U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2001 - Portugal
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||4 March 2002|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2001 - Portugal , 4 March 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3c84d98fc.html [accessed 4 March 2015]|
|Comments||The report entitled "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices" is submitted to the Congress by the Department of State in compliance with sections 116(d) and 502(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), as amended, and section 504 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended. The law provides that the Secretary of State shall transmit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, by February 25 "a full and complete report regarding the status of internationally recognized human rights, within the meaning of subsection (A) in countries that receive assistance under this part, and (B) in all other foreign countries which are members of the United Nations and which are not otherwise the subject of a human rights report under this Act." We have also included reports on several countries that do not fall into the categories established by these statutes and that thus are not covered by the congressional requirement.|
The Portuguese Republic is a constitutional democracy with a President, a Prime Minister, a Parliament freely elected by secret ballot in multiparty elections, and an independent judiciary.
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 civilian authorities maintain effective control of the security forces; however, members of the security forces committed human rights abuses.
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. Two police officers remained under investigation for killings. Credible reports continued that security personnel occasionally beat and otherwise abused detainees and prisoners. Prison conditions remained poor but improved slightly. 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 Roma, minorities, and immigrants also were problems. The Government took active steps to deal with the problem of child labor. Trafficking in foreign laborers and women also was a problem.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivations of Life
There were no reports of political killings; however, police shot and killed one person during the year. In July a PSP officer shot and killed Arturo Mendes Pereira during a nighttime operation against drug traffickers in suburban Lisbon. Authorities began investigating the case in July, but no one had been charged by year's end.
In January 2000 in Porto, Alvaro Rosa Cardoso, a member of the Roma community, died from internal abdominal bleeding after a violent encounter with police. The two officers alleged to be responsible were charged, but a court found the officers not guilty since it could not be determined whether the internal bleeding was due to the fight before the arrest or the alleged police mistreatment afterwards. Cardosa's family continued to blame the death on police mistreatment. The case remained on appeal in a Porto court at year's end.
Also in January 2000 in Porto, Paulo Silva died of internal bleeding which may have been caused by police mistreatment during an arrest. The case was reopened in October and remained under investigation at year's end.
Three PSP officers were convicted in December 1998 on criminal charges related to the death in custody in 1996 of Carlos Araujo. In January 1999, the officers appealed the verdict a second time, and their case remained in the appeals process at year's end. Disciplinary proceedings against the officers were deferred until after the criminal case is resolved.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution prohibits torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the use of evidence obtained under torture in criminal proceedings; however, there were credible but infrequent reports that police and prison guards beat and otherwise abused detainees, particularly non-Europeans.
In December a PSP officer shot and injured an unarmed suspect, Paulo Moreira, who allegedly tried to run down the police in a car during a pursuit in Lisbon. An investigation was under way at year's end.
According to the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Amnesty International, a GNR infantry sergeant reported in August 1999 that in spite of the new regulations, the mistreatment of detainees was "virtually systematic." In November 1999, the General Inspectorate of Internal Administration (IGAI) opened an inquiry into the sergeant's allegations and began disciplinary proceedings against him personally, on unrelated charges. However, the IGAI stated that these proceedings were not in response to the allegations he made. The GNR agents implicated by the sergeant were undergoing a criminal trial in a military tribunal in Coimbra at year's end.
In July the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) published a report of one of its periodic visits in 1999. Comparing conditions with its 1992 and 1995 visits, the Committee found that, although some allegations of ill treatment persisted, few detainees complained of mistreatment by police. The report also noted sustained efforts by the authorities to improve the material conditions in police detention centers.
According to Amnesty International, police allegedly detained and beat Candido Coelho at the Damaia PSP station in December 2000. Of Mozambican origin, Coelho apparently suffers from a mental disability. He lodged a complaint against the PSP officers, but the case was closed by the IGAI, which found no evidence to prove Coelho's claims.
According to Amnesty International, police arrested Jorge Manuel da Conceicao Simoes in 1999 on suspicion of possessing drugs and allegedly beat him when he refused to sign a confession. The IGAI found that Simoes had been detained illegally but did not pursue the beating charge for lack of evidence. Amnesty International also reported that police allegedly beat Marco Fernandes in 1999 in Madeira with a pipe and a police radio. In January the IGAI disciplined the police officer involved by suspending him for 200 days' without pay. A police officer who used electroshock torture in Sintra in 1999 was fired from the force, and a criminal case against him was ongoing at year's end.
An independent ombudsman was chosen by the Parliament and the IGAI to investigate complaints of mistreatment by the police; however, NGO's have been critical of the slow pace of police investigations in general and internal investigations by the police in particular. In an attempt to respond to negative reports on the treatment of detainees and to consolidate alleged improvements in the system, legislation entitled "Regulations on the Material Conditions of Detention in Police Establishments" was adopted in 1999. The 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.
