The Alentejo is already wracked with situations of poverty

Immigrant slavery in Alentejo has no end in sight

… in spite of yesterday’s flurry of arrests

The president of Diocesan Charity of Beja has said that the exploitation of migrant agricultural workers in the district has no end in sight, in spite of the police operation  yesterday that resulted in the arrest of 35 people suspected of human trafficking.

“The problems are many and will continue to grow. There is no end in sight”, Isaurindo Oliveira told Lusa news agency.

“Alqueva continues to grow” and the crops these migrants work on are “highly demanding of labour” which “doesn’t exist” in Portugal, and therefore “has to come from outside”.

People should be “treated with a minimum of decency”, but, he admitted, “they are not”.

“The other day, a migrant showed up here with a receipt for a salary of 100 euros. To fill in an expression of interest, which you fill in for free on the Internet, he was charged 300 euros. To be a witness at the tax office, to get a tax identification number, they (the people within the trafficking network) charged another 50 euros for each witness. In other words, this is a business for a group of people”, he explained.

That said, the borough of Cuba (Beja), where most of the 65 search warrants were executed yesterday – and where 35 suspects were arrested for crimes of criminal association, human trafficking, money laundering and forgery of documents – “is not one of the most complicated situations” in the district, said Oliveira.

We are witnessing an exponential rise in the number of homeless people in Beja, most of them are migrants”.

In 2020, 88 people passed through the charity “Cáritas”, and now we are attending 270 (people in 2022) – two thirds of whom are migrants”, he said.

This is a problem that “everyone recognises”. “It is in plain sight of people”, but Caritas itself has no solution.

“Most of these people lack accommodation. They’re in the car park sleeping, huddled up somewhere, slumped on a bench and we have no accommodation. And we don’t have food, because we’re not giving these people a packet of rice. They have nowhere to prepare it. The canteen, the refectory, are food responses that are exhausted, so we need help”, said Oliveira.

According to the PJ which led yesterday’s arrests, this particular network operating in Cuba, was formed by foreigners, namely Romanian families, and some Portuguese, with the purpose of hiring foreign workers for agriculture in the Baixo Alentejo region.

“The several dozens of victims of Romanian, Moldovan, Moroccan, Pakistani and Senegalese nationalities were hired for farms in Beja, Cuba and Ferreira do Alentejo among other places,” said an official source.

It later transpired that the network used a local solicitor to draw up bogus contracts which gave immigrants the impression the work they were being offered was legal, only to discover much later that they were effectively caught in sub-human conditions of slavery from which any exit is hugely problematic.

source material: LUSA