El Salvador (Tier 2)

El Salvador is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children who are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Women and girls from rural areas of El Salvador are subjected to sex trafficking in urban areas, sometimes by family members. Some Salvadoran adults and children are subjected to forced labor in the agriculture and domestic service sectors. The majority of foreign victims are women and children from neighboring countries, such as Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, who migrate to El Salvador in response to job offers, but are subsequently forced into prostitution or domestic service. Traffickers use fraudulent documentation to recruit and transport foreign victims. Salvadorans have been subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, the United States, Spain, and Italy. 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 sustained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts against sex trafficking offenders and continued to provide comprehensive services to underage victims of sex trafficking. It did not vigorously investigate or prosecute incidents of forced labor or incidents of official complicity, however, nor did it take adequate measures to ensure that adult trafficking victims received access to necessary services.

Recommendations for El Salvador: 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; provide comprehensive victim services and assistance, particularly for adults; 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; and increase public awareness of all forms of human trafficking, possibly in partnership with civil society, the media, and the private sector.


The Government of El Salvador sustained its law enforcement efforts against human trafficking during the reporting period. 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, but are not commensurate with penalties prescribed for serious offenses such as rape, which carries a punishment of six to 20 years' imprisonment. Sentences may be increased by one-third when the offense is accompanied by aggravated circumstances, such as when the offense is committed against a child or the defendant is a public official. Since passage of El Salvador's anti-trafficking statute in 2004, some prosecutors prefer to charge sex trafficking crimes under the country's rape statute to secure heavier mandatory sentences against trafficking offenders. In 2010, the government's dedicated anti-trafficking police and prosecutorial units investigated 78 potential cases of human trafficking, all but five of which involved sex trafficking. Authorities prosecuted five sex trafficking cases, and obtained three convictions with imposed sentences ranging from four to eight years' imprisonment. These efforts represented a decrease from the seven trafficking offenders prosecuted and convicted in 2009. Some officials demonstrated a limited understanding of human trafficking. In partnership with NGOs and international organizations, the government conducted anti-trafficking training programs for police officers, immigration officials, diplomats, and prosecutors. Authorities continued to investigate the former head of the dedicated prosecutorial anti-trafficking unit for trafficking-related complicity. NGOs reported that corruption is a significant obstacle to obtaining trafficking convictions and that some officials fail to properly investigate cases involving possible complicity of government employees in trafficking. During the reporting period, the government sustained or forged partnerships with foreign governments through cooperation on seven trafficking investigations with the United States, two with Mexico and Guatemala, and one each with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras.


The Salvadoran government maintained victim assistance efforts last year, particularly through services for girl victims of sex trafficking. Immigration officials screened for 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 other vulnerable populations, such as prostituted women or child laborers. The government spent approximately $260,000 to maintain a shelter dedicated to underage girls who had been exploited in prostitution. This shelter accommodated up to 25 girls at a time and offered victims psychological and medical care as well as education and vocational training. During the reporting period, the shelter provided assistance to 40 victims. Most assistance and services were not readily accessible to adult or male child trafficking victims, and the government-administered shelter for victims of domestic violence did not shelter any adult female trafficking victims as a result of a policy change. Further services, including vocational training, were provided by NGOs and international organizations, and officials reported referring 16 child victims to an NGO for assistance. The government did not provide funding to NGOs for the care of trafficking victims. Authorities identified a total of 56 victims during the reporting period. Salvadoran consular officials abroad identified three victims during the same time frame. Domestically, authorities encouraged identified victims to assist with law enforcement efforts; 12 victims participated in investigations or prosecutions of their traffickers during the reporting period, though others chose not to assist law enforcement efforts due to social stigma or fear of reprisals from their traffickers. Identified trafficking victims generally were not charged, jailed, or penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; however, not all government officials recognized cases of forced labor or forced prostitution as human trafficking. The government offered no legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.


The Salvadoran government sustained modest anti-trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period. Authorities reported training 15,000 students, 5,000 police officers, 400 teachers, 136 tour guides, and 17 prosecutors about all forms of human trafficking. While the government continued the efforts of its interagency anti-trafficking committee, the committee reportedly suffered from a lack of coordination. However, it presented an annual report in 2010 about government efforts to combat human trafficking to El Salvador's Congress. El Salvador has a national anti-trafficking plan, launched in 2008, but some members of the committee reported that the plan was inadequate. During the reporting period, authorities forged a partnership with an NGO to map trafficking patterns in the country. The government included anti-trafficking information in the training it gives to military forces prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. The government reported launching a campaign about child sex tourism during the reporting period, but there were no details, and authorities did not investigate any cases of child sex tourism. No specific government efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor were reported over the last year.


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