President Marcelo wades into Odemira ‘slave labour with Covid’ controversy

President Marcelo has waded into the spiralling confusion of problems with ‘slave labour’ involving immigrants testing positive for the Covid virus in the municipality of Odemira.

After a week of non-stop ‘revelations’, announcements, counter-claims and complications, the head of State has drawn a line in the sand.

He has requested reports on the labour and virus situations connected to the hectares of plastic-covered greenhouses that sprawl along Odemira’s coastline, and he has announced that he will be holding an Open Presidency in the Alentejo in June.

His move follows television coverage in which local people admit to being ‘scared to walk the streets’ in Odemira because of the sheer numbers of working age immigrant men, often out in groups.

Says Expresso, Marcelo may not have commented on the government’s hotly-contested civil requisition of the Zmar eco resort (click here) but he has “forced the ministry of interior administration to lift the roadblocks it had ordered over access to the property”.

This is a turning point in the complete mayhem of newsbites that have been emerging from Odemira over the last few days.

As Expresso explains, the president is well aware that situations exist among immigrants working in Odemira’s greenhouses “that violate the most elementary human rights”.

The truth is that the government has been well aware too, for years. It is simply that up till now no-one has needed to act.

Thanks to a number of immigrants testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 but unable to isolate because of their appallling living conditions this embedded problem for Odemira has finally become untenable.

Says the paper, as soon as Marcelo has the information he is waiting for, he will be talking to prime minister António Costa.

The idea for the Open Presidency isn’t expected to focus solely on the immigrant situation in a number of areas in the Lower Alentejo – but it will most definitely be one of the themes.

Meantime, the president has been in touch with the Mayor of Odemira José Alberto Guerreiro, and efforts towards investigating bringing an end to the criminal gangs operating in the Alentejo seem to have been accelerated.

SEF (borders and foreigners agency) has 32 inquiries running in various courts in the region, all of them focused on people-trafficking, illegal immigration and illegal labour, while the PJ is also actively working on a number of cases.

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