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Action Plan on Trafficking in Persons – Smuggling of Migrants

The Office of the National Rapporteur on TIP, under CIG, is responsible for overall implementation  of the National Action Plan. Portugal’s first National Action Plan against human trafficking was  adopted by Council of Ministers’ Resolution 81/2007 of June 22, 2007. 

  • Resolution of the Council of Ministers No. 80/2018  approved the IV Action Plan for the Prevention and  Combat of Trafficking in Humans 2018-2021, and it was  adopted March 8, 2018. It has the following strategic  objectives:  

  • To reinforce knowledge and inform and raise awareness on  the subject of human trafficking 

  • To ensure victims of trafficking access to their rights, as well  as to consolidate, strengthen, and qualify the intervention 

  • To reinforce the fight against organized crime networks by dismantling the business model and  the trafficking chain. 

Related Action Plans  

  • The National Strategy for Equality and Non-Discrimination mentions TIP but does not have  specific measures/strategies to address it.  

  • The National Plan of the Implementation of the Global Pact for Migration was  approved by the Resolution of the Council of Ministers No. 141/2019. 

The plan has the following fundamental objectives:  

  • Promotion of safe, orderly, and regular migration  

  • Improved processes for organizing migratory flows and integrated border management 

  • Promotion and qualification of immigrants’ reception and integration mechanisms 

  • Support for the connection of migrants to their country of origin and their return projects

  • Increase in development partnerships with countries of origin and transit

Institutional Framework

The Institution/s in charge of identifying VOTs or traffickers in the  field 

The identification is generally done by the Immigration and Borders Service (SEF), the Criminal Police  (PJ), or the Prosecutor’s Office. 

  • The Central Directorate for Investigation of Immigration  and Borders Service, TIP UNIT (DCINV/SEF) adopted the  procedure of formally notifying a VOT of his/her rights  during the referral. This is done through the notification of  the set of rights that the victim has, all of them described in  a notification that is written in the VOT’s native language or  is translated with the help of an interpreter. SEF has a TIP  Specialized Unit that focus on protecting victims and  collecting and handling information and evidence. (see  Specialized TIP/SOM units) 

  • The Criminal Police (PJ) assists the judicial authorities and the  Public Prosecution Service in conducting investigations and in  conducting preventive, detection, and investigative activities,  particularly with regard to organized crime, or those that have  been entrusted to it by competent judicial or investigative  bodies. The PJ has some 1,800 investigators nationwide. There  are specialist teams dealing, inter alia, with organized crime,  which includes human trafficking. A directory of the various PJ  departments is available online.  

  • The Public Security Police (PSP) and the Republican National Guard (GNR) are present  in the field at the local level and may be called upon to report victims of TIP and take the  first steps to protect them and get the investigation underway. However, they have no formal  jurisdiction in relation to TIP investigations, which are the sole preserve of SEF and PJ. Contact  persons for TIP cases have been designated at the central level within the four police forces in  Portugal. 

  • The Authority for Labour Conditions (ACT) responsible for monitoring labor relations,  occupational safety and health. ACT teams carry out identification checks during routine  inspections and inform victims of forced labor and labor exploitation of their rights. Other  responsibilities include enhancement of working conditions through preventive monitoring of  labor rights or the provision of information on labor relations to vulnerable people.

Agency responsible for border management and control of entry and  exit from the country 

The Central Directorate for Investigation of Immigration  and Borders Service, TIP UNIT (DCINV/SEF) reports to  the Ministry of the Interior and is responsible for issuing  residence permits, carrying out border checks, monitoring  the activities of foreign nationals in Portugal, and coordinating  and implementing measures related to those activities or  to migration flows. Where trafficking in human beings is  concerned, SEF is responsible for investigations in the same  way as PJ, as well as for issuing residence permits to foreign  nationals who are or have been victims of TIP. SEF has a staff of 1,300, including 800 investigators.

National Coordinating Bodies

The Observatory of Trafficking in Human Beings (OTSH),  established by Legislative Decree 229/2008 of November  27, 2008, works in close cooperation with the National  Rapporteur, police. and civil society organizations. It is tasked  with collecting, processing, and disseminating information about  human trafficking and other forms of violence against women.  

