Almost two dozen people have been detained during a major crackdown on illegal immigrants in Lisbon. The police operation took place in rua do Benformoso, near Intendente, and involved more than 100 officers from various forces. It was just before dusk in the capital when two vanloads of PSP agents arrived on the scene, interrupting traffic and pedestrians.
According to a local shopkeeper, the police had been active in the area for some time, questioning workers in local boarding houses. A contingent from the SEF (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras) also arrived on the scene and entered a mosque, while two policemen stood guard at the door. Then another two officers appeared at the entrances to a nearby supermarket and TV repair shop. Meanwhile, officers searched for immigrants working illegally, or those helping to provide illegal immigrants with false documents. The Judicial Police were also active on the scene and are believed to have been investigating links to terrorism or organised criminal gangs.
Drug addicts and prostitutes are known to frequent the area around Intendente. One resident said: “It is now worse than ever round here. I pass here every day at six o’clock in the morning and there is never a policeman in sight.” But on this particular afternoon, eyewitnesses claimed that the police were conspicuous throughout the area.
One witness claimed to have seen a policeman walking from Martin Moniz with a white-bearded man dressed in Moslem attire. Then another policeman was seen walking along the same route with an African man. A third officer, with papers in his hand, was accompanying a downcast-looking Chinese man. In addition, small groups of men were huddled together around Avenida Almirante Reis, apparently speaking in incomprehensible dialects, but clearly expressing surprise at the proceedings.
All the suspects were taken under tight police escort to the PJ offices in Gomes Freire.