U.S. Department of State 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report - Panama
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons|
|Publication Date||3 June 2005|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report - Panama, 3 June 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4680d85c37.html [accessed 3 May 2015]|
Panama (Tier 2)
Panama is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women and children trafficked for the purposes of labor and sexual exploitation. Women and children are primarily trafficked within Panama for sexual exploitation. However, there are credible reports of women and children trafficked from Colombia to Panama for sexual exploitation. Women are also trafficked from Colombia and the Dominican Republic to Panama, Costa Rica, the United States (through Central America) and Europe. Child domestic laborers, who may be trafficking victims, are trafficked from the western provinces to Panama City. There are unconfirmed reports of Chinese families trafficked into debt bondage in the country.
The Government of Panama does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Passage and effective implementation of a new comprehensive anti-trafficking law has increased the government's efforts to combat trafficking in the country. However, the government has yet to eliminate a visa program that facilitates the import of foreign women for prostitution, and is likely exploited by traffickers.
The Government of Panama made significant improvements in investigating, prosecuting, and punishing traffickers over the reporting period. In 2004, Panama enacted a comprehensive anti-trafficking law, which targets traffickers. The Technical Judicial Police (PTJ) investigated 24 trafficking cases under the new law – a four-fold increase over cases investigated in 2003 – and presented seven cases to the Attorney General's Office for prosecution. Additionally, the Attorney General's office investigated at least 82 cases under the new law. Using the new law as an investigative tool, in March 2005 the Attorney General's Office ordered the detention of several ranked National Police (PNP) officers for sexual trafficking-related offenses against children. There were no reported trafficking convictions using the new law. Panama temporarily suspended the "alternadora visa" in 2004, but reinstated it in January 2005. Due to the lack of coordination among law enforcement agencies, Panama struggles to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases involving adult trafficking victims. The government has acknowledged that it needs to improve its interview techniques to uncover trafficking cases.
Panama's new anti-trafficking legislation is ambitious and the government is still in the process of implementing provisions to improve victim protection. In February 2005, the Attorney General convoked the law's anti-trafficking commission (CONAPREDES), which has authority to collect a special tax for victim assistance. However, this tax has not yet been implemented. Nonetheless, the government provides legal, medical, and psychological services for victims. Additionally, the government funds NGOs that shelter or assist trafficking victims and operates a foster family program. Immigration officials maintain that none of the 137 foreign prostitutes deported, or other prostitutes offered voluntary departure in 2004, claimed to be a victim of trafficking.
The government's efforts to prevent trafficking improved over 2004, as it carried out many new prevention campaigns during the reporting period. The new anti-trafficking law calls for a special tax to provide funds for anti-trafficking prevention activities, which could permit more extensive campaigns in the future. In November 2004, the Office of the First Lady and the Ministry of Youth, Children, Women, and Family initiated a formal campaign against the commercial sexual exploitation of minors and sexual tourism. The campaign targeted the demand for trafficking, using television and radio ads and the slogans, "If You Are a Man, We're Depending on You" and "Panama: A Country that Rejects Sex Tourism."