Slavery in Espinho? Couple arrested for subjecting Mozambican national to domestic servitude

“It’s not just Qatar… practically every country taking part in World Cup has issues with human rights”

Another day, another hideous story of ‘slavery’ allegedly playing out in Portugal.

And as Lusa outlines this latest disgrace, elsewhere comes the story that Qatar is by no means the only country taking part in the World Cup with human rights abuses running high: “slave labour, illegal detentions, violence against minorities, summary executions”, you name it, and other countries come into the frame, says an exposé by Expresso journalists André Manuel Correia, Helena Bento and Tiago Soares.

But first to Espinho, and the arrest today of a couple, in their 40s, by PJ police for allegedly subjecting a Mozambican woman, aged 29, to domestic servitude.

The couple, described themselves as foreigners, are being charged with suspicions of human trafficking.

A statement from PJ police explains that in November 2021 “the defendants, under the false promise of being able to come to study and work, enticed the victim, in Mozambique, transporting her to Portugal and then subjecting her to labour/ domestic servitude”.

After arriving in Portugal, the young woman was “deprived of her documents, and forced to work 16 hours a day, without any time off or rest breaks, earning just €50 per month”.

According to the PJ, the couple only allowed the victim to have one meal a day, and also limited her hygiene care.

“At the time of her being reported she was diagnosed with severe anaemia caused by the absence of food, and her general weakness and physical failure was evident,” says the statement.

The couple is due to be presented for questioning by a judge and will hear whether or not bail is to be granted.

How the young woman came to the notice of authorities has not yet been explained – but coming so soon after the arrests last week of 35 people, on suspicions of human trafficking and keeping foreign nationals in states of 21st century slavery, it is not a good look. Even less so when one discovers, through the ‘non-partisan organisation’ Freedom House, that a number of countries taking part in the World Cup in Qatar have appalling human rights records – among them Brazil, Morocco, Ecuador and Serbia.

Qatar is definitely NOT the worst offender. Says the article in Expresso this week, the worst offender is Saudi Arabia, followed by the Camaroons and then Iran.

Following all ‘the fuss about Qatar’ last week, parliamentary leader Augusto Santos Silva – himself in Qatar today to support Portugal’s second match against Uruguay, has made a point of saying “there is no problem in relations between Portugal and Qatar”.

Indeed, he admitted: “We all have to move forward a lot on human rights, we have to move forward in our relationship and our mutual understanding, we have to move forward by consolidating the areas where we are strong and improving in the areas where we are not strong.”

Qatar in the recent past has been particularly helpful, he added, when former Portuguese ambassador Ricardo Pracana died at his post, and when dozens of Afghans were being air-lifted to safety through Pakistan and Qatar following the withdrawl from the country of the United States army.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com