There were reports that citizens, particularly skinheads, committed violent acts against nonethnic Portuguese persons (see Section 5).
Credible information from independent reports and NGO's indicated that prison conditions remained poor; however, the Directorate General of Prison Services (DGSP) continued to take steps to improve them. Prison overcrowding remained a serious problem, but due to higher levels of funding and DGSP-led improvements, the rate of overcrowding went from a 1996 high of 57.5 percent (14,177 prisoners and 8,999 places) to 17 percent (13,500 prisoners and 11,371 places) at year's end. Men and women are housed separately. While there is a youth prison in Leiria, juveniles are at times held with adults. Pretrial detainees are held with convicted criminals.
Two prisons, Vale de Judeus and Pinheiro da Cruz, continued to have cells without proper hygiene facilities. Health problems such as hepatitis and drug abuse continued, and prisoners suffered from a high HIV infection rate. In 1999 the health services director of the Bureau of Prisons reported that 7 out of every 10 convicts entering the prison system were infected with HIV, Hepatitis B, or Hepatitis C. An estimated 20 percent of the total prison population was infected with HIV. Tuberculosis was also on the rise. Prison health services, although not adequately staffed, benefited from increased spending on health services, the use of local health care providers to help prison inmates, and the construction of new health care facilities in many prisons. The CPT in its report for the year commended prison authorities for their efforts to improve health care services.
There were persistent reports regarding the mistreatment of prisoners by prison guards, drug addiction in prisons, and a lack of heat in winter. An NGO reported that outside guards sometimes entered a prison at night, rounded up prisoners, and beat them in the infirmary. Prison authorities deny these reports and point to the existence of organized violence among inmates. During their visit, the CPT delegation received fewer allegations of mistreatment by prison staff than during their previous visit in 1995. However, according to the CPT report, some problems remained concerning verbal abuse and the use of batons. Accounts of prisoner mistreatment by fellow inmates also continued to be a significant concern. In addition the report mentioned the widespread availability of illicit drugs, especially at Custoias, the central prison in Porto. In a March letter to the Justice Minister, Amnesty International expressed concern about allegations of physical mistreatment in eight cases during 2000 at Linho Prison (Sintra) and of poor conditions at the prison. The DGSP responded that in many cases the prisoners in question had been subjected to disciplinary measures. In one case, a guard was reprimanded. According to the DGSP, Linho Prison was being renovated during the year, although work was not completed by year's end. To help combat brutality by guards, the DGSP began using resources from Amnesty International; all guards participate in mandatory training conducted by Amnesty International on such topics as nonviolent control of prisoners and conflict resolution.
The ombudsman investigates complaints of mistreatment by the police and prison authorities. The IGAI also conducts internal investigations in cases of alleged mistreatment in prisons.
The Government permits visits by independent human rights monitors, 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 observes these prohibitions.
Excessively long periods of preventive detention continued to be a problem. Early in the year, prisoners went on a series of 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 (approximately 30 percent). Judges argue that preventive detention is justified by the high incidence (40 percent) of repeat offenders.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respects 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 deals with 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 point to a large backlog of pending trials resulting from the inefficient functioning of the courts. A law passed during the year 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 new law passed during the year provides that witnesses may testify in cases heard in distant jurisdictions via teleconference. The Ministry of Justice also implemented a plan to speed up the serving of subpoenas. Many factors contributed to the backlog problem, including the underutilization of technology (case folders are 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 2000 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered the Ministry of Justice to pay a fine to three plaintiffs in three separate civil cases. The first case involved two sets of proceedings that lasted nearly 11 years. The second case was not resolved after 7 years, and the third case had continued for 41/2 years. In April the ECHR ordered the Ministry of Justice to pay a fine to a corporate plaintiff in a case that had lasted over 17 years without a final resolution. Many similar examples of judicial delay and backlog are 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 respects 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 respects 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 respects these rights in practice.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Roman Catholic Church is the dominant religion. Although the overwhelming majority of citizens are Roman Catholic, other religions practice freely.
In April the Government passed a religious freedom act that creates a legislative framework for religions established in Portugal 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 Church of Scientology, although recognized as a religious association since 1986, does not benefit from the Religious Freedom Act, since it has not been established in the country for 30 years or recognized internationally for 60 years, as required under the law. The Church's leaders claim that they suffer no discrimination or opposition in the country. However, they are concerned that exclusion from the benefits accorded under the Act will have a negative impact on their ability to practice their faith.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution and laws provide for these rights, and the Government generally respects 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 cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. Persons who qualify as refugees are entitled to residence permits. The Government almost never rules that an asylum seeker has a "valid" claim and did not grant first asylum during the year. Immigration authorities attempt to distinguish among political, humanitarian, and temporary refugees, but the Government continued to maintain that the majority of asylum seekers are economic refugees using the country as a gateway to the other European Union 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. Portugal is a multiparty parliamentary democracy.
