Last Updated: Friday, 29 August 2014, 14:18 GMT

Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Colombia

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 4 June 2008
Cite as United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Colombia, 4 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/484f9a0c6c.html [accessed 30 August 2014]
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.

COLOMBIA (Tier 1)

Colombia is one of the Western Hemisphere's major source countries for women and girls trafficked abroad for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude. Colombian women and girls are trafficked throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, Western Europe, East Asia, the Middle East, and North America, including the United States. Within Colombia, some men are trafficked for forced labor, but trafficking of women and children from rural to urban areas for sexual exploitation remains a larger problem. Groups at high risk for trafficking include displaced persons and relatives of members of criminal organizations. Internal armed violence in Colombia has displaced many communities, making them vulnerable to trafficking, and insurgent and paramilitary groups forcibly recruit and exploit children as combatants. Gangs and organized criminal networks – some connected to terrorist organizations – force relatives, acquaintances, and displaced persons, typically women and children, into conditions of commercial sexual exploitation and compulsory labor, including forced begging and servitude in the illegal drug trade. Migrants from South America and China transit Colombia en route to Europe and the United States; some are reported to be trafficking victims. Colombia also is a limited destination for sex tourism, particularly in coastal cities such as Cartagena and Barranquilla.

The Government of Colombia fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons. During the reporting period, the government dedicated more resources for victim assistance, and maintained significant law enforcement actions against trafficking offenders.

Recommendations for Colombia: Dedicate more resources for victim services; strengthen existing victim protection measures, including the government's witness protection program; continue consular efforts to assist and repatriate the large number of Colombians trafficked overseas; formalize procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; and intensify efforts to raise public awareness about human trafficking, particularly among youth seeking jobs abroad.

Prosecution

The Government of Colombia sustained effective law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders during the reporting period. Colombia prohibits all forms of trafficking through its comprehensive antitrafficking statute, Law 985, which prescribes a minimum of 13 to 23 years' imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other grave crimes such as rape. In 2007, authorities initiated 182 anti-trafficking investigations (83 under the former legal system, and 99 under the new oral accusatory system), which represents a steep increase from 2006, when the government opened 49 investigations. The government also initiated 44 trafficking prosecutions and achieved six convictions, compared to 75 prosecutions and 10 convictions reported for 2006. Three trafficking offenders received sentences ranging from four to 12 years in prison, and the other three convicted traffickers are awaiting sentencing. The government also instituted a database to track and monitor statistics on trafficking cases, including victim information to help determine areas where Colombians are vulnerable to being trafficked. The government should consider broader use of proactive police techniques to rescue victims from trafficking situations. The government cooperated on international trafficking investigations with governments in Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, China, and Vietnam. Although in the past, some NGOs have reported that corruption of government officials was a problem, particularly in providing fraudulent travel documents, investigating authorities received no specific complaints during the reporting period.

Protection

The government improved victim protection efforts during the reporting period. The Colombian government increased funding to NGOs to provide shelter and other services to child trafficking victims. The government collaborated closely with NGOs and international organizations that provided the bulk of trafficking victim assistance. The government is finalizing plans to open an antitrafficking operations center, which will serve as a central repository of anti-trafficking information for victims. The government also operates a witness-protection program, which only partially meets the need to provide secure shelter for victims who choose to participate in prosecutions of traffickers, due to the organized nature of criminal trafficking networks in Colombia. The government does not have a formal mechanism for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as displaced persons or women in prostitution. In conjunction with IOM, the government trains consular officials on recognizing potential trafficking victims abroad, and providing Colombian trafficking victims with appropriate legal and social services in coordination with local authorities. However, victim services offered by the government overseas are limited to Colombian consular districts with at least 10,000 Colombian residents, and are not likely to be available to victims trafficked to remote locations in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Colombian authorities encourage victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. There were no reports of victims being jailed or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.

Prevention

The government improved prevention efforts against human trafficking during the reporting year, but continued to rely heavily on NGOs and international organizations for the bulk of activities. In early 2007, the government assumed responsibility for operating a national call center, a pilot program which had been launched by IOM. The call center received more than 947 trafficking-related calls during the reporting period, and the government continued to use the center to provide information to persons vulnerable to being trafficked. The government also operates a comprehensive anti-trafficking website that features a campaign entitled: "The Fight against Trafficking in Persons: the next victim could be you!" As a demand-reduction effort, Colombia penalizes individuals who organize or facilitate sex tourism into the country through article 219 of its criminal code, prescribing penalties of three to eight years' imprisonment. No investigations or prosecutions under this statute have been reported. No other government campaigns to reduce demand for commercial sex acts were visible during the reporting period, although the Colombian Congress is debating criminal legislation related to this issue.

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