Last Updated: Monday, 14 July 2014, 09:54 GMT

Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Argentina

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 - Argentina, 4 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/484f99ff43.html [accessed 14 July 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.

ARGENTINA (Tier 2 Watch List)

Argentina is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Most victims are trafficked within the country, from rural to urban areas, for exploitation in prostitution. Child sex tourism is a problem, particularly in the tri-border area. Argentine women and girls also are trafficked to neighboring countries, Mexico, and Western Europe for sexual exploitation. Foreign women and children, primarily from Paraguay, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic, are trafficked to Argentina for commercial sexual exploitation. Argentina also is a transit point for foreign women and girls trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation in Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, and Western Europe. A significant number of Bolivians, Peruvians, and Paraguayans are trafficked into the country for forced labor in sweatshops, agriculture, and as domestic servants. Anecdotal reporting suggests that an increasing number of Chinese migrants may be trafficked for labor exploitation into Chinese-owned supermarkets. Reports of human trafficking have increased in Argentina, which may be due to growing public awareness, as well as a higher number of migrants in the country, some of whom are vulnerable to being trafficked.

The Government of Argentina does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite some progress, Argentina remains on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year for its failure to show evidence of increasing efforts to combat human trafficking, particularly in terms of providing adequate assistance to victims and curbing official complicity with trafficking activity, especially on the provincial and local levels. While the Argentine Congress demonstrated progress by enacting much-needed and first-ever federal anti-trafficking legislation, a number of NGOs have expressed concern that the new law may be limited in terms of providing appropriate legal protection for adult trafficking victims and adequately punishing trafficking offenders. Government officials, however, indicate that they have the statutory tools they need to confront human trafficking crimes on the federal level. Immediately implementing and dedicating resources for the new anti-trafficking law should assist the government's efforts.

Recommendations for Argentina: Vigorously enforce all provisions of the new federal antitrafficking law; increase and expedite prosecution efforts against traffickers; increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict public officials who facilitate human trafficking activity; provide greater assistance and protection to victims; and improve data collection for trafficking crimes. In order to address criticism of the new federal law, it is recommended that Argentina implement it in a manner that clarifies that prosecutors do not have to prove lack of "assent" or "consent" on the part of adult trafficking victims in addition to the legal elements of trafficking, or, if that proves impossible, revise the law accordingly, consistent with the requirements of the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

Prosecution

The government demonstrated progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. In April 2008, the Argentine Congress enacted first-ever federal legislation to prohibit all forms of trafficking, prescribing penalties of three to 15 years' imprisonment. Such penalties are sufficiently stringent and exceed those prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. However, a number of NGO advocates have raised questions as to whether the new law is sufficient to meet Argentina's obligations under the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, particularly with respect to criminalizing trafficking offenses against adult victims. Of specific concern are provisions which distinguish between offenses committed against victims 18 years old or younger and those committed against adult victims, which are read by some to imply that in the latter case, prosecutors must provide proof that adult victims did not "consent" to their trafficking. During the reporting period, however, as there was no federal law in place, most trafficking-related cases were prosecuted at the provincial level, yet jurisdictional disputes among federal and local authorities hampered Argentina's ability to convict and punish some trafficking offenders. In September 2007, the city of Buenos Aires criminalized trafficking in minors to prosecute such cases on the local level, and specialized anti-trafficking police units were established in Tucuman and Santa Fe provinces. An anti-trafficking program launched by the Ministry of Justice in July 2007 was dissolved in December 2007; it will be replaced by a new national program to combat trafficking in persons, which will become effective with final implementation of Argentina's new federal anti-trafficking law.

Government officials were not able to provide complete data or information about prosecutions against traffickers in 2007; lack of an enacted federal anti-trafficking law impeded the collection of nationwide data and statistics, making analysis of Argentina's anti-trafficking efforts difficult to gauge. However, anecdotal data gleaned from media reports and interviews with provincial officials indicate that provincial governments secured at least 10 trafficking-related convictions during the reporting period, with sentences ranging from four to 17 years' imprisonment; this represents an increase in efforts when compared to information gathered last year. In June 2007, Cordoba courts convicted three men and two women on charges of indentured servitude, promotion of prostitution, and sexual abuse. The defendants were sentenced to prison. In December 2007, Misiones courts convicted five defendants for promoting prostitution of children as part of a family-run business; the defendants were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to six years. Provincial governments and the city of Buenos Aires also continued a number of antitrafficking investigations, and formal charges are pending in several cases. In Buenos Aires, prosecutors continued to investigate an international case involving eight Dominican women who had been trafficked into a brothel after being promised jobs as waitresses; police raided the brothel in February 2007 after one of the women was hospitalized and reported her exploitation. In October 2007, police investigated an accusation from a young victim, and arrested six men and three women in the province of Buenos Aires on charges of sexual abuse and prostituting children between the ages of four and 17. The individuals arrested were relatives of the children, including parents, aunts, and uncles. One victim accused the suspects of filming her while being sexually exploited and then distributing the material; she also claimed that her parents hosted "sexual parties" where the children were sexually exploited by family members and other "clients."