The percentage of women in government and politics does not correspond to their percentage of the population; however, women and minorities have full political rights and participate actively in political life. A woman heads the Ministry of Planning. There are 46 female members of the 230-member Parliament. Some political parties have adopted internal quotas for women. Race is rarely an issue in politics; persons of minority origin have 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 in general operate without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials are cooperative; however, most groups complain of slow investigations or remedial actions.
5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution forbids discrimination based on ancestry, sex, language, origin, religion, political or ideological convictions, education, economic situation, or social condition; however, some discrimination against women and ethnic minorities persisted.
Domestic and other violence against women reportedly was a common but partially hidden problem for which few seek legal recourse. During 2000 police agencies recorded 11,765 cases of family violence. The major NGO providing services to victims handled 7,593 cases in which there were a total of 8,429 crimes of domestic violence. In these cases, 95 percent of the victims were women. Nearly 37 percent of the women were between the ages of 25 and 45. Although cases of domestic violence occurred throughout the country, the vast majority of cases came from the large urban centers of Lisbon and Porto. Domestic violence is particularly a problem in the Azores archipelago.
An NGO-operated, toll-free hot line for victims of domestic violence operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Its success demonstrates an increased public awareness, which reportedly is helping to break down the social reluctance to report cases of domestic violence. The hot line was especially helpful to female victims who were illiterate. The NGO operating the hot line handled 5,575 cases of domestic violence during the first 6 months of the year.
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 discourage many battered women from recourse to the judicial system. 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 can 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, although by year's end such a system was not in place. 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.
In 2000 Parliament changed the legal definition of domestic violence to make it a public crime. This obliges the police to follow through on reports of domestic violence. The change gives police and the courts more leverage to prosecute such cases and removes from the victim some of the burden of bringing charges. Parliament also mandated the creation of domestic violence units in the police, and of a new domestic violence category in the Attorney General's report on crime; however, these changes had not yet been implemented by year's end. Parliament also changed the Penal Code to grant any interested party the ability to file charges in domestic violence cases.
Prostitution is legal, but procurement is not. Trafficking in women for the purposes of prostitution continued to be problem (see Section 6.f.). Prostitution is linked closely to other types of organized crime, especially international narcotics trafficking. The Nest, an NGO, operates economic and social recovery programs for prostitutes.
Sexual harassment, a problem that continued to gain public attention, is covered in the Penal Code as a sex crime. However, the legal definition of the term "sexual harassment" is unclear, and it is only a crime if perpetrated by a superior and in the workplace. The penalties are 2 to 3 years' imprisonment. As in the case of domestic violence, socially ingrained attitudes discourage 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 receives few such complaints.
The Civil Code provides for full legal equality for women. Women increasingly are represented in university student bodies, business, science, and the professions. A gap nevertheless remains between male and female salaries: according to the latest figures available (1998), women earned an average of 77 percent of men's earnings. Women make up a slight majority of university graduates. The Commission on Equality in the Workplace and in Employment reviews numerous complaints of discrimination by employers against pregnant workers and new mothers, who are protected by law. Maternity leave was increased in 2000 from 90 days to 120 days 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 was established to deal with 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.
The Government is strongly committed to children's rights and welfare; it amply funds 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 Government provides free or low cost health care for all children up to the age of 15. A special office in the Directorate General of Health oversees implementation of the Government's programs for children. During the year, the directorate initiated a program to coordinate assistance for children of immigrant families and a program to support early childhood, which includes the provision of better childcare facilities. Preschool education is free for children from 3 to 4 years old. Each year the number of students enrolled in preschool has increased. The directorate also improved the quantity and quality of temporary shelters for children aged 3 months to 3 years.
There is no societal pattern of abuse of children, although child labor remained a problem (see Section 6.d.). The law defines pedophilia to include consumers of child pornography as well as producers.
The National Children's Rights Commission, a governmental organization, is charged with implementing the principles of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Commission operates 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 Solidarity, as well as from leading NGO's. The quasi-independent Institute for the Support of Children organized a network of 48 NGO's dedicated to helping at-risk youth. The University of Minho's Institute for the Study of Children is a research center dedicated solely to the study of children's issues. The Institute for the Support of Children organizes public awareness programs serves as an information clearinghouse for NGO's working on children's' issues and promotes legislation protecting children's rights. It provides telephone and in-person counseling, intervention, and prevention services in cases of child abuse and neglect. It also operates services assisting the at-risk youth known as "criancas da rua" (street kids).
Persons With Disabilities
There is 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 enforces these provisions in practice; however, no such legislation covers private businesses or other facilities.
