Algarve Social Democrat (PSD) MP Mendes Bota this week publicly denounced the alleged return of sex trafficking and forced prostitution to Patã, Albufeira, following a widely-publicised crack-down by police earlier this year in February in which 12 men were detained.
Speaking to Lusa News Agency on Monday this week, Mendes Bota claimed that, “a few days after they were arrested”, the majority of the individuals detained by SEF Immigration Officers during the February bust “were released by a judge who decided that they should await their trial, who knows when [the trial will commence], unrestrained.”
The MP, who is also president of the European Commission’s Parliamentary Committee for Equal Opportunities between Men and Women, appealed to the authorities to “rapidly intervene.”
“At this moment, in the Algarve, in Patã, there are once again women on the roadside, being prostituted and sexually exploited”, he stressed, adding “I don’t know if the individuals who were released immediately returned, I don’t know if its is the same women who were released at the time of the bust who are once again being enslaved, or if the ‘Mafia set-up’ rapidly reconstructed itself, but this is not admissible.”
On the eve of International Women’s Day, Mendes Bota appealed “to all men”, to “not be consumers of prostitution in general, but especially not if they know it is forced.”
He asked that any known cases of forced prostitution be reported to the authorities.
On 8 February this year reports emerged of major police prostitution raids, in the Algarve and in Aveiro. Twelve men suspected of belonging to a female trafficking ring were detained by SEF Immigration Officers.
In a statement, SEF said that the ring used dozens of young women, some who were underage, for prostitution. It claimed the women were exploited by the use of “physical coercion and psychological violence”, which included the “forced administration” of drugs.
The victims were, according to the statement, being ‘constantly transferred’ from place to place to be prostituted, both in Portugal and in other EU member states. They would also be sold among the heads of trafficking rings within the EU.
The ring was made up of men and women belonging to EU member states. Though their nationalities were not specified by SEF, reports in national newspapers claim at least five of the men who were arrested in connection with the crimes were Romanian.
During the operation around 30 women, believed to be the victims of human trafficking crimes, were identified. The women were also said to be Romanian.