Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2018, 07:53 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Portugal

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Portugal, 27 June 2011, available at: [accessed 24 January 2018]
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.

Portugal (Tier 1)

Portugal is a destination, transit, and source country for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Trafficking victims found in Portugal are from Brazil, Eastern Europe, and Africa. According to the government, an increased number of Portuguese girls are subjected to forced prostitution within the country. Men from Eastern European countries and Brazil are subjected to forced labor in agriculture, construction, hotels, and restaurants. According to local observers and media reports, Portuguese men and women are subjected to forced labor or forced prostitution after migrating to other destinations in Europe. Children from Eastern Europe, including Roma, are subjected to forced begging, sometimes by their families. Two-thirds of the 21 trafficking victims identified by the government in 2010 were male.

The Government of Portugal fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. In 2010, the government demonstrated increased victim assistance by granting more residency permits to trafficking victims and it continued to provide subsidies to NGOs providing comprehensive care and assistance to victims.

While the majority of traffickers convicted under the government's anti-trafficking law received significant jail time, it was unclear how many other offenders convicted under anti-pimping statutes were actual traffickers. The government used anti-pimping statutes to secure other convictions for offenders who may have been involved in human trafficking; these convictions significantly outnumbered the number of identified trafficking victims, suggesting a lack of adequate efforts to identify and assist victims.

Recommendations for Portugal: Vigorously prosecute and convict trafficking offenders to obtain sentences that reflect the gravity of the crime committed; improve law enforcement training to increase use of Article 160 to prosecute and convict traffickers; consider raising the mandatory minimum sentence under Article 160 to ensure that convicted traffickers do not receive suspended sentences; continue to improve outreach to locate more potential trafficking victims in Portugal and explore more holistic, victim-centered methods to identify them; develop specialized assistance and shelter for trafficked children and men; expand shelter capacity to provide comprehensive assistance to victims throughout Portugal; include NGOs to help stabilize potential victims in a post-raid environment and ensure trafficking victims are referred for care and assistance to allow them sufficient time to recover from their trafficking experiences; enhance the collection of trafficking-specific data, considering the use of a case-based approach to distinguish between convictions for trafficking offenders under Article 160 and trafficking offenders convicted under anti-pimping statutes; ensure adequate funding for all NGOs providing critical assistance to victims; undertake a comprehensive, nation-wide awareness program to educate government officials, front-line responders, and the public about all forms of trafficking in Portugal.


The Government of Portugal continued to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes, including suspected cases of forced labor, during the reporting period. Portugal prohibits both forced labor and forced prostitution through Article 160 of its penal code, which prescribes penalties of three to 12 years' imprisonment – penalties sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government reported its prosecution of 179 trafficking suspects in 2009, the most recent year complete data was available. The government, however, follows an overly-broad definition of trafficking; a review of these cases indicated that only eight of the resulting convictions would be considered trafficking involving force, fraud, or coercion. Seven out of a total of eight sex trafficking offenders convicted under Article 160 received an average sentence of 12 years in prison each; this is a significant penalty for trafficking in Europe. The government reported, however, that it used anti-pimping and pandering statutes to prosecute other trafficking-related offenders in 2009.

Under Portugal's penal code, courts can opt for non-detention as punishment for any sentence that is less than five years' imprisonment "if this punishment will satisfy the objectives of the criminal law." Courts appear to interpret this guidance generously for pimping crimes. In February 2011, the government launched "Operation Roadbook," and coordinated proactive law enforcement raids in two regions in Portugal, resulting in the rescue of 30 trafficking victims. The government reported in March 2011 that five of the 12 arrested suspects were held in pre-trial detention, with the remainder required to check in regularly with authorities. According to a recent OSCE Report describing a case of forced labor of a domestic worker from Mozambique in Portugal, prosecutors charged the offender with the lesser crime of "recruitment for illegal work," citing a lack of evidence that the offender recruited the victim with an intention to exploit the victim, although the forced labor started immediately upon her arrival in Portugal. Law enforcement officials continued to receive periodic specialized anti-trafficking training. The government reported that there were no prosecutions, convictions or sentences for trafficking-related complicity in 2010.


