U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - Colombia

Colombia (Tier 1)

Colombia is a major source and transit country for women and girls trafficked for sexual exploitation. Colombians are trafficked to Central America, Panama, the Caribbean (particularly the Netherlands Antilles), Japan, Singapore, and Europe (particularly Spain and the Netherlands). The Colombian government estimates that up to 50,000 of its citizens are in prostitution abroad, mainly in Western Europe and Japan; many of these persons are trafficked for sexual exploitation. There is significant internal trafficking for sexual exploitation in which victims are transported from rural to urban areas. Some Colombian men and boys are trafficked internally for forced labor, and the FARC terrorist organization carries out forced conscription of children for armed conflict.

The Government of Colombia fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government has shown political will at the highest levels to address one of the largest national outflows of trafficking victims in the Western Hemisphere, brought about by a guerrilla insurgency and narco-criminal enterprises. In response, the government's inter-agency committee is a model for the hemisphere: coordinating prevention campaigns, promoting law enforcement, launching a criminal database, and facilitating intra-government cooperation.


Colombia has a comprehensive anti-trafficking law and an active enforcement strategy, the keystone of which is to reach out to police officials in destination countries to break up trafficking rings and prosecute traffickers. The government conducted six international operations that freed 14 women and led to the arrests of eight traffickers. Colombia's cross-border cooperation is excellent and should be expanded to Panama and Western Europe. In 2003, the government conducted 16 prosecutions resulting in several plea bargains and three convictions for trafficking offenses. There were another 306 investigations; this marked a 38% increase from the previous year.


The government recognizes the needs of victims and generally makes solid attempts to assist its citizens abroad and child victims at home. However, these efforts are inconsistent and hampered by a lack of resources. For example, some Colombian diplomatic missions, such as the embassy in Japan, have aggressively worked to help Colombian victims; others, such as the embassy in Panama, have not thoroughly pursued with Panamanian officials the need to rescue victims trafficked for sexual exploitation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs needs to ensure that Colombian victims who want to return home are able to do so. Generally, only child victims of internal trafficking receive government assistance.


The government provides leadership and coordinates with a wide variety of institutions, including NGOs, in implementing its prevention strategy. The inter-agency committee has prepared information campaigns and helped ensure telephone hotlines function effectively. Colombian immigration officials monitor airports closely to seek out and warn potential trafficking victims before they depart; most trafficking victims travel by air. By comparison, Colombia's land border and seaports are poorly monitored. Colombia is faced with the formidable challenge of organized crime luring its citizens abroad, particularly to Western Europe and Japan. Despite prevention efforts, this outbound trafficking continues largely unabated. Destination countries need to work more closely with the Colombian government to stem this flow.


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