This situation has highlighted a problem that already existed - housing without proper conditions. Despite this being a problem that has existed for some time for migrants from India, Pakistan, Nepal, etc, this violation of human rights has now been uncovered due to the need to control the pandemic.

40 people to a house, 15 to 20 inside a single room, this is the reality for many agricultural workers. With these conditions, there is no way to control a pandemic and from one moment to the next the situation is now considered to be out of control, putting Odemira at the centre of Covid concerns in Portugal.

“At least 6,000” of the 13,000 agricultural workers in the municipality, permanent and temporary, “have no living conditions”, said the Mayor of Odemira, José Alberto Guerreiro.

Lusa News Agency spoke to one of the migrants that lives in Odemira “I’m not happy. There are no rules, no jobs, nothing. In the last six months that I spent here I didn't get a job. I am waiting for a residence permit, but I have no job. It is difficult to live in Portugal, but I have to stay if I want residence”, he said.

Asked about the conditions in which he currently lives, he said: “I don't think this is a house ... It's an old building, a bad one. We pay €100 for a bed and we can live with maybe 15 or 20 people in a single big room. The situation is very bad. Everything is old here. This bathroom, this kitchen must be 100 years old, everything is bad here".

Passing over the Odeceixe Bridge that connects the south western Algarve to the western Alentejo, since 30 April, everyone is stopped by GNR who do not let people enter into these parishes due to a sanitary fence in two of Odemira’s parishes during a time when most of the country is beginning to move out of lockdown.

The police are at six crossing points that connect these two parishes to others and have blocked other rural and more “hidden” entrances with fences to ensure that no one tries to enter these two parishes - São Teotónio and Longueira-Almograve.

In the neighbouring counties, which have advanced in the easing of lockdown process, as is the case of Vila Nova de Milfontes, among others, there are many people walking on the street complying with all the rules, which include, wearing masks; restaurants are full as well as hotels, and it doesn't even seem that right next door there is a sanitary fence and Covid crisis.

All in all, the municipality of Odemira "presents a situation of particular gravity", registering on 28 April "a cumulative incidence over 14 days exceeding 560 cases per 100,000 inhabitants", said the government.

The Prime Minister also recognised that "some of the population are living in situations of unacceptable unhealthy housing, with overcrowding of dwellings", reporting situations of "huge risk to public health, in addition to a stark violation of human rights".

Following the situation in Odemira, the Government approved on 29 April a decree-law that determines that companies that employ 10 or more workers in agricultural farms and construction sites are obliged to make a daily record of their workers, with effect from 30 April.

For now, people infected with Covid-19 residing in the two parishes in Odemira where the sanitary fence is, have been housed at a Almograve hostel, while the Zmar complex has welcomed those who are in prophylactic isolation.


Paula Martins is a fully qualified journalist, who finds writing a means of self-expression. She studied Journalism and Communication at University of Coimbra and recently Law in the Algarve. Press card: 8252

Paula Martins