity and Social Security, located within the Ministry of Labor and Solidarity, oversees implementation of the Government's programs for children. The Institute initiated a program to coordinate assistance for children of immigrant families and a program to support early childhood, which included the provision of better childcare facilities. The Government provides preschool education for children from 4 years upon entry into primary school. Each year the number of students enrolled in preschool has increased. The Institute also improved the quantity and quality of temporary shelters for children aged 3 months to 3 years.

The Ministries of Labor and Solidarity, Justice, and Health sponsored a program in the maternity wards of hospitals to register newborns and enroll them in the social security and health programs. The Government provides free or low cost health care for all children up to the age of 15.

There was no societal pattern of abuse of children. APAV and the telephone hotline "SOS Crianca" reported 272 cases of domestic violence against children in 2001, 47 of which were against infants under the age of four. The law defines pedophilia to include consumers of child pornography as well as producers. Following guidelines approved by the EU, the Government has amended its legal code concerning pedophilia. Courts may request jurisdiction of cases involving Portuguese resident nationals who commit pedophilia abroad, regardless of the victim's nationality or whether the act committed is considered a crime in that country. At the end of the year, the Government made arrests and began a thorough investigation of a high-profile pedophilia operation that had been active since the 1960s at a boarding school in Lisbon named "Casa Pia."

The country served as a transit point for children trafficked from Africa to other Western European countries (see Section 6.f.).

The Government ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and signed the Optional Protocols on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography in 2000. The National Commission for the Protection of Children and Youth at Risk, a governmental organization, is charged with implementing the principles of the convention. The Commission operated under the aegis of the High Commissioner for the Promotion of Equality and of the Family and includes representatives from the Ministries of Justice, Health, Education, and Labor, as well as from leading NGOs. It organized public awareness programs and promoted legislation that protects children's rights. Along with the Institute for Social Development, the Commission distributed to students copies of the articles included in the Convention of the Rights of Children. The two organizations also produced two books geared toward educating children about their rights. The quasi-independent Institute for the Support of Children organized a network of 48 NGOs dedicated to helping at-risk youth. It served as an information clearinghouse for NGOs working on children's issues, provided telephone and in-person counseling, intervention, and prevention services in cases of child abuse and neglect, and operated services assisting street children. The University of Minho's Institute for the Study of Children is a research center dedicated solely to the study of children's issues.

Persons with Disabilities

There was no discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, or the provision of other state services. The law mandates access to public buildings for such persons, and the Government enforced these provisions in practice; however, no such legislation covers private businesses or other facilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The principal minority groups were immigrants, legal and illegal, from Portugal's former African colonies, Brazil and Eastern Europe. During the year, the number of immigrants from Eastern Europe and Brazil increased greatly, while immigration from Africa decreased. News articles had reported that Eastern Europeans were more easily assimilated than Africans, who still faced some discrimination. The country also had a resident Roma population of approximately 50,000 persons, who had been the subject of some discrimination and violence.

The law permits victims and antiracism associations to participate in race-related criminal trials by lodging criminal complaints, retaining their own lawyers, and calling witnesses. In 1999 antiracism laws reiterated antidiscrimination sections of the Constitution and the Penal Code. The laws prohibit and penalize racial discrimination in housing, business, and health services. The laws also provided for the creation of a Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination to work alongside the High Commissioner for Immigration and Ethnic Minorities. At year's end, the Commission still had not made significant improvements.

The growing number of undocumented workers who entered the country illegally was a problem; however, the Government took steps to address the problem. The law provides a framework for undocumented aliens to obtain legal status and access to social and health benefits. The country legalized 130,000 foreigners in 2001, bringing the total number of legal immigrants authorized to work to about 350,000 (an increase from 2 to 3.5 percent of the population). The largest numbers came from Cape Verde, Brazil, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, and Russia.

6. Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for the right to establish unions by profession or industry. Workers in both the private and public sectors had the right to associate and to establish committees in the workplace to defend their interests, and they exercised these rights freely.

Two principal labor federations existed: the Workers' General Union (UGT) and the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers (CGTP). No restrictions limited the formation of additional labor federations. Unions functioned without hindrance by the Government and were associated closely with political parties. Trade union associations had the right to participate in the preparation of labor legislation.

There were no restrictions on the ability of unions to join federations or of federations to affiliate with international labor bodies.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Constitution provides for collective bargaining, and it was practiced extensively in the public and private sectors. Collective bargaining disputes usually were resolved through negotiation. When collective bargaining fails, the Government may appoint a mediator at the request of either management or labor.

Strikes are permitted by the Constitution for any reason, including political causes; they were common and generally were resolved through direct negotiations. However, should a long strike occur in an essential sector such as health, energy, or transportation, the Government may order the strikers back to work for a specific period. The Government rarely has invoked this power, in part because most strikes last only 1 to 3 days. The law requires a "minimum level of service" to be provided during strikes in essential sectors, but this requirement was applied infrequently. When it was applied, minimum levels of service were established by agreement between the Government and the striking unions. Unions have complained, including to the International Labor Organization (ILO), that the minimum levels have been set too high.