The Government of Portugal continued to provide subsidies to NGOs that in turn provided comprehensive care and reintegration assistance to trafficking victims in 2010. The government identified 21 official trafficking victims in 2010, an increase from the 17 officially certified in 2009, although this figure is low in relation to other countries in the region. During the reporting period, the government continued to employ procedures for identifying trafficking victims using key indicators; local experts reported that very few NGOs use the guide as a way of identifying victims. According to this system, law enforcement and NGOs are required to submit reports of suspected victims to a central government observatory; this form is then reviewed by the judicial police or the national coordinator to verify a victim's status. According to a recent NGO report, a presumed trafficked person will only be identified as such if characteristics of trafficking indicators are present on this form. The bureaucratic inflexibility of this process resulted in a victim identification process that lacked the nuance or flexibility required to identify victims of this inherently complex crime. In February 2011, the government reported that it rescued 30 trafficking victims, several of them children, in conjunction with previously mentioned Operation Roadblock. According to media reports, the police issued a statement reporting that the traffickers used "physical coercion and psychological violence" including the forced administration of drugs as tools of coercion and control to force these victims into prostitution. Despite this, the government reported that these victims were taken to a police station and questioned immediately after the raid rather than referred to the NGO shelter for care and assistance, leaving them vulnerable to re-trafficking. The government continued to subsidize an NGO shelter, which housed four victims during 2010. Victims were permitted to leave the shelter after undergoing a security assessment by shelter staff. Local experts noted limited protection measures for trafficking victims in Portugal, noting this shelter as the only designated shelter for trafficking victims. The government continued to provide a per-victim stipend to other NGOs assisting victims, one of which reported assisting 30 trafficking victims in 2010, the same number that it assisted in 2009. The government encouraged victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenders; 10 victims assisted in the investigation against their traffickers in 2010, compared to six in 2009. The government reported that all identified victims are permitted a 30- to 60-day reflection period to decide whether they wished to participate in a criminal investigation. The government provided foreign victims of trafficking with short-term legal alternatives to their removal; victims cooperating with law enforcement are eligible for a one-year residency permit, which can be renewed. Trafficking victims can be eligible to obtain permanent residency in Portugal under Article 109 of Immigration Law No. 23 of July 4, 2007 and under Decree-law 368 of November 5, 2007. The government increased the number of residence permits it granted in 2010, granting 14 residence permits to potential trafficking victims, compared to three in 2009. The government reported that police made proactive efforts to identify sex trafficking victims within the legal prostitution sector; however, victims who were not so identified were likely deported or faced continued exploitation. According to local experts, a lack of awareness among law enforcement authorities regarding child trafficking hindered the government's ability to identify and protect these children.


The Government of Portugal sustained modest trafficking prevention efforts during the year. It organized a three-day conference in October in recognition of Europe's anti-trafficking awareness month, marking the occasion by unveiling its 2011-2013 National Action Plan on trafficking. The government contributed some funding to screen an anti-trafficking film about forced prostitution and the sexual exploitation of children during this conference. Furthermore, the government promoted the film throughout the year through government-funded TV spots, billboards, and radio announcements and included warnings on the dangers of trafficking. The government however, did not conduct a comprehensive national-level awareness campaign to raise general awareness about trafficking in Portugal or address demand for forced labor and forced prostitution. During the reporting period, the government publicly released its first annual report on trafficking and maintained a website about its anti-trafficking efforts. The government's existing hotline for immigrants is not specifically designed for trafficking victims; local experts speculate the costs with using the hotline and various numbers associated with it contributed to lack of use by potential trafficking victims. The government continued to broadcast a daily program on state television to raise awareness among migrants in Portugal on a wide range of issues, including trafficking. It conducted anti-trafficking awareness training to troops before their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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