  • The Citizenship and Gender Equality Commission  (CIG) is placed under the authority of the Office of the  Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the Secretary of  State for Parliamentary Affairs and Equality. It is responsible  for promoting citizenship and gender equality. Initially, CIG was responsible for coordinating  actors in the fight against trafficking in persons, in part due to the perception that women were  solely impacted by trafficking.  

  • A National Network for Support and Protection of Victims of Trafficking, under the  umbrella of the CIG. This network brings together all relevant actors and serves as the basis for  the NRM. Regional networks follow the same principle, composed of diverse relevant regional  and local actors.

Specialized Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and Smuggling of Migrants  (SOM) Unit 

SEF is a law enforcement agency under the Ministry of Home  Affairs. It has a specialized unit and is supervised by a general  investigation unit (DCINV). 

SEF Organigram an be found online.


General Information

Portugal is primarily a destination country for victims of  trafficking in human beings (TIP). A 2019 report from the  Observatory of Trafficking in Human Beings (OTSH) indicates  that human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in  Portugal, and traffickers exploit victims from Portugal abroad.  The majority of trafficking victims are from the Republic of  Moldova and Romania, but (presumed) victims also originate  from Nepal, West Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, and, to a lesser  extent, Latin America. Labour traffickers exploit foreign victims  in agriculture, construction, and domestic service; seasonal  migrant workers are especially vulnerable. Traffickers use  fraudulent recruitment methods when it comes to Portuguese  victims: they are “employed” in restaurants, agriculture,  as domestic workers in Portugal and in other European  countries. Sex traffickers exploit foreign women and children,  mostly from Africa and Eastern Europe, and Portuguese  women and children within the country. Sex traffickers have  exploited Portuguese citizens in other countries, mostly in  Europe. Traffickers exploit children from Eastern Europe,  including those of Romani descent, for forced begging and  forced criminal activity in Portugal. Authorities report that  traffickers used fraudulent requests to facilitate the transfer  of asylum-seeking women and children, many from West  Africa, to Portugal; traffickers obtain false documents before  moving them to other European countries for sex trafficking.  Sub-Saharan trafficking networks increasingly use Portugal as  a route into the Schengen area to exploit children for both  sexual and forced labour. Traffickers sometimes exploit soccer  players in labour trafficking; these victims, including some  minors, are often from Brazil. 

Main Trends and Figures

In 2019, OTSH reported 281 registrations, an 38% increase  compared with 2018. Within the same period, 188 presumed  cases were reported, mainly from the Republic of Moldova and  Portugal. Of those, 113 were men (+21 compared to 2018),  75 were women (+26 compared to 2018), and 25 were  minors (15 male and 10 female).  Between 2016 and 2019, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) assisted 21 victims  of trafficking (VOTs) (12 women and 9 men), mainly from Bulgaria, Romania, and Brazil. Of those,  13 returned voluntarily under the Portuguese Emergency Fund to Victims of Trafficking Nationals  from European Union (EU) countries in cooperation with IOM; 6 returned to third countries under Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration, and 2 returned through the IOM Emergency Fund.  SOM: As a destination country, Portugal is under intense migratory pressure. It is also under indirect  migratory pressure, serving as a transit country into a European Union member states. It remains  the final destination for flows from Central and South America and some flows from West Africa.  The pressure from these flows remains consistent and intense, in part due to the lack of preventative  measures deterring migration in the countries of origin, as well as factors facilitating migration  (including new air routes between Portugal and West Africa, from which Banjul in Gambia and  Conakry, in the Republic of Guinea) to EU Member States.


Existing Mechanisms

Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and Smuggling of Migrant (SOM) Hotlines

TIP/SOM- #144 (24/7)

Others (Children protection/ assistance)- # 925854000 (24/7) 

Measures to Detect Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and Smuggling of  Migrants (SOM) Cases Along the Borders

  • The Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs and  is responsible for carrying out border checks, monitoring the activities of foreign nationals in  Portugal, and coordinating and implementing measures related to migration flows and trafficking  in human beings is concerned.

SEF has a specialized unit (DCINV/SEF) in charge of investigating TIP and SOM cases.

National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and/or Standard Operating  Procedures (SOP)  

Portugal has an active National Referral Mechanism (NRM). It is managed by CIG together with  OTSH in its connection to the National Monitoring System (complementary mechanisms). The NRM  systematizes all phases of the process of identify and support VOTs in Portugal, identifying relevant  stakeholders and contacts for easy referral.  

