Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons


Portugal is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Trafficking victims primarily originate from Africa and Eastern Europe, and, to a lesser extent, Latin America and Asia. Most victims are subjected to forced labor. Foreign labor trafficking victims are exploited in agriculture and domestic service, while Portuguese victims are exploited in restaurants, agriculture, and domestic service, primarily in Portugal and Spain. Poor and uneducated Portuguese in the country’s rural interior are especially vulnerable to forced labor networks in Spain, which may extend into Northern and Eastern Europe. Although most forced labor victims are men, authorities noted an increase in the number of female forced labor victims in 2015. Foreign women and children, mostly from Africa and Eastern Europe, and Portuguese women and children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Portuguese victims have also been subjected to sex trafficking in other countries, mostly in Europe. Children from Eastern Europe, including those of Roma descent, are subjected to forced begging and forced criminal activity in Portugal. Organized criminal networks operate trafficking rings in the country; some recruit victims abroad to exploit in Portugal, while others recruit domestically to exploit both within Portugal and abroad. Authorities report traffickers bring women and children, many from African countries, to Portugal to claim asylum before bringing victims to other European countries to be exploited in trafficking.

The Government of Portugal fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Authorities increased the number of trafficking investigations, although the number of convictions decreased significantly. The government continued to fund three NGO-operated shelters and multidisciplinary teams to assist victims. Authorities identified more potential trafficking victims than the previous year. While authorities continued efforts to identify labor trafficking victims and hold labor traffickers accountable, the government identified few sex trafficking victims. The government sometimes prosecuted sex trafficking cases under pimping statutes, which carried less stringent penalties.


Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict traffickers, issuing sufficiently dissuasive sentences; release guidance for law enforcement, justice officials, and service providers clarifying all prostitution of children is child sex trafficking, regardless of force, fraud, or coercion, to ensure these crimes are prosecuted under appropriate statutes; implement required and systematic training for all police, prosecutors, and judges to increase trafficking investigations and to encourage the use of trafficking laws for convictions with dissuasive sentences; continue to increase and document use of victim services, such as shelters and residence permits; provide specialized shelter and assistance for child trafficking victims, including Portuguese child sex trafficking victims; continue to train immigration and social workers, law enforcement, labor inspectors, and NGOs on victim identification and referral; increase efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex; and continue to conduct trafficking awareness raising campaigns on forced labor and sex trafficking.


The government decreased law enforcement efforts. Article 160 of the penal code prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of three to 12 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 160 also encompasses illegal adoption and organ removal. Article 159 prohibits slavery and prescribes penalties of five to 15 years’ imprisonment. Article 175 prohibits child sex trafficking, with penalties of one to 10 years’ imprisonment, although it classifies these crimes as pimping rather than trafficking.

In 2015, the government investigated 68 potential trafficking cases, compared with 44 cases in 2014. Authorities did not report how many cases involved labor or sex trafficking. In 2015, authorities prosecuted four individuals for forced labor under articles 159 and 160 (three and one prosecutions, respectively); the government did not report the total number of trafficking prosecutions initiated in 2014, although prosecutors charged at least five defendants in three labor trafficking cases. Authorities convicted four traffickers in 2015: one labor trafficker under article 160 and three labor traffickers under article 159, a significant decrease from the 36 total convictions in 2014. The trafficker convicted under article 160 received 15 years’ imprisonment, while the three convicted under article 159 received sentences of eight, 12, and 20 years’ imprisonment. An unknown number of these convictions had appeals pending. In January 2016, authorities arrested the leader of a labor trafficking ring convicted in absentia in 2011; he is currently serving a 16-year prison term. The government also investigated and prosecuted human trafficking as other crimes, such as pimping (article 169), criminal association, or abetting legal aliens, for which a lesser burden of proof is required and convictions were easier to obtain, although these convictions often resulted in less stringent sentences. Authorities prosecuted two individuals for trafficking crimes under article 169, one of whom also faced prosecution for forced labor under article 160. The government reported two convictions for trafficking crimes under article 169; courts sentenced one defendant to 39 months’ imprisonment, while the second defendant received a suspended sentence of two years’ imprisonment. GRETA recommended increased training for law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges, who sometimes categorized trafficking as other crimes, such as domestic violence or pimping. Authorities provided anti-trafficking training to front-line responders, including police officers, labor inspectors, and social workers. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses.


