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Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                        

Portuguese Republic (Portugal)

Portugal has become a diversified and increasingly service-based economy since joining the European Community in 1986.

GDP per capita stands at roughly two-thirds of the EU-27 average. A poor educational system, in particular, has been an obstacle to greater productivity and growth.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Description: Portugal

Portugal is a destination, transit, and a source country for women, men, and children trafficked from Brazil, and to a lesser extent, from Ukraine, Moldova, Russia, Romania, and Africa for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. The majority of trafficking victims identified in Portugal are Brazilian women trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation. Male victims from Eastern European countries are trafficked for forced labor into the farming and construction industries. According to a 2008 ILO Report, Portuguese men are also trafficked to Western Europe for forced labor. Trafficking victims also transit through Portugal to other European countries. There are an  estimated 50-100 Roma children in Portugal, brought by family networks; some are trafficked for the purpose of forced begging. - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009   Check out a later country report here and possibly a full TIP Report here


CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Portugal.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.

HELP for Victims

International Organization for Migration
2 132 42 9 40
Country code: 351-



PORTUGAL-BRAZIL: Human Trafficking and Marriages - Another Link

Mario de Queiroz, Inter Press Service News Agency IPS, Lisbon, Oct 11, 2006

[accessed 19 December 2010]

[accessed 26 September 2016]

Brazil’s influence in Portugal is not limited to music, television programming, football, cuisine and tropical beach vacations.

Today it is also the main source of victims of human trafficking to Portugal, women who fall into prostitution and sexual exploitation networks, as well as a source of large numbers of women who marry Portuguese men.  Brazil is the favourite country for traffickers who form part of the prostitution networks that have mushroomed in Portugal, which is a springboard to wealthier European Union destinations, according to studies presented at a seminar organised Monday and Tuesday by the governmental Portuguese Youth Institute (IPJ).

*** ARCHIVES ***

Portuguese police halt human trafficking network, 20 women freed

Reuters, Lisbon, 4 June 2019

[accessed 5 June 2019]

[accessed 5 June 2019]

SEF said in a statement that the traffickers, operating in Portugal and other European countries, used "persuasion, manipulation and intimidation" to take advantage of around 20 vulnerable women with no financial means or family support.

"The women were used as objects to make money in order to pay debts and 'commissions' imposed by the leader of the criminal group," SEF said.

"They were considered and treated as 'things' or 'objects' which provided huge financial gains."

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Portugal

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 21 June 2021]


According to the Portuguese Observatory on Trafficking in Human Beings, foreign labor trafficking victims were exploited in agriculture, construction, and domestic service, while Portuguese victims were exploited in restaurants, agriculture, and domestic service.


Child labor occurred in very limited cases. Children of Romani descent were subjected to labor trafficking through forced begging and forced criminality by coercing them to commit property crimes (also see section 6, Children). Sub-Saharan trafficking networks increasingly used the country as a route into the Schengen area to exploit children in sex trafficking and forced labor.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 23 July 2020]


The authorities generally enforce legal safeguards against exploitative working conditions. However, Portugal remains a destination and transit point for victims of human trafficking, particularly those from Eastern Europe, Asia, and West Africa. Although forced labor is prohibited by law, there have been some reports of the practice, especially in the agriculture, hospitality, and construction sectors, and in domestic service. Immigrant workers are especially vulnerable to economic exploitation.


There are no major restrictions on personal social freedoms. Portugal legalized same-sex marriage in 2010 and extended adoption rights to same-sex couples in 2015. A 2018 law eliminated the need for transgender people to obtain a medical certificate to formally change their gender or first name. Domestic violence remains a problem despite government efforts aimed at prevention, education, and victim protection. The CoE is concerned that the definition of rape is not based solely on the absence of free consent but requires that there be “duress.”

The European Commission has started an infringement procedure against Portugal for not applying rules against the sexual abuse of minors.

OSCE is a important player to combat against human trafficking

UzReport, 12 September 2007

[accessed 19 December 2010]

[accessed 19 December 2010]

"In Portugal, we are reviewing the definition of trafficking to expand it from transnational trafficking to encompass internal trafficking," he said, adding that the new Immigration Law allows foreign victims to get a one-year residency permit.  He also said Portugal had created a centre for trafficking monitoring and proposed that a similar centre be created for trafficking monitoring across Europe.

Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women [PDF]

Seventh periodic report of States parties -- Portugal

UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Report CEDAW/C/PRT/7, 29 January 2008

[accessed 8 September 2014],CEDAW,,PRT,47ea26022,0.html

[accessed 5 May 2020]

[page 23]

RESEARCH AND MONITORING - The following are some of the conclusions reached by the first study in Portugal on trafficking in women for sexual exploitation:

Portugal is one of the destinations in Western Europe, although the incidence is considered medium rather than high. The picture may, however, be blacker because of the hidden nature of the problem.

The data indicate that, in Portugal, most victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation are Brazilian, followed by women from Eastern Europe (especially Romania) and Africa, with the numbers of Nigerian women increasing. The women come from fragile social settings and they are usually poor and have dependents, especially children, which makes them particularly vulnerable to trafficking networks. These women are young, usually no older than 35. Their youth has to do with the requirements of clients, and therefore of pimps, and there are more and more cases involving minors, a situation that can be expected to worsen further.

Data on the profile of traffickers show that, as a rule, Portuguese nationals are involved in these networks. In most cases they own the establishments and coordinate activities and the resulting profits. They also perform other jobs such as minders and carriers (e.g. drivers or even taxi drivers). Foreigners are usually involved as the victims’ recruiters, carriers and sometimes controllers

CAIM - Cooperation, Action, Investigation, World View

The UN Secretary-General's database on violence against women, 2004

[accessed 28 June 2013]

[accessed 5 May 2020]

In order to promote cooperation in combating trafficking in women for sexual exploitation and to support and protect its victims, Portugal has fostered public and private institutions consolidating and implementing projects funded by European Union (EU) initiatives, such as CAIM - Cooperação/Acção Investigação/Mundivisão [Cooperation, Action, Investigation, World View] funded by the EU EQUAL Initiative, which had its greatest impact between 2004 and 2008.

CAIM is a groundbreaking project in Portugal and involves a partnership taking multiple actions to deal with the problem of trafficking. One of the institutions was a non-governmental organization - the Family Planning Association.

In addition to articles in national newspapers and participation in television programmes, the CAIM project for combating trafficking in women for sexual exploitation, waged campaigns aimed at present and future media professionals. The first phase included awareness-raising sessions on the problem for 30 journalists and 50 future journalists. In the second phase, the media professionals had the opportunity to design spots and compete to win a prize awarded by the project. Two of the 10 works created were chosen and were widely broadcasted in October 2007.

Migrant trafficking and human smuggling: the situation in Portugal

Published as Chapter 4 in a book by Bonifazi et al, INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION IN EUROPE, Amsterdam University Press, 2008

Click [here] to access the article.  Its URL is not displayed because of its length

[accessed 28 June 2013]

Smuggling and trafficking of migrants is a relatively new phenomenon in Portugal. Foreign immigration, in itself, has begun in significant numbers in the late 1970s. Only in the late 1980s frequent situations of irregular and illegal migration occurred, and only in the late 1990s smuggling and/or trafficking became a major concern of the general population and public authorities. It was particularly the most recent waves of foreign immigration to the country, namely the one coming from Eastern Europe and the “second wave” of Brazilian immigration, that became involved with those irregular forms of channelling migrants.

Report Details Mixed Human Trafficking Picture in Europe, Eurasia

Jeffrey Thomas, The Washington File, Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State, July 6, 2006

[accessed 19 December 2010]

Both the Czech Republic and Portugal, which in 2005 were rated Tier 1 countries, have been dropped to Tier 2. In the Czech Republic, there were “inadequate sentences for traffickers,” the report said, and it also cited concerns over forced labor. Portugal “failed to prescribe punishment sufficiently stringent to deter trafficking” and “virtually all convictions for trafficking resulted in suspended sentences in 2004,” the report said.

Human Trafficking: Data Collection, Current Trends and Institutional Approaches [PDF]

João Peixoto, 11th International Metropolis Conference, Lisbon, 2-6 October 2006

[accessed 19 December 2010]

[accessed 21 February 2019]


– Mostly men targeted for low skilled jobs in civil construction

– Also some women, targeted for domestic service and, occasionally, pushed for the sex industry.

