Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 15:22 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - El Salvador

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - El Salvador, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 18 January 2018]
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.


El Salvador is a source, transit, and destination country for women, men, and children who are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Women and girls, many from rural areas of El Salvador, are exploited in sex trafficking in urban centers. Some Salvadoran adults and children are subjected to forced labor in agriculture, domestic service, and forced begging. The majority of foreign victims are women and children from neighboring countries, particularly Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras, who migrate to El Salvador in response to job offers, but are subsequently forced into prostitution, domestic service, construction, or work in the informal sector. Gangs continued to use children for illicit activities, in some cases using force or coercion, and police reported that over 2,500 gang members detained in 2011 were children. Salvadorans have been subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, and the United States. Members of organized criminal groups are reportedly involved in some trafficking crimes in El Salvador.

The Government of El Salvador does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government increased its convictions of sex trafficking offenders and maintained a shelter for underage victims of sex trafficking. However, there was little information regarding victims identified or assisted, minimal specialized services for adult victims, and only modest interagency public awareness efforts.

Recommendations for El Salvador: Provide comprehensive victim services and assistance for victims, particularly for adults, through increased funding for such services; strengthen efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and to convict and sentence trafficking offenders, including government officials complicit in trafficking offenses; proactively investigate possible cases of forced labor, including domestic servitude; increase training on victim identification and assistance for local immigration, law enforcement, and judicial officials; enhance funding and capacity for specialized police and prosecutorial anti-trafficking units; establish formal mechanisms for identifying victims among vulnerable populations; provide foreign victims with legal alternatives to their deportation; improve data collection capacity regarding victim identification and care; and increase public awareness of all forms of human trafficking.


The Government of El Salvador's law enforcement efforts against human trafficking during the reporting period included increased convictions of traffickers; however, official complicity remained a problem. Article 367B of the Salvadoran Penal Code prohibits all forms of human trafficking and prescribes penalties of four to eight years' imprisonment. Such penalties are sufficiently stringent, though not commensurate with penalties prescribed for serious offenses such as rape, which carries a punishment of six to 20 years' imprisonment. Cases involving children who may have been forced by gangs to engage in illicit activities were not investigated or handled as potential trafficking cases, despite indications that force or coercion may have been involved. The government's dedicated anti-trafficking police and prosecutorial units were located in the capital, and officers highlighted the need for more effective investigative efforts at the local level. During the year, police significantly increased the number of "work teams" in the special unit for investigation of trafficking, smuggling, and crimes against sexual liberty, from three to eight.

Officials reported investigating 76 potential cases of human trafficking in 2011. Authorities prosecuted fifteen traffickers, and obtained nine convictions for sex trafficking with imposed sentences ranging from four to nine years' imprisonment. This is an increase compared with five prosecutions and three convictions reported in 2010. There was no information available regarding the investigation of the former head of the dedicated prosecutorial anti-trafficking unit for trafficking-related complicity. NGOs reported that corruption is a significant obstacle to trafficking convictions. In November 2011, a judge dismissed charges against nine suspects in a child sex trafficking case and stated that the underage victim should have been prosecuted for having false identity documents; the attorney general's office is appealing the case. Dependence on witness testimony in the judicial process and the absence of witness protection provisions left victims and their families vulnerable to threats. Some officials demonstrated a limited understanding of human trafficking. During the reporting period, the government conducted investigations with other governments and extradited a trafficking suspect from the Dominican Republic.


The Salvadoran government maintained a shelter for underage girls who were victims of sex trafficking in the capital, but services for other victims remained minimal. Immigration officials continued efforts to identify possible trafficking victims in border regions, notifying the police and referring victims to care facilities; in general, however, the Salvadoran government did not proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as people in prostitution or migrant laborers. The government's San Salvador shelter accommodated up to 15 girls at a time and offered victims psychological and medical care as well as education and vocational training; victims could not leave the shelter unaccompanied. During the year 22 victims received assistance at this shelter. Most assistance and services, including shelter, were not readily accessible to adults or male children, and many services, including vocational training, were provided by NGOs and international organizations. The government did not report funding civil society organizations to provide care to trafficking victims.

Authorities did not report the number of victims identified or assisted during the year, but noted that 26 victims were involved in the 76 cases under investigation. Authorities encouraged identified victims to assist with law enforcement efforts and provided limited psychological and medical assistance to those who did; 24 victims participated in investigations or prosecutions of their traffickers during the reporting period. Other victims chose not to assist law enforcement efforts due to social stigma, fear of reprisals from their traffickers, or lack of trust in the judicial system. Identified trafficking victims generally were not charged, jailed, or penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The government offered no legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.


The Salvadoran government maintained modest prevention efforts during the reporting period. In July 2011 the government replaced its anti-trafficking committee with a new anti-trafficking council. This move was intended to reflect a higher level of commitment to the issue, but the new council was not noticeably active during the reporting period. The government indicated it maintained a campaign about child sex tourism, but there were no details, and authorities did not report identifying or investigating any cases of child sex tourism during the year. No specific government efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor were reported over the last year.

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