The principal minority groups are immigrants, legal and illegal, from Portugal's former African colonies and Central Europe. There is also a resident Romani population of approximately 50,000 persons, who are the subject of some discrimination and violence.
In a 1999 review and report, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern about racial discrimination and xenophobia in the country, including violence against blacks, Roma, immigrants, and foreigners – frequently perpetrated by skinheads. While acknowledging efforts by the Government to combat such acts, the Committee urged that the law be extended to prohibit all racist groups.
According to an NGO that tracks racist and xenophobic issues, activities by racist groups were increasing and the police response to such actions tended to be inconsistent. In an effort to combat discrimination, the NGO, together with the Roma community's representative association, developed a pilot program to teach Roma history and culture in primary schools. The Government's High Commission for Ethnicity and Minorities received the program in 1999 but had not taken action on it by year's end.
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 the Parliament approved a new set of antiracism laws, reiterating 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.
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 have the right to associate and to establish committees in the workplace to defend their interests, and they exercise these rights freely.
Strikes are permitted by the Constitution for any reason, including political causes; they are common and generally are 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 is applied infrequently. When it is applied, minimum levels of service are 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.
Police officers and members of the armed forces may not strike. However, in June police went on strike and demonstrated before Parliament as part of their demand to form a union. In December a law was passed that allows police to form unions but prohibits strikes by police.
There are 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 is practiced extensively in the public and private sectors. Collective bargaining disputes usually are resolved through negotiation. When collective bargaining fails, the Government may appoint a mediator at the request of either management or labor.
The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, and the authorities enforce this prohibition in practice. The General Directorate of Labor promptly examines complaints.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced labor; however, trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution and in persons for forced labor was a problem (see Section 6.f.).
The law prohibits forced and bonded labor by children, and there were no reports that such practices occurred.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The minimum working age is 16 years. There are instances of child labor, but the overall incidence is small and is 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 1998 the Government, in conjunction with the ILO, polled 26,500 families, with separate questionnaires for parents and children, to try to measure the incidence of child labor. According to this survey, as many as 20,000 to 40,000 children under the age of 16 may be engaged in some form of labor. The majority of these cases consist of daily chores on family farms, which do not prevent school attendance. However, the study estimates that as many as 11,000 children may be working for nonfamily employers, a figure that represents 0.2 percent of the labor force. The Government undertook a new comprehensive study of the child labor problem during the year, but the full results had not been published by year's end.
A government commission, the Plan for the Elimination of Exploitation of Child Labor (PEETI), has developed, in conjunction with several NGO's, 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. PEETI gives "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. In addition the National Council Against the Exploitation of Child Labor (CNETI), a multiagency government body, coordinates efforts to eliminate 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 $305 (67,000 escudos). Along with widespread rent controls, basic food and utility subsidies, and phased implementation of an assured minimum income, the minimum wage affords a decent standard of living for a worker and family. Most workers received higher wages.
Employees generally receive 14 months' pay for 11 months' work: the extra 3 months' pay are for a Christmas bonus, a vacation subsidy, and 22 days of annual leave. The maximum legal workday is 10 hours, and the maximum workweek is 40 hours. There is 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 monitors compliance through its regional inspectors.
Employers legally are responsible for accidents at work and are 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 European Union standards, and the General Labor Inspectorate is responsible for their enforcement. However, the Inspectorate lacks sufficient funds and inspectors to combat the problem of work accidents effectively. Workers injured on the job rarely initiate lawsuits. A relatively large proportion of accidents occurs in the construction industry. Poor environmental controls in textile production also cause considerable concern. While the ability of workers to remove themselves from situations where these hazards exist is limited, it is difficult to fire workers for any reason and severance payments are high.
f. Trafficking in Persons
Specific legislation prohibits trafficking in persons; however, trafficking in women for prostitution remained a problem, although it has decreased. Some Portuguese women are trafficked to Spain for sexual exploitation; the majority of these women tend to be from poorer areas and are often drug users. Some women from Brazil and Lusophone Africa also are trafficked into Portugal. The majority of trafficked persons originate in the former Soviet Union, specifically Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. Mafia organizations, primarily of Moldovan and Ukrainian origin, are present in the country and operate largely in the transportation and extortion of Central European manual laborers.
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 Chisnau. 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. Once at their destinations, they 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 even murder. There were 10 killings of trafficked workers during the year, plus other deaths possibly attributable to the trafficked status of the victims.
Under the Penal Code, trafficking in persons is punishable by 2 to 8 years' imprisonment. In January 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. Concerted efforts by national police forces have resulted in the breaking up of two large construction industry trafficking rings during the year. Police arrested almost 100 alleged traffickers during the year: Of these, 38 were awaiting trial at year's end, 3 were convicted and sentenced, and the remainder were in preventive detention pending further investigation.