The NRM organigram has contact details of all frontline actors.

Law Enforcement Agencies Responsible for Investigating Cases of  Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and Smuggling of Migrant (SOM) 

 SEF and PJ are in charge of TIP and SOM investigations. 

  • The Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) has a specialized unit for investigation, the  Central investigation Division (DCINV),  

  • Portuguese Criminal Police (PJ), under its Criminal investigation Division (DIC). 

Identity and Travel Documentation Investigation and Forensic Lab 

The Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) has a forensic  laboratory and experts on identity and travel documentation  investigation. It has the latest equipment to analyze identity,  travel, and residence documents and to verify their authenticity.  In this context, SEF conducts expert checks and reports, in  accordance with European and international quality standards,  not only internally but upon request for other security services  and judicial authorities. SEF also conducts fingerprinting for the  identification of individuals. SEF’s technical advice has improved  the Portuguese electronic passport, the Portuguese residence  permit for nationals of third countries, and the Cape Verde  electronic passport, among others.

Technical Working Groups  

  • There is a technical working group dedicated to reflection and validate data on TIP. It includes all  data providers, law enforcement, shelters, multidisciplinary teams, IOM. The group meets twice a  year. 

  • Currently, there is also a working group dedicated to building a specific protocol for the  detection, identification, and protection of children victims of trafficking.

Agency in charge of Trafficking in Persons (TIP)/Smuggling of Migrants  (SOM) data collection and processing  

The Observatory of Trafficking in Human Beings (OTSH)  collects data and produces annual reports.

The OTSH is composed of two multidisciplinary teams: the  first collects and returns information; the second processes and  analyzes this information.  

To see OSTH’s Recursos provide annual statistics and reports  online.  

Please refer to Tráfico de Seres Humanos 2019 for the annual  TIP report.

Protection and Assistance to Victims of Trafficking Agencies

Competent authority and mechanism used to officially identify and  recognize a person as a VOT

Only law enforcement (SEF and PJ) can identify a person as VOT, but assistance is provided to all,  including presumed victims of trafficking, without the requirement of a formal identification.

Assistance Services and Contacts  The “Sistema de Refereniação Nacional” provides a flow chart and directory of service providers  with contacts online.  The “Acting Against Trafficking in Human Beings” project developed a mobile application.  In 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs in the framework of the Local Safety Audit Programme  developed a guidance leaflet for migrant workers in Portugal.

Cross-Border Cooperation

International Cooperation Agreements - Cross Border and  Extradition Treaties 

At the regional and International levels, in addition to its agreements with the UN and the EU,  Portugal has signed the following agreements: 

Portugal has adopted some International cooperation measures TIP investigations as. These include:  

  • INTERPOL/Europol (cross check requests, information requests, background checking  requests, operational meetings, mobile offices and Europol staff deployments during action days,  analytical support, etc.), 

  • International Law enforcement Officers (ILOs) –either Portuguese ILOs deployed in other  countries, or the ones deployed by their countries in Portugal. 

  • Portugal is a member state of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which  has an office in Lisbon. In 2001, an agreement was signed between IOM and the Government  of Portugal related to the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme (AVRR). In  cooperation with the Portuguese Government, IOM provides assistance through the Assisted  Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme. The programme is co-funded by the Asylum,  Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service  (SEF). The ARVoRe projects programme relies on the cooperation and participation of a  vast number of stakeholders, namely, migrants themselves, the Portuguese Government,  the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF), a network of local partners around  the country, National and Local Migrants Support Centres (CNAIM and CLAIM), as well as  migrants’ countries of origin. Partnerships formed between IOM and the different national and  international stakeholders are fundamental for an effective implementation of the ARVoRe  programme, from the pre-departure stage to reintegration. Voluntary Return in the context  of Portugal is framed under Article 139, from Law No. 23/2007, approving the legal  system governing the entry, stay, exit, and expulsion of foreign nationals in Portugal.

At the bilateral level, Portugal has signed these agreements: 

  • Border management agreement with Morocco.  

  • Several judicial cooperation agreements, as outlined below. There is department in charge of the  international judicial cooperation and relations.  

