Forty-seven young footballers, including 36 minors, have been rescued by Portuguese police in a crackdown on human trafficking linked to a training camp in the north of the country, the Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) said Thursday.
The all-male victims, from countries in Africa, Asia and South America, were placed in institutions “under the protection of the state”, the SEF said.
Two Portuguese nationals and five companies are under investigation in the operation launched Monday and christened “El Dorado” and which has seen several “passports and residency permits” seized.
According to local media reports, the victims were held in buildings belonging to the Bsports football academy in Riba d’Ave.
Before being sent to their home country, the would-be footballers will testify in front of a judge.
According to media sources, one of those under investigation is Mario Costa, one of the officials behind the Bsports academy and president of the general assembly of the Portuguese football league, a position he resigned from on Wednesday – without admitting any wrongdoing.
The unlawful recruiting of footballers is “unacceptable and shocking,” said Joao Paulo Correia, Portugal’s minister of state for youth and sports, adding that the government would “take measures” to combat this sort of human trafficking.