The government sustained victim identification and protection efforts. The government’s national referral system guided victim identification procedures, and its anti-trafficking agency provided a checklist to law enforcement and other front-line responders on identifying trafficking victims. First responders and social service providers could refer potential victims to services, but only police or prosecutors could confirm victims. Authorities identified 18 confirmed victims and more than 150 additional potential victims in 2015, compared with 20 confirmed and 26 potential victims in 2014. Fifteen of the 18 confirmed victims were victims of forced labor (including three forced begging victims) and three were sex trafficking victims; six of the confirmed victims were children. In November 2015, authorities conducted operations throughout the country during which they identified more than 100 potential victims and detained 18 suspects. The government reported it provided approximately 1.25 million euros ($1.36 million) in 2015 for prosecution and protection activities; in 2015 it allocated an additional 490,000 euros ($533,000) for victim services and to support its four interdisciplinary regional teams’ efforts to identify and assist victims. Victims had the right to shelter, health, psycho-social, legal, and language services, as well as education and employment training. The government funded three NGO-operated shelters exclusively for trafficking victims—two for female victims and their minor children and one for adult male victims. Adult victims could leave the shelters at will unless authorities determined victims’ safety was at risk. There were no specialized services for child trafficking victims; child victims were placed in institutions if they could not be placed with family members. Of the 18 confirmed victims in 2015, five accepted shelter and services, nine refused shelter, and one returned to his or her country of origin; the status of the remaining three victims was unknown. The government hosted training workshops for health, security, and social services professionals to identify victims of labor trafficking.

Authorities encouraged victims to assist with investigations and prosecutions and informed victims of their right to protection, assistance, and return to their country of origin. The government provided comprehensive witness protection to victims participating in trials; victims could testify by deposition or videoconference and had access to medical and psychological services to prevent re-traumatization. The government offered victims a reflection period of 30 to 60 days, during which they could recover before deciding whether to cooperate with law enforcement. The law also provides for a one-year residence permit for victims cooperating with law enforcement or based on a personal situation; this permit can be renewed for one year if authorities determine it is necessary to protect the victim. Authorities issued two residence permits in 2015, compared with one permit in 2014; both recipients were female sex trafficking victims. The government reported it provided one victim with transportation to return to his or her country of origin. NGOs and law enforcement reported some victims were hesitant to speak with authorities, which may have hindered victim identification. The government did not report whether any victims received compensation from their traffickers or the government. There were no reports the government penalized victims for unlawful acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking.


The government maintained prevention efforts. The government continued to implement its national action plan for 2014-2017 and maintained a multi-stakeholder anti-trafficking network, including a national rapporteur, representatives from various government agencies, and three NGOs. The national rapporteur served as the national anti-trafficking coordinator and issued an annual report on the implementation of the national action plan. The national rapporteur also had the authority to propose new legislative measures to protect victims and prevent trafficking. The government’s anti-trafficking agency published an annual report detailing the trafficking situation in the country. The government conducted an awareness campaign to help workers avoid becoming trafficking victims by informing them about fraudulent recruitment offers and providing a hotline workers could call for help or additional information. Labor authorities conducted inspections in an effort to prevent labor exploitation and maintained a registry of contracts for foreign migrants working in the country. The government also screened visa applicants to ensure their job offers were legitimate. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex but did make efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. The government conducted awareness campaigns to prevent child sex tourism. Laws prohibiting sexual crimes against children have extraterritorial reach, allowing the prosecution of suspected child sex tourists for offenses committed abroad; there were no reports of Portuguese citizens engaging in child sex tourism abroad during the year. The government provided anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.