Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Tier 2

Portugal is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Trafficking victims identified in Portugal are primarily from Brazil, Mozambique, Bulgaria, Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea, Mali, Romania, Bosnia, Croatia, Nepal, and Thailand. Victims transiting Portugal are often subjected to sex trafficking within the Schengen zone. Portuguese victims, primarily men, are subjected to forced labor in restaurants, agriculture, and domestic work in Portugal and Spain. Criminal groups exploited vulnerable Portuguese victims, usually male, homeless, and with addiction issues in forced agricultural labor in Spain. Victims are subjected to sex trafficking in private homes, hotels, and bars. Children from eastern Europe, particularly those of Roma descent, are subjected to forced begging in Portugal, often by their families; other children from eastern Europe have reportedly been forced to commit property crimes in Portugal. Portuguese victims are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking after migrating to other destinations in Europe. International organized crime groups and recruiting agencies lure labor victims from Asia with false promises of employment and subject them to forced labor on Portuguese farms. Traffickers use falsified documents that present victims as family members as they attempt to transit trafficked minors through Portugal.

The Government of Portugal does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government funded two shelters for victims of trafficking, opened a new shelter for male victims, and identified more victims in 2013 than in 2012. It amended the penal code to come into compliance with the EU anti-trafficking directive by excluding the consent of the victim as a defense to the charge of trafficking, and law enforcement authorities cooperated in many international trafficking investigations. However, enforcement and prosecution efforts resulting in convictions remained low. Accountability for trafficking offenders was minimal; the majority of convicted trafficking offenders did not serve time in jail.

Recommendations for Portugal:

Investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders and sentence offenders appropriately, reflecting the severity of their crimes; provide specialized shelter and assistance for child victims; continue to train prosecutors and judges in order to raise awareness of human trafficking and encourage application of the law to obtain appropriate and dissuasive sentencing; continue to screen transiting passengers for signs of trafficking; continue to train immigration and social workers, law enforcement, labor inspectors, and NGOs on victim identification; continue to train law enforcement officials, prosecutors, labor inspectors, social workers, and NGOs likely to be in a position to identify and assist victims of trafficking to ensure victims are protected and trafficking offenders are effectively prosecuted; continue to conduct trafficking awareness raising campaigns on forced labor and sex trafficking; improve screening for trafficking among the vulnerable population of children in out-of-home care; and promote efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor.


The Government of Portugal maintained law enforcement efforts. It investigated more offenders; nevertheless, the reported statistics reveal that convicted trafficking offenders frequently avoided imprisonment, creating potential safety problems for victims of trafficking, weakening deterrence, and undercutting the efforts of police and prosecutors. Portugal prohibits all forms of both sex and labor trafficking through Article 160 of the 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. Article 160 also encompasses illegal adoption and organ removal. In 2013, Article 160 was amended to include slavery, forced begging, and the exploitation of any other criminal activity as forms of human trafficking; to provide more serious penalties for aggravated elements of the crime; and to expressly exclude consent of the victim as a defense to the charge of trafficking. In addition, Article 159 prohibits slavery, which prescribes penalties of five to 15 years’ imprisonment; Article 163 prohibits forced prostitution, with penalties of one to eight years’ imprisonment; and Article 175 prohibits the prostitution of children, with penalties of one to ten years’ imprisonment. In 2012, the most recent year for which official data was available, the government reported investigating 35 trafficking cases involving 51 alleged offenders. Of the 35 cases, 19 involved forced labor, including two involving forced begging. The government prosecuted nine defendants for trafficking-related charges. Six defendants were prosecuted and convicted under Article 160 in 2012, compared with eight defendants prosecuted under Article 160 and six defendants convicted under Article 159 in 2011. Although the government did not report the specific sentences given to the convicted offenders, authorities reported that the six traffickers convicted were sentenced to imprisonment, although four defendants served their sentence on probation. Portuguese authorities also reportedly prosecuted possible human trafficking crimes under articles for pimping, criminal association, or abetting illegal aliens—crimes for which a lesser burden of proof is required and convictions were easier to obtain. The Government of Portugal maintains that it is prohibited by its constitutional privacy law from releasing data on convictions for crimes for which there were fewer than three incidents recorded within a year nationwide. Media reports indicated that in September 2013, Portuguese authorities initiated the prosecution of 59 defendants for the labor trafficking of Portuguese laborers on Spanish farms in a case involving charges of slavery (Article 159), kidnapping, and threats; the government confirmed these cases.