  • Law 149/99 of August 31, 1999 on international judicial cooperation in criminal matters  governs the main forms of cooperation, particularly in the fields of extradition and mutual  judicial assistance, states that the principle of reciprocity shall be the basis for all international  cooperation. Portugal is party to the Council of Europe conventions on extradition and mutual judicial assistance agreements. It has also signed several bilateral or regional  agreements providing for international cooperation in criminal matters, including:  

  • An agreement with Australia on extradition.  

  • An agreement with Spain on transnational co-operation in border policing and customs  matters, which provides for the collection and exchange of information and includes TIP  among the areas of crime prevention and suppression in border regions 

  • A quadripartite plan with Argentina, Brazil, and Spain on the prevention and suppression of  TIP and on victim protection, adopted in March 2011 • 2006 and 2009 agreements with Brazil providing for concrete measures to prevent and  suppress trafficking in human beings and criminal networks 

  • A cooperation agreement with the Russian Federation on fighting crime (2002) 

  • A cooperation agreement with Ukraine concerning in particular human trafficking, the  exploitation of prostitution by third parties, and sexual exploitation of minors (March 2011) 

  • Several multilateral agreements in the context of cooperation on criminal matters within  the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries10, as well as a bilateral agreement with  Mozambique on legal and judicial cooperation (not specifically on trafficking in human  beings) 

  • Several agreements not yet in force (e.g. a 2011 cooperation agreement with Bulgaria  on combatting crime) or still under negotiation (with Latvia, Malta, Slovenia, Italy, and  Uzbekistan

Transnational Referral Mechanism  

A transnational referral mechanism (TRM) does not currently exist.  

To learn more about TRMs, see IOM’s Transnational Referral Mechanism Model (TACT) project and tool

Additional International Instruments  

OTSH produces an annual report: Tráfico de Seres Humanos. Annex 3 of the report contains other  strategic documents.

Relevant National Legislation and Policies

Entry requirements 

  • All 15 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states and  Chad, Libya, and Mauritania require a visa valid and adequate to the purpose of visit, and a  valid travel document for more than at least three months of the duration of required stay.  

  • Visa exempted: all EU Member States and Swiss nationals

National legislation 

It is worth to recall that to respect its international and regional  commitments, in addition to the Council of Europe Convention  on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, Portugal has  ratified the United Nations Convention on Transnational  Organized Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and  Punish Trafficking in Persons in April 2004. Portugal is also a  signatory to several international instruments against human  trafficking such as the Convention on the Elimination of All  Forms of Discrimination against Women (ratified in 1980), the  Convention on Children’s Rights (ratified in 1990), and the ILO  Convention on child labour (ratified in 2000). Furthermore,  Portugal is part of a number of Council of Europe conventions, the 2005 Council of Europe  Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and on cooperation in criminal matters  and has recently ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against  Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (decision of March 8, 2012, published on May 28, 2012). 

  •  Portugal is bound by the EU instruments on action against trafficking in human beings, in  particular Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of April 5,  2011 on preventing and combatting trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, Council  Directive 2004/81/EC of April 29, 2004 on the residence permit issued to third-country  nationals who are victims of trafficking in human beings or who have been the subject of an  action to facilitate illegal immigration, who cooperate with the competent authorities, Council  Directive 2004/80/EC of April 29, 2004 relating to compensation to crime victims, and  Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA of March 15, 2001 on the standing of victims in  criminal proceedings. 

At the national level: The national legal framework in the field of action against human trafficking has  evolved over the years, and especially since 2007, in line with Portugal’s international commitments.  There is no single piece of legislation covering all aspects of the fight against human trafficking. The  main legal provisions relating to TIP are contained in:

  • The 1982 Criminal Code, which was amended in 2017 to include a general definition of  trafficking in human beings (Articles 160, 169, 175, Chapter IV “Crimes against personal  freedom”). (available in Portuguese) Prior to that, only trafficking for the purpose of sexual  exploitation was criminalized. A separate provision of the Criminal Code (Article 159)  criminalizes slavery (see paragraphs 44 and 161). 

  • 2003 Labour Code (as amended in 2017) (available in Portuguese) 

  • Law 23/2007 of 4 July 2007 on the legal framework governing the entry, stay, exit, and removal  of foreign nationals “Immigration Law,” which has a section on victims of TIP laying down  the rules relating to their residence permits, reflection period, and rights; this law was amended  through Law 29/2012, in force since October 8, 2012. 

  • Legislative Decree 368/2007 of November 5, 2007 on the conditions for granting a  reflection period and a residence permit to victims of TIP who are unwilling or unable to  cooperate with the justice system. 