Counter Trafficking Training for Religious Personnel, November 6, 2006

United States Embassy to the Holy See, 6 November 2006

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 28 August 2011]

Most recently, nearly 40 nuns from Portuguese speaking countries were given intensive training in Lisbon by IOM in a bid to strengthen their ability to help victims of human trafficking. The nuns, from Angola, Brazil, Guinea Bissau, S. Tomé and Príncipe, Cape Verde, Mozambique and Portugal, received general information on human trafficking with a focus on the social implications of human trafficking, criminal networks and their recruitment methods, how to empower victims and how to protect staff involved in assistance programs from psychological burn-out.

Technology Is a Double-Edged Sword: Illegal Human Trafficking in the Information Age

Judge Mohamed CHAWKI and Dr. Mohamed WAHAB, Computer Crime Research Center, March 05, 2005

[accessed 19 December 2010]

In Portugal, a new immigration Act criminalizes new categories of trafficking and increases penalties for traffickers, but laws on false documentation, extortion, fraud and other criminal activities were also used to prosecute and convict traffickers. According to the Border and Foreigner Service (SEF), 329 trafficking-related investigations were undertaken in 2002-03, of these, four Ukrainians were sentenced from two and a half to nine years for related crimes; 3 Portuguese citizens were sentenced between seven and 15 years for involvement in a human trafficking network of 3,000 victims; and 16 defendants were charged with forced labor, trafficking and kidnapping of more than 300 Brazilian and Moldovan women forced into prostitution.

Portugal braced as child prostitution ring trial opens

Giles Tremlett and agencies in Lisbon, The Guardian, 26 November 2004

[accessed 19 December 2010]

Portugal's highest-profile trial for years began at a Lisbon court yesterday with a leading television presenter, a former ambassador and five others accused of involvement in a child prostitution ring which allegedly abused orphanage children over a period of 20 years.

The Protection Project - Portugal [DOC]

The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University

[accessed 2009]

FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO THE TRAFFICKING INFRASTRUCTURE - Organized crime is a large contributor to trafficking in Portugal. It was reported in 2000 that as many as 75,000 women from Brazil had been smuggled into European countries by way of Portugal in a huge operation involving up to 100 organized crime gangs. Criminal networks have been responsible for trafficking Brazilian women through Portugal to the United Kingdom and for trafficking women from multiple countries into Portugal.

FORMS OF TRAFFICKING - Women are trafficked to Portugal for prostitution. In 2001, Brazilian authorities investigated possible Brazilian police involvement in a smuggling ring that sent Brazilian women to Spain and Portugal, where they were forced into prostitution. Authorities believed that the operation, which involved mostly minors, was tied to the mafia on the Iberian Peninsula. An estimated 500 Brazilian women were victims of the ring.


Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 10 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – The country is a destination for men and women trafficked from Ukraine, Moldova, Russia, Romania, and Brazil for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation. There were reports that immigrant children were used for street begging. Some trafficking victims were transited through the country to other European countries. Most trafficked persons were Eastern European males who ended up working in construction or in other low-wage industries, such as textile manufacturing, woodworking, metalworking, and marble cutting. Some trafficked women (mostly from Eastern Europe and Brazil) worked as prostitutes. Trafficked persons usually lived in hiding in poor conditions, often with little or no sanitation facilities and in cramped spaces. Some trafficked workers were not paid, and some were "housed" within the factory or construction site. Moldovan, Russian, and Ukrainian organized crime groups reportedly conducted most of the trafficking of Eastern Europeans. The traffickers frequently demanded additional payments and a share of earnings following their victims' arrival in the country, usually under threat of physical harm. They often withheld the identification documents of the trafficked persons and threatened to harm family members who remained in the country of origin.

Freedom House Country Report

2018 Edition

[accessed 5 May 2020]


Portugal is a destination and transit point for victims of human trafficking, particularly women from Eastern Europe and former Portuguese colonies in South America and Africa. Although forced labor is prohibited by law, there have been some reports of the practice, especially in the agriculture, hospitality, and construction sectors. Immigrant workers are especially vulnerable to economic exploitation.

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