In December 2007, Argentine police and prosecutors cooperated with Bolivian law enforcement by arresting a sweatshop owner for raping a 12-year-old girl and forcing her to work; charges remain pending. In February 2008, judicial authorities opened a prosecution against eight defendants alleged to have operated a child prostitution ring; the case involved the death of a 12-year-old boy. Prosecutors also continued to investigate police and official complicity in a case in which 37 women were rescued from a brothel in Chubut province. Two former police officers, four former public officials, and two brothel owners have been charged in the case, but only the brothel owners remain in pretrial detention. According to NGOs and international organizations, some elements of the country's security forces are complicit in human trafficking activity. The vast majority of these allegations are made against provincial rather than federal forces. Police officers are reported to own brothels, or to provide traffickers with protection in exchange for bribes, sexual services, food, and alcohol. During regular police inspections of cabarets and bars, some officials ignore potential trafficking situations and victims or tip off brothel owners of impending police raids. Other local law enforcement officials have intimidated witnesses or offered them bribes to change their testimony. Due to the reported level of corruption within many provincial police forces, some judges have ordered bar inspections to be carried out by federal forces instead of local police.

Protection

The government exhibited inadequate efforts to assist victims during the reporting period, and relied on NGOs and international organizations to provide the bulk of assistance to trafficking victims. The government does not operate victim shelters dedicated to trafficking victims, and a small trafficking shelter which had existed in Puerto Iguazu closed due to diminished government funding. Trafficking victims are referred by government offices to other shelters, space permitting. The quality and level of victim care varies by province. On the federal level, the attorney general's office coordinated victim-assistance policy and offered victims willing to prosecute their traffickers with access to medical and psychological treatment, legal counseling, and referrals to other sources of assistance. In April 2007, the government expanded an existing violence hotline to assist trafficking victims, and more then 100 complaints were referred to the federal attorney general's office. Argentine authorities encourage victims to assist with the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers, but some victims were reluctant to do so because of shame or fear of reprisals from their traffickers. Additional training for police and prosecutors on sensitive victim interviewing techniques, in addition to providing victims with greater government or NGO support during court proceedings, should assist with encouraging victims to confront and prosecute their traffickers. Similarly, establishment of a secure witness protection program, as provided in Argentina's new anti-trafficking law, would assist prosecution efforts. During the reporting period, the federal government provided a small amount of assistance to anti-trafficking NGOs. The government did not systematically and proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as prostituted women in brothels or criminal detainees. There were reports of victims jailed or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. Although the government does not have a formal visa for foreign trafficking victims, foreign victims are not typically deported. In addition, citizens of Mercosur member or associate states can obtain temporary residency in Argentina under Argentine immigration law.

Prevention

The government maintained prevention activities during the reporting period. In October 2007, an interim executive decree was issued to coordinate federal governmental and NGO anti-trafficking efforts, provide victim assistance, and establish a national hotline, among other measures. These executive reforms should become effective once the national anti-trafficking law is implemented. The government lent support to an IOM-sponsored anti-trafficking media campaign featured on public television and on closed-circuit TVs in Buenos Aires' subway system warning citizens about the dangers of sexual and labor exploitation. One media spot explained how brothel "clients" can report suspected human trafficking activity. In an effort to reduce demand for commercial sex acts, the city of Buenos Aires and IOM continued a billboard campaign entitled: "Without Clients There is No Prostitution." The government also provided materials to local chambers of tourism, particularly in the tri-border area, to prevent child sex tourism. The city of Buenos Aires continued a prevention campaign against labor exploitation entitled: "Slavery Kills People." The campaign features a website and hotline through which citizens can report information on suspected sweatshops. Through greater media coverage and NGO and government efforts, public awareness about the dangers of human trafficking in Argentina appears to be increasing.

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