  • Law 229/2008 of November 27, 2008 establishing the Observatory of Trafficking in  Human Beings (OTSH); 

  • Law 93/99 of July 14, 1999 guaranteeing assistance to witnesses and victims of offences,  amended by Law 29/2008 of July 4, 2008 to include, inter alia, the possibility of not disclosing  the identify of a victim when the testimony or statement concerns the crime of human  trafficking. 

  • Law 5/2002 of January 11, 2002 laying down measures to combat organized crime, and in  particular measures relating to the confiscation of assets, and Law 45/2011 of June 24, 2011  establishing an assets recovery office. 

  • Law 104/2009 of September 13, 2009 on compensation to victims of violent crime; Law  38/2009 of July 20, 2009 defining the objectives, priorities, and directions of penal policy in  the period 2009-2011, according to which the fight against human trafficking is one of these  priorities; and related circular letter 4/2010. 

  • Law 49/2008 of August 27, 2008 on the organization of criminal investigations which, inter  alia, empowers two police forces, the Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) and the Criminal  Police (PJ), to conduct investigations relating to TIP.

Recent Modifications and New Decrees 

  • Law 55/2020, published in August 2020, defines the objectives, priorities, and guidelines of  criminal policy for the 2020-2022 biennium. The law covers trafficking in persons and protecting  especially vulnerable victims (Article 3). Trafficking in persons is defined under the law:  

  • As a crime of Priority Prevention as a conduct observed in the context of violent, serious and  highly organized or group crime (Article 4). 

  • As a crime of Priority Investigation (Article 5). 

  • As a crime in Preventing the violation of safety rules at work (Article 13).

Existing Policies  

  •  The National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle TIP includes prevention, awareness-raising,  protection, and criminalization measures. Several partners, under the supervision of the Gender  Equality Commission (CIG), are in charge of implementing the plan. 

  • Resolution of the Council of Ministers No. 104/2017 defines the National Integrated  Border Management Strategy, which identifies key stakeholders. The strategy is based on the  new European model of Integrated Border Management, or IBM. It includes 11 dimensions,  established in Article 4 of Regulation (EU) No. 2016/1624 of the European Parliament and of the  Council, of September 14, 2016.

Legal assistance and victim’s compensation  


According to the Act No.34/2004 (Article 15), legal counsel can be requested at any time, by  anyone, regardless of their immigration status. Is supported by the following acts.  

  • The possibility of obtaining legal aid, pursuant to Act No.34/2004 of July 29, 2004 and Section  112 (4) of Act No. 23/2007 of July 4, 2007, is applicable to every Portuguese national, EU  citizens, as well as foreign nationals and stateless people with a valid resident permit in an EU  member state. The right to legal protection of foreign nationals without a valid residence permit  is recognized if the same right is recognized and afforded to Portuguese nationals by the law of  such States. Two types of support are available: legal advice and legal aid. 

  • Article 112º (4) of Act No.23/2007 of July 4, 2007 clarifies the right to assistance by an  interpreter and translation of documents. During investigative procedures, it is mandatory that an  interpreter provides translation services during all stages


Portuguese legislation offers two forms of compensation for victims:  

  • Through criminal proceedings the victim can make a civil claim against the offender (civil action in  criminal proceedings included, according to Article 71º of the Code of Criminal Procedure). In a judicial hearing, the crime being proved, the court condemns the criminal to repair the  damage caused to the victim.  

  • If the perpetrator does not have financial means to compensate the victim, the victim can  request compensation from the Protection Commission. In cases in which the victim suffered  severe damages that put him or her in a situation of severe economic deprivation, the victim  can immediately apply for compensation by the State.  

  • The State may advance the payment of compensation under the terms of Act No. 104/2009 of  September 14, 2009.  

  • Victims can still exercise their rights in criminal proceedings, provided they are represented for  that purpose in the process. 

  • The Crime Victim Compensation Fund allows victims of crime, when the crime took place in  Portugal (whether the victims are Portuguese or foreign), to apply for compensation for material  and moral damages (Law 104/2009 of September 14, 2009 on the Compensation of Victims of  Violent Crime and Decree-Law 120/2010 of October 27, 2010). 

More details on compensation for VOTs can be found at: Chapter 3. Article 15.

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