Portuguese police have arrested Thirty-five people suspected of involvement in human trafficking in a massive operation that mobilized around 400 officers in Portugal’s southern Alentejo region.
A total of 65 raids were carried out, resulting in the arrest of alleged members of a human trafficking ring that illegally brought migrants to work in Alentejo’s farms, criminal police agency PJ said in a statement.
The suspects, aged 22 to 58, were both Portuguese and foreign nationals, PJ said, and the victims were from countries including Romania, Moldova, India, Senegal, Pakistan, Morocco and Algeria.
The suspects were “heavily indicted for crimes of criminal association, human trafficking, money laundering, forgery of documents, among others,” police said.
Public prosecutors confirmed the raids but did not provide any further details as the investigation is under judicial secrecy.
Portuguese investigators previously said typical victims are impoverished migrants brought to Portugal by trafficking rings with job promises.
However, once put to work, their identity documents are often confiscated and their pay withheld, with many packed into grim, common living quarters with few amenities.
Labor trafficking has risen as Portugal’s native population has aged and declined amid falling birth rates and emigration to more prosperous northern EU countries.
Meanwhile, agricultural exports have boomed in recent years and large farms increasingly need cheap labor.
The Council of Europe said in June this year that Portuguese authorities identified 1,152 presumed victims of trafficking in 2016-2020, most of whom were exploited in the agricultural sector.
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