Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 - Spain

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 14 June 2010
Cite as United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 - Spain, 14 June 2010, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

SPAIN (Tier 1)

Spain is a destination and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labor and forced prostitution. Victims originate from Eastern Europe, Latin America, East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. There are reports of men and women being subjected to forced labor in the domestic service, agriculture, construction, and tourism sectors. Spanish nationals are reported to have been subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution within the country. According to media reports and government officials, approximately 90 percent of those engaged in prostitution in Spain are victims of forced prostitution, controlled by organized networks operating throughout the country. Unaccompanied minors crossing into Spain may be vulnerable to forced prostitution and forced begging.

The Government of Spain fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. In 2009, the government established a 30-day reflection period for trafficking victims, created a victim assistance fund to improve protections for trafficking victims, and drafted legislation to explicitly criminalize all forms of trafficking. The national and regional level governments also implemented innovative prevention campaigns to address demand for sex trafficking. Despite the existence of a National Referral Mechanism, however, the government did not provide data to confirm the majority of identified victims were referred to care and protection. A lack of specialized services for trafficked and vulnerable children and adult victims of forced labor significantly hampered its ability to identify and protect them. Because current Spanish law does not disaggregate its data on anti-trafficking prosecution efforts from those for smuggling, it was unclear how many of the government's reported prosecutions or convictions were trafficking-specific.

Recommendations for Spain: Consider expanding formal partnerships with NGOs to create a more a multidisciplinary, victim-centered approach to trafficking in Spain; develop formal procedures to guide front-line responders in proactively identifying victims among vulnerable groups, such as irregular migrants and women in prostitution; ensure all identified potential trafficking victims were provided with appropriate access to services by making effective use of the December 2008 National Referral Mechanism; pass draft legislation that explicitly defines trafficking as distinct from smuggling and criminalizes internal trafficking; develop specialized anti-trafficking programs for children and men; provide comprehensive data on trafficking prosecutions and convictions, and ensure their desegregation from smuggling offenses; and vigorously prosecute and punish all government official complicity in trafficking offenses.


The government demonstrated sustained efforts to investigate trafficking during the reporting period, however it did not disaggregate its law enforcement data on trafficking-specific prosecutions and convictions. Spain prohibits transnational trafficking and smuggling in persons though Articles 313 and 318 of its criminal code, and the Organic Law 11/2003. However, these specific laws fail to protect Spanish citizens, as they do not prohibit trafficking crimes occurring wholly within Spain's border and they do not legally distinguish between trafficking and smuggling. These laws prescribe penalties for sex trafficking of five to 15 years' imprisonment and penalties for labor trafficking of four to eight years' imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent, and the penalties prescribed for sex trafficking are commensurate with the prescribed penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. Local observers reported concerns over the government's inability to prosecute cases during the year involving female Spanish victims. In November 2009 the government drafted and submitted to Parliament a bill to remedy current legislative deficiencies. NGOs and international observers report that the government often used Article 188, which covers forced prostitution and pimping, to prosecute traffickers. This article prescribes penalties of only two to four years. According to preliminary information, the Spanish government prosecuted 86 suspects and convicted 60 possible trafficking offenders in 2009. However, the government did not verify the link between all 60 convictions and trafficking. Approximately 60 percent of those convicted received sentences of four years or more; all imposed sentences were at least one year. In March 2009, a law enforcement officer reportedly solicited a bribe from a brothel owner in exchange for ignoring alleged forced prostitution in the brothel. A subsequent investigation revealed the alleged involvement of 15 other suspects, including police, ex-police, business owners and lawyers. The government reported placing the officer in preventive custody and suspended the employment and salary of two other officials while they await trial.


The government demonstrated some efforts to address its ongoing deficiencies in victim identification and protection, but did not demonstrate tangible improvements for the majority of trafficking victims in Spain. The government issued a directive in January 2010 instructing Immigration and Alien Affairs officers and other police to assume foreigners in Spain with illegal status are potential victims of trafficking, however the government has yet to adopt formalized, stand-alone guidelines or indicators for all front-line responders to use in identifying potential forced labor or sex trafficking victims among all vulnerable groups, such as women in the commercial sex trade or migrant workers. According to an official government report released in early 2010, the government identified 1,301 trafficking victims in 2009, of whom 95 percent were reportedly female victims of sex trafficking. While the government publicly stated that all of these identified victims were assisted, it did not officially collect or track the actual number of victims who were referred to NGOs for care in 2009.