In response to the Government's proposal to revamp the country's rigid labor code, unions organized a public sector strike in November and then a general strike in December. Both strikes affected important public services; however, the police did not interfere and no incidents of violence were reported.

Police officers and members of the armed forces may not legally strike. However, in June 2001, police went on strike and demonstrated before Parliament as part of their demand to form a union. Parliament passed a law in December 2001 granting police the right to form unions but upholding the prohibition of strikes by police.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, and the authorities generally enforced this prohibition in practice. The General Directorate of Labor promptly examined complaints.

There were no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Bonded Labor

The law prohibits forced and bonded labor, including by children; however, there were reports that such practices occurred (see Section 6.d.). There were several media reports of businesses and organizations illegally using mentally handicapped individuals for strenuous manual labor.

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum working age is 16 years. There were instances of child labor, but the overall incidence was small and was concentrated geographically and sectorally. The greatest problems were reported in Braga, Porto, and Faro and tended to occur in the clothing, footwear, construction, and hotel industries.

In October 2001, the Government undertook a new comprehensive study of the child labor problem. The Government estimated that 46,717 children on the Portuguese mainland engaged in some form of economic activity, of whom 40,001 were unpaid family workers and 6,716 worked for third parties. These results represented a shift from 1998, where a greater percentage of those involved in economic activity worked for third parties. Of those children engaged in an economic activity, 86.2 percent were attending school, compared with approximately 78 percent in 1998. The survey confirmed that most children engaged in economic activity come from the northern (57.7 percent) and central (26 percent) regions of the country. The agricultural sector employed the most children, followed by commerce, manufacturing, hotel and catering, and construction. When asked why they were engaged in economic activities, 54.5 percent of the children replied, "because they wanted to," compared to 26.8 percent in 1998. The number of respondents citing "household economic problems" and "no one else wants to do it" declined. The majority of children worked 1 to 3 hours per day, and children tended to work either one to two days per week or 6 to 7 days per week. A great majority (87 percent) said that their work was easy, and 89 percent said that they enjoyed their work.

Government agencies had noted a continued gradual shift from child labor in industries to child labor in the home. Children increasingly worked in family businesses, particularly in rural farm work. The extensive national network designed to combat child labor began to shift some of its resources toward these family-run businesses.

The Government's fight against exploitative child labor included policies designed to address some of the root causes. A government commission, the Plan for the Elimination of Exploitation of Child Labor (PEETI), has developed, in conjunction with several NGOs, an integrated program of education and training in which local teams of social workers and educators intervene in situations involving dropouts and working children. These teams develop programs of scholastic and vocational study tailored to the individual child and his community. There were 34 programs established in the country serving approximately 600 youth. Most of the programs were concentrated in the northern region of the country, where 73 percent of the youth were served. While youth from Lisbon and surrounding areas only accounted for 13.5 percent of program participants, they accounted for the highest percentage of youth subject to the worst forms of child labor. PEETI gave "scholarships" to help offset the loss of income to the family. Up to 800 teenagers participated in this work-study program on a rotating basis during the year. PEETI also sponsored summer camps for at-risk youth to attend when school is not in session. The National Council Against the Exploitation of Child Labor (CNETI), a multiagency government body, coordinated efforts to eliminate child labor.

The Government's guaranteed minimum income program provided some families an alternative to sending their children to work. Since its inception, more than 691,897 persons have participated in this program. As of April 2001, 390,428 were still receiving this benefit. The Government noted that this program had helped 16,492 children return to school.

In June 2000, the country ratified the ILO 182 Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labor.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Minimum-wage legislation covers full-time workers as well as rural workers and domestic employees ages 18 and over. The monthly minimum wage during the year was approximately $348 (348 euros). Along with widespread rent controls, basic food and utility subsidies, and phased implementation of an assured minimum income, the minimum wage afforded a decent standard of living for a worker and family. Most workers received higher wages.

Employees generally received 14 months' pay for 11 months' work: the extra 3 months' pay were for a Christmas bonus, a vacation subsidy, and 22 days of annual leave. The maximum legal workday was 10 hours, and the maximum workweek was 40 hours. There was a maximum of 2 hours of paid overtime per day and 200 hours of overtime per year, with a minimum of 12 hours between workdays. The Ministry of Employment and Social Security monitored compliance through its regional inspectors.

Employers legally were responsible for accidents at work and were required by law to carry accident insurance. An existing body of legislation regulates safety and health, but labor unions continued to argue for stiffer laws. The General Directorate of Hygiene and Labor Security develops safety standards in harmony with EU standards, and the General Labor Inspectorate is responsible for their enforcement. However, the Inspectorate lacked sufficient funds and inspectors to combat the problem of work accidents effectively. Workers injured on the job rarely initiated lawsuits. A relatively large proportion of accidents occurred in the construction industry. Poor environmental controls in textile production also caused considerable concern. While the ability of workers to remove themselves from situations where these hazards existed was limited, it was difficult to fire workers for any reason and severance payments were high.

