Last Updated: Friday, 26 December 2014, 13:50 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Spain

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Spain, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30c95c.html [accessed 28 December 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.

SPAIN (Tier 1)

Spain is a destination and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Victims originate from Eastern Europe, Latin America, East Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. Men and women reportedly are subjected to forced labor in domestic service, and the agriculture, construction, and tourism sectors. According to the Spanish government and NGOs, Spanish nationals are also vulnerable to trafficking. According to anti-trafficking experts, Barcelona and Spain's other big cities increasingly serve as bases of operations for Chinese sex trafficking networks and Nigerian and Albanian trafficking groups. 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 crime networks. Unaccompanied foreign children in Spain continue to be vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced begging. According to a study on labor exploitation and slave labor released during the year, undocumented foreign migrants working in Spain's agricultural and cleaning sectors and as domestic workers, are subjected to severe forms of exploitation. According to this research, many of these workers in Spain's black market are mistreated, have never received payment, or are paid by employers who threaten them with deportation to ensure compliance.

The Government of Spain fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the year, the government addressed a long-standing deficiency by implementing a protocol on victim identification and referral. It also imposed the highest sentence to date in Spain for a convicted sex trafficker. The government continued to conduct anti-trafficking raids and operations against trafficking networks operating throughout the country. However, the government has yet to match these law enforcement actions with holistic care and protection for the victims of human rights abuses perpetrated by these offenders. Many trafficking victims continue to be referred for basic health care, rather than to NGOs with the capacity to provide comprehensive, victim-centered care. Trafficking victims continued to be interviewed immediately after raids and are often expected to self-identify; authorities sometimes inadvertently imprison or deport trafficked individuals who do not identify themselves as victims immediately upon rescue. Further, the government failed to investigate vigorously or prosecute forced labor in the country or develop specialized services for trafficked children and victims of forced labor.

Recommendations for Spain: Provide comprehensive data on trafficking specific prosecutions and convictions; enhance anti-trafficking training for police to increase understanding of the complexities involved in victim identification; take steps to establish a multi-disciplinary approach to victim identification by enlisting the help of other actors to help stabilize victims in a post-immigration raid environment; consolidate statutory anti-trafficking tools into a comprehensive, victim-centered anti-trafficking law to ensure a more rights-based approach to trafficking in Spain; develop proactive identification procedures for authorities to detect potential trafficking victims in immigration detention centers; enlist NGOs to help build trust with trafficking victims; lower the standard for granting victims a reflection period and base that determination on the recognition that victims often do not divulge their experience of exploitation immediately after rescue; ensure anti-trafficking law enforcement actions include appropriate victim protections; de-link a victim's eligibility for a one-year residency permit from the outcome of trafficking prosecutions; improve outreach to locate more child trafficking victims and victims of forced labor and ensure all potential trafficking victims, including children and men, are provided with access to specialized anti-trafficking services; and vigorously prosecute and punish all government officials complicit in trafficking offenses.

Prosecution

The Government of Spain demonstrated notable progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts in 2011. Spain prohibits some forms of human trafficking through Article 177 of its criminal code, which prescribes penalties from five to 10 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. Spain prohibits sexual exploitation through Article 318 and labor exploitation though Articles 313 of its criminal code, and the Organic Law 11/2003. According to preliminary information provided by Spain's special anti-trafficking prosecutor, the government initiated prosecution in 45 sex trafficking cases under Article 318 in 2011 The government reported its prosecution of five forced begging cases under Article 177. On February 14, 2012, a court in Madrid handed down the highest penalty to date for sex trafficking in Spain, sentencing a Romanian trafficker to thirty years' imprisonment. The trafficker had used debt bondage, threats, intimidation and violence to subject the adult victims to forced prostitution and subjected one child victim to a forced abortion. While the government did not provide comprehensive conviction and sentencing information, it provided individual case data to demonstrate it vigorously prosecuted and convicted trafficking offenders in 2011. During the reporting period, the government convicted at least 23 sex trafficking offenders, sentencing them to one to 30 years imprisonment. During the year, the government prosecuted a major complicity case involving six members of the national police, three lawyers, a public servant in Barcelona city hall, and brothel owners for collusion and forced prostitution that took place from 2002 until 2008. In another case, the government reported investigating at least 60 suspects, including 20 high-level senior officials of local and national police units as well as the former Deputy Government Representative in Lugo for their complicity in human trafficking that took place between 2000 and 2009.

Protection

The Spanish government demonstrated some tangible progress in protecting trafficking victims during the last year; it increased implementation of Article 59, which established a reflection period for suspected trafficking victims and created a legal mechanism for victims to obtain residency and work permits. In October 2011, the government formally adopted a protocol on victim identification to guide implementation of Article 59. NGOs report that this increased the number of referrals of potential trafficking victims by police. Anti-trafficking experts in the country nevertheless continued to note serious concerns about the government's efforts and ability to identify trafficking victims effectively. The government continued to refer many trafficking victims to the government's non-specialized services for basic medical care rather than to NGOs providing specialized, victim-centered care. The government reported it identified 234 sex trafficking victims in 2011. Regional and national level authorities reported providing funding to NGOs for victim assistance in 2011. Reports indicate NGOs provided assistance to at least 208 newly identified victims during the year, 79 of whom were direct referrals from Spanish law enforcement personnel. The government also reported it provided a reflection period to 98 victims of sex trafficking, compared to 46 victims given this protection in 2010. Authorities granted 58 short-term residency permits to victims who were cooperating with law enforcement personnel in 2011, an increase from 37 permits issued the previous year. Longer-term (one-year, renewable to two years) residency permits were offered to victims who agreed to testify in court against trafficking offenders. NGOs reported cases of victims who, despite assisting authorities with evidence and court testimony, were not provided long-term residency permits. An NGO reported trafficking victims continue to be subject to penal action, detained, or deported; the government released some victims from jail and granted them the 30-day reflection period only after intense advocacy and pressure from NGOs.

The regional anti-trafficking unit in Catalonia conducted at least three major anti-trafficking operations against Nigerian and Chinese trafficking networks during the year. In one of the operations, local authorities raided 33 apartments and other establishments operating as brothels, arresting 41 people and assisting 32 Chinese victims, plus five minor sex trafficking victims identified. Although the government initiated prosecution in trafficking cases involving 149 victims in 2011, only 24 of these victims opted to receive protections provided under Spanish law; this gap suggests inadequate implementation of Article 59. The government continued to provide funding and cooperate with NGOs in the provision of specialized anti-trafficking training for law enforcement officers who investigate trafficking.

Prevention

The national government, along with regional and local authorities, continued to implement multiple prevention campaigns to raise awareness and decrease demand for prostitution in Spain in 2011. The Ministry of Health, Social Services, and Equality continued to sponsor an exhibit called, "Slaves of the 21st Century" portraying the causes and consequences of trafficking. The national government continued to implement its National Action Plan Against Sexual Exploitation. A draft action plan on forced labor, initiated over two years ago, has been included in the implementation protocol of the National Action Plan. During the year, the Attorney General's office published a report on the government's anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. According to the Spanish military, Spanish troops received trafficking awareness training prior to their deployment abroad for international peacekeeping missions.

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