Allegations of forced labor involving 450 workers from China resulted in a large-scale law enforcement operation in Barcelona in June 2009; 750 agents searched 72 clandestine establishments and textile factories. According to Spanish media reports, these illegal immigrants were living in these factories without electricity or ventilation, and working excessive hours to repay their debts to the mafia for facilitating their exit from China. The owners of some factories reportedly paid fees in exchange for protection from the Chinese mafia, while other factories were reportedly directly controlled by the mafia. The government reported none of these workers to be victims of trafficking. However it did not demonstrate adequate or thorough steps to screen the potential victims away from the factories or refer them to NGOs. The majority of the 77 suspects were released due to lack of evidence. In May 2009, Spanish police reported dismantling an extensive human trafficking network that forced women from Nigeria into prostitution throughout the country. However, the Government of Spain did not demonstrate it ensured the victims in this case access to services. The government reported it provided assistance to only one victim in this case who filed a complaint about the traffickers.

In January 2010, Spanish police reported arresting 50 suspects for allegedly forcing women from South America and Eastern Europe into prostitution in southern Spain. It is unclear whether any potential victims were referred to NGOs for assistance. Also in January 2010, a regional prosecutor's office and the regional government in Galicia signed an agreement to establish a formal partnership with NGOs to help earn more victims' trust from authorities, to provide the care critical to their recovery, and increase their ability to assist law enforcement in prosecutions of their traffickers. The Madrid regional government established a similar accord in December 2009. Nevertheless, there were some reported instances in 2009 in which police arrested victims alongside their traffickers and transported victims to the same detention facilities, where traffickers subsequently threatened them not to cooperate with authorities.

In March 2009, the government allotted $2.78 million dollars for a newly-created victim assistance fund for NGOs to improve the quality of care, services and security provided to trafficking victims. Regional governments continued to fund a network of NGOs throughout Spain offering protection and assistance to victims. One regional government provided $520,000 in 2009 for protection programs. In one instance, an NGO assisted 47 new trafficking victims in 2009, 27 of whom testified against their traffickers. The government reported 15 other victims received some assistance before they were voluntarily repatriated.

The government encouraged foreign victims to assist in trafficking investigations and prosecutions by offering identified trafficking victims a 30-day reflection period, which was codified into law in November 2009. Spanish law permits trafficking victims to remain in Spain beyond the 30-day reflection period only if they agree to testify against their exploiters. According to a local anti-trafficking NGO, victims who assist law enforcement officials by testifying in court receive a one-year residency permit, renewable for two years if the victim obtains employment in Spain during his/her first year. If the victim successfully secures a second renewal for a total of five years, they may receive permanent residency in Spain. The government reported it did not punish identified victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. However, a lack of formalized procedures for proactive identification increased the likelihood of unidentified victims being treated like illegal migrants and deported.

While a 2010 Amnesty International report indicated the government repatriated a suspected pregnant Nigerian victim without granting her the reflection period, the Minister of Interior publicly stated the government determined she was not a trafficking victim. Amnesty International reported the woman was recognized by specialized NGOs as a victim of trafficking and had received a favorable report as an asylum-seeker by UNHCR.


The national government and regional authorities implemented multiple high-profile projects and innovative campaigns to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. In October 2009, the Ministry of Equality sponsored a photographic exhibit entitled, "Don't Be An Accomplice" to raise awareness of trafficking and reduce demand for sex trafficking by calling on the public to not participate in the forced prostitution of women and girls, including advertising services for sexual exploitation or as a potential client. In November 2009, the Ministry of Equality began distributing more than 5 million beverage coasters to bars, cafes, restaurants and nightclubs to inform potential male clients that organized criminals sexually exploit the majority of women in prostitution in Spain. The national government undertook a campaign in 2009 to pressure newspapers not to publish classified ads that publicize sexually explicit services by women in prostitution, many of whom are assumed to be trafficking victims. And the government co-sponsored a series of documentary films on trafficking, screened over four successive weekends in 2009.

Local governments including Madrid, Barcelona and Seville continued efforts to reduce demand. In November 2009, the municipal government in Seville launched a five-year, $700,000 integrated plan to tackle forced prostitution. Reportedly the plan includes plans to fine clients up to $4,175 for soliciting outdoor prostitution. Fees collected will be used for social programs. The city also launched a public awareness campaign entitled, "Paying for Sex is Investing in Violence." The government partnered with the World Tourist Organization to discourage child sex tourism in 2009 and maintained a website from a previous campaign to warn Spanish travelers against committing child sex tourism offenses abroad. The government did not report any prosecution for this criminal activity in 2009. According to the Spanish military, Spanish troops received trafficking awareness training before they were deployed abroad for international peacekeeping missions. On February 2009, the government approved a royal decree which included a military obligation to protect the "defenseless" from prostitution or sexual violence.

Search Refworld