by INÊS LOPES [email protected]
A visit to the Algarve by the home affairs minister to discuss security for the region has prompted a local opposition MP to question the government’s strategy.
Socialist MP Miguel Freitas is concerned about the increasing number of organised violent crimes in the Algarve and has requested information from the government about police reinforcements and the reintroduction of a coordinated policing strategy.
In a document to the Home Affairs Ministry, handed to Parliament last week, the MP says “a coordinated structure involving the various police forces was non-existent in the region” and he wants to know “concrete data” about criminality in the Algarve.
Miguel Freitas told Lusa news agency: “There are no concrete figures available, simply because the government does not release them. There is widespread reporting about crime cases but we want actual figures.”
The politician says the seriousness of recent crimes involving “highly organised gangs using extreme violence” is generating a feeling of insecurity among the populations and impacting negatively on the tourism industry.
“The issue of security needs to be addressed urgently by the authorities and this means more coordinated efforts between police and investigation forces,” he said.
“Since civil governments were extinguished (last year), the Security Coordination Council that was in place also ceased to exist. I have asked home affairs minister Miguel Macedo to explain how this coordination is being assured now as it is non-existent.”
The MP said the Algarve also needs to know what police reinforcements are in place for the region, referring to the minister’s silence last week after the meeting in Albufeira with tourism industry representatives to discuss security for the region this summer season.
Members of the press accused the minister of “messing them around” by first agreeing to speak to them but later refusing to do so.
When confronted by an angry group of journalists over his “sudden silence”, he decided to “open an exception” and speak to them but it was too late.
“The journalists had turned their backs on him,” said Mário Lino, Algarve correspondent for Expresso newspaper.
Miguel Macedo later accused the journalists of being “intolerant”.
Issues discussed at the “closed door” meeting referred to the Algarve Seguro (Safe Algarve) programme for the summer season and aimed at reassuring tourism-related businesses and mayors that efforts were being made to ensure the region was still one of the safest holiday destinations in the world.