Portugal’s prime minister António Costa has ‘changed his diary at the last minute’ and will instead be visiting Odemira this afternoon for “a working meeting to respond to the housing necessities” in the area that has been in media headlights for the best part of a fortnight.
Odemira’s ‘problem’ as everyone has admitted is down to situations of ‘modern slavery’ in agricultural explorations which see immigrants from the Third World paying vast proportions of their miserable salaries for cramped accommodation in often slum-like properties.
Had it not been for the spread of Covid infections among these workers, the situation would undoubtedly have persisted. But the pandemic has finally brought Odemira’s problems to the fore – and Mr Costa really has no choice but to face them.
President of the Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said earlier today that he wants to see “many political consequences” resulting from this shambles.
There have to be proper checks “to see how things are in terms of legality”, he said. He wants to understand if crimes are being committed (in terms of exploitation, human trafficking etc). “We have to think seriously of the problem of immigrants who are here, and who work here”, he said.
This means going beyond whether they have health problems. It is about real ‘inclusion’.
As the country has heard night-after-night on the television news, the number of immigrants living in substandard accommodation in the municipality of Odemira is well into the hundreds, more likely thousands.
Two parishes of the borough are in their second week of ‘lockdown’ as health authorities grapple to control various outbreaks of Covid-19, principally among these workers (fortunately none yet being reported to have caused any serious health issues).
Expresso has described Mr Costa’s visit as “a race against the damages” already caused with regard to the ‘jackbooted expropriation of ZMar eco resort’ last week (click here), and local indignation that the municipality is being treated as the leper in Portugal’s pandemic when its social problems should have been sorted a long time ago.