Hundreds of Portuguese police raided farms in the historic southern Alentejo region today in a major operation that arrested 28 people suspected of human trafficking and labor exploitation, Reuters reported.
The suspects are believed to be part of a criminal network that exploits migrants from countries including Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, India, Senegal and Pakistan, luring them to Portugal with promises of work as farm workers, the agency said.
Portuguese police said they had carried out 78 searches, during which evidence had been gathered and “hundreds of victims were identified”. The detainees, who are both Portuguese and foreign nationals, are suspected of human trafficking, criminal association, facilitating illegal immigration, illegal labor recruitment, extortion, money laundering and physical harm, as well as other crimes. They will appear before a judge tomorrow.
In Portugal, and especially in its agricultural sector, cases of labor exploitation, in which distressed migrants are forced to work for free, and human trafficking are on the rise. Once they start working, people’s documents are confiscated, their wages are withheld, and their places of residence have little or no amenities.
The Council of Europe reported that Portuguese authorities recognized 1,152 alleged victims of human trafficking between 2016 and 2020, but investigations, cases and prosecutions were few against such a large number of victims, Reuters noted.