Law enforcement cooperated in 14 international investigations in 2013. For example, law enforcement authorities cooperated with Spanish and British authorities to dismantle a Nigerian sex trafficking ring, arresting seven suspects. Portugal had specialized law enforcement units that investigated organized crime, including trafficking in persons. Suspected cases of trafficking could be reported to the police by victims, social service agencies, health care providers, or through the national social emergency line. The government trained over 100 prosecutors and judges on trafficking investigation and prosecution. The government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses.


The government increased efforts to protect and assist victims of trafficking by opening a shelter for male victims and identifying more victims. The government identified 299 potential victims, compared with 93 potential victims in 2012. Of the 299 potential victims, 45 were confirmed victims of trafficking, 80 were found not to qualify as trafficking victims, and the confirmed identification of the remaining 174 were pending investigation. Of the 219 confirmed or pending cases, 138 victims were subjected to forced labor, and 53 victims were subjected to sex trafficking. Forty-nine potential victims were minors. All 45 confirmed victims had the right to shelter, subsistence, medical treatment, psychological treatment, police protection, translation and interpretation services, and legal services. There were two government-funded, NGO-run shelters available for victims: one for male and one for female victims. The shelter for female victims reported assisting five adults and four minor dependents; and the men’s shelter assisted seven adults. The maximum shelter stay was one year, although it may be extended in cases of extreme vulnerability or reintegration difficulties, such as failure to secure employment. The shelter employed six staff members to provide 24-hour care and support to identified victims. The government provided the equivalent of approximately $145,000 for the female shelter, compared with the equivalent of approximately $136,000 in 2012. The shelter for male victims opened in 2013, and victims received health services, vocational training, education, Portuguese language tutoring, and a reintegration plan. The government provided the equivalent of approximately $84,000 for the male shelter. Other identified victims received housing, social, and economic support from NGOs and assistance with return to country of origin. Child victims of trafficking received services under the framework of the child protection system. In the event of imminent danger to the child, the government initiated emergency placement in an institution, when placement with family was unavailable.

The government provided all victims a “reflection period” of up to 60 days—time in which victims can recover before deciding whether to cooperate with law enforcement. The law also provides for a renewable residence permit that may be issued before the end of the reflection period if the victim agrees to cooperate with law enforcement or based on a personal situation with regard to the victim’s security, health, or family. Two victims were issued a residence permit in 2013, compared with 29 victims in 2012. The permit was not conditional on participation in a trial. Long-term shelter was provided to foreign victims of trafficking who were accommodated at the female shelter, and they were entitled to education and employment training. NGOs reported victims were hesitant to speak with authorities, and some NGOs refrained from referring potential victims for fear of exposing them to reprisal by their traffickers. Comprehensive witness protection was guaranteed to victims who assisted in trials. Victims were allowed to testify outside of court, either by deposition or video conference. There were no reports of victims being penalized as a result of their being trafficked. The government provided labor inspectors with contact information for victim referrals and a handbook with guidelines based on the ILO “Handbook for Forced Labor Delphi Checklist.” The police and social service organizations were provided a checklist that listed the steps for identifying a potential victim.


The Government of Portugal maintained efforts to prevent trafficking in persons during the year, although funding for new anti-trafficking projects remained limited. The government adopted its third national action plan for 2014-2016 in coordination with the national rapporteur, three NGOs and representatives from various government agencies. The government provided assessments of anti-trafficking efforts on its website. The government trained a variety of relevant officials and civil society members on trafficking, including NGO employees who work with immigrants, 217 labor inspectors, and intercultural mediators. The government developed awareness materials on gender and trafficking for equality counselors in two municipalities. The government launched a national information campaign on trafficking, which included radio spots, regional press, television announcements, posters at railway stations, and a television documentary. The government collaborated with members of the community of Portuguese language countries to establish common measures to prevent and combat trafficking. In June 2013, the government and NGOs established a government-civil society network on trafficking issues to facilitate more integrated intervention on the ground and serve as a source of information for criminal investigation and trafficking prevention efforts; under the network, four multidisciplinary teams began operating in four different regions in Portugal to identify and assist victims. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for sex trafficking or forced labor.