SEF investigates Portuguese business using refugee routes to import illegal workers

As the future of Schengen hangs in the balance, borders agency SEF has been busy plugging ‘holes’ used to bring cheap labour into Portugal.

In an operation in Castelo Branco yesterday (Thursday), SEF was able to confirm its suspicions, writes Diário de Notícias. A forestry business run by a Portuguese-Indian in Penamacor has been importing Indian and Pakistani immigrants by using “routes used to transport Syrian refugees into Europe”.

“The immigrants enter European (Schengen) space fraudulently, with visas emitted by European consulates that legislation normally defines as exceptional situations”, writes DN.

The company “pays the traffickers thousands of euros” to see workers flown on low-cost airlines (“where there is no systematic control”) to destinations like Greece, Zurich, Rome and Barcelona.

From there, the workers are then bussed into Portugal, says the paper – stressing that “for the time being” SEF has not linked the Portuguese-Indian businessman and his collaborators to the transport of Syrian refugees.

Nevertheless, “there exists a concern, shared by European authorities, that these trafficking networks could start transporting Syrian and other refugees”, particularly from destinations like Calais – where the crush of humanity desperate for a new life continues to hamper border crossings.

For now, the businessman is a formal suspect, and searches yesterday saw SEF identifying 20 foreigners, six of which are in Portugal illegally.

Meantime, experts from 55 European and African countries are in Porto “to discuss concrete initiatives that could be taken” to tighten up immigration controls, writes DN.

SEF has been working overtime on all fronts, adds the paper, referring to an operation recently foiled in UK where a Pakistani suspected of the falsification of documents is thought to have been a key player in a tentacular network supplying fraudulent Portuguese identification papers to as many as 3,000 Indians.

The network made use of birth registers from former the Portuguese territories of Goa, Damão and Diu, explains DN.

Portuguese “identities” were supplied for anything from seven thousand to 30,000 euros and appear to have facilitated illegal entry into the UK, the US and Canada.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com