According to Walk Free Foundation, there are 26,000 victims of modern slavery in Portugal, but several investigators complain that the numbers should be higher. Let's get to know the stories of those who suffer from slavery by their own voice
In April 2018, the Loures court sentenced 13 people from a human trafficking network (TSH) to effective prison terms in Portugal. A couple, with the help of three children, two nephews, and dozens of other accomplices (in total, there were 26 defendants), transported people of Bulgarian and Romanian nationality to Portugal for labor and sexual exploitation, profiting from it. For the Public Ministry, the contract took place from 2011 to 2015 and the victims were enticed with “better conditions in Portugal”. They were promised “a good salary and good working conditions, as well as decent accommodation for each of the workers and for the families, who sometimes accompanied them, including children”. Arriving in the country, the reality was different: they were offered, in exchange for money, mostly, to agricultural companies in Alentejo. Neither good working conditions nor decent accommodation. Formerly trafficking and slavery.
The heads were convicted : 16 years for men, 15 for women, for a crime of criminal association and 31 crimes of human trafficking, each. Others followed, also in prison, with lighter sentences. An exception case, which confirms the rule of impunity that continues to allow the existence of enslaved people in Portugal today. According to the Observatory on Trafficking in Human Beings , 175 people were identified, in 2017, as “presumed victims of TSH”. They are usually immigrants, coming from Africa and Eastern Europe and, for the most part, victims of labor trafficking, unlike other countries in Europe, where the majority are taken for sex trafficking.
But it doesn't stop there. According to the Group of Experts on Trafficking in Human Beings, the numbers do not quite match reality. The same accusation is made by Cláudia Pedra, director of the Association of Strategic and International Studies and former director of Amnesty International Portugal. In an interview with Fumaça, he accuses the Portuguese government of “forging the data of trafficking in Portugal, so as not to sow panic”. Acácio Pereira, president of the union of SEF inspectors, said to DN : "If we multiplied the number of human trafficking cases in the official reports by 20, it would still be little to portray the reality that is felt on the ground".
In this investigation, we will hear the stories of those who suffered from modern slavery and human trafficking in Portugal. What they suffered on the trip to Portugal, and what light they see (if any) at the end of the tunnel. We will also find out which companies use these people and the conditions imposed on them. We will speak with researchers who have been following this problem and with political representatives responsible for the area. The result will be a series called Smoke, with several episodes, that contextualizes and explains what is happening in the country.