In January 2001, the Government passed a law requiring all contractors on a work site to accept responsibility for verifying a worker's legality. Previously, difficulties arose in identifying who the true employer of a laborer was on a construction site. This new law makes every employer subject to penalties if the Government finds illegal immigrants laboring on a work site.

f. Trafficking in Persons

The law prohibits trafficking in persons; however, trafficking in illegal workers and, to a lesser extent, in women and children for prostitution remained a problem.

Under the Penal Code, trafficking in persons is punishable by 2 to 8 years' imprisonment. In January 2001, Parliament passed legislation that established prison sentences of 1 to 4 years for facilitating the illegal entry of persons; for those employing an illegal immigrant, the sentence is 2 to 5 years. The revisions also criminalize the trafficking of children under 16 years old for the purpose of sexual exploitation and the simple exhibition or distribution of pornographic materials. The criminal investigation of these cases is difficult, given the sophisticated methods used by the traffickers, the cultural and language barriers between the immigrants and the Portuguese, and the desire of these immigrants to earn a living. Nevertheless, the Government has taken an active role in investigating those involved in the trafficking of persons. Portugal's border control agency (SEF) initiated 285 investigations in 2001, up from 73 in 1996. From 1998 to 2001, SEF investigations resulted in 53 convictions of individuals charged with crimes related to illegal immigration. Of those convicted in 2001, 9 were Portuguese, 5 were Brazilian, 4 were Moldovan, 3 were Ukrainian, and 3 were Romanian.

The SEF's arrest of Angolan-born Portuguese citizen Pedro Damba in December 2000 at the Faro airport on his way to London uncovered an extensive network that trafficked Angolan and Portuguese children to the United Kingdom, often using Portugal as a transit country. Damba was sentenced to six years in prison for falsification of documents, but international investigations into Damba's activities showed that from November 1997 to December 2000, he traveled from Portugal to London 44 times accompanied by at least 112 Angolans, many of them minors. The SEF also reportedly found that some of the trafficked children were Portuguese residents or citizens. The SEF, PJ, Scotland Yard, and other international officials were continuing their investigations into Damba's activities and into the final destination of the trafficked persons at year's end.

Some Portuguese women were trafficked to Spain for sexual exploitation; the majority of these women tended to be from poorer areas and were often drug users. Some women from Brazil, Lusophone Africa, and Nigeria also were trafficked into Portugal. The majority of trafficked persons originated in the former Soviet Union, specifically Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. Mafia organizations, primarily of Moldovan and Ukrainian origin, were present in the country and operated largely in the transportation and extortion of Eastern European manual laborers.

Trafficked workers from Eastern Europe arrive in an organized manner. Traffickers sell "package tours" to illegal immigrants, providing them with a passport, Schengen visa, and bus transportation to Portugal. More than 80 percent of illegal immigrants enter Portugal as "tourists," having obtained visas from either the Dutch or German embassies in the former Soviet Union, primarily Kiev or Chisinau. Along the route to Portugal, passengers must pay "tolls" to the traffickers. Typically upon arrival at the Spanish border, "bandits" working on behalf of the trafficking rings steal money from the trafficked persons and often steal or confiscate their passports. The victims often arrive in Portugal with neither money nor documents, making them easy targets for organized crime members. The SEF has cracked down on these "tourist" buses bringing illegal laborers to Portugal; however, the traffickers also use small vans to evade detection.

Once at their destinations, the victims live in overcrowded, substandard "hostels." The traffickers offer them loans at very high interest rates and, for a fee, find them jobs at constructions sites or other industries, e.g., textile mills, woodworking or metal shops, and marble fabrication. Generally the traffickers' local group leader at the hostel sets up the work and provides transportation. The traffickers coerce the workers into paying large portions of their salaries to them. A refusal to pay leads to severe beatings and allegedly even murder.

Traffickers generally were linked to organized crime rings. Of the 130 Eastern Europeans under detention at the end of 2001, 50 were considered to be very dangerous, given their links to organized crime. Most were sentenced for crimes relating to extortion, rape, kidnaping, and murder. To prevent these criminals from escaping or creating internal unrest in the prison population, the DGSP has created special security sections within the prisons to house them.

To break the control traffickers hold over their clients, the Government instituted a regularization process in January 2001. The process allowed illegal workers to obtain legal work permits, valid for one year at a time. After 5 years, temporary work permits may be converted into residence permits. As of May, 180,060 illegal immigrants had obtained temporary work permits. The Government granted permits to approximately 65,000 Ukrainians, 12,600 Moldovans, 11,000 Romanians, and 7,000 Russians. To qualify for a temporary work permit, applicants must be able to demonstrate that they were physically present in Portugal prior to November 2001 and hold a valid work contract. Applicants failing to meet these requirements must apply for a temporary work permit at a Portuguese diplomatic mission abroad.

The country did not have any trafficking-specific assistance programs or statistics, but APAV, many immigrant groups, and international NGOs provided assistance to victims and raised public awareness of trafficking issues. The Government helped victims through a witness-protection program.

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