ARGENTINA: Tier 2
The Government of Argentina does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Argentina remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by identifying and assisting more victims, opening two regional anti-trafficking offices, increasing the number of investigations, and providing more training and outreach to improve protection and awareness-raising efforts. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Despite the increase in investigations and convictions, the number of prosecutions declined. In addition, the government did not confirm how many convicted traffickers served time in prison or how many victims it identified or assisted. Official complicity continued to be a significant concern, inhibiting law enforcement efforts.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ARGENTINA
Strengthen efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish traffickers with dissuasive sentences, including complicit officials; continue funding specialized shelters, provide services for male victims, and increase legal, medical, and employment services for victims; provide victim identification training to law enforcement officials and labor inspectors focused on specific vulnerable populations, such as domestic workers; draft and implement the anti-trafficking plan with an adequate budget; strengthen coordination among the federal and provincial governments and NGOs; improve efforts to collect data on victim protection efforts and assistance; and increase awareness campaigns targeting vulnerable populations.
The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Law 26842 of 2012 prohibits all forms of human trafficking and prescribes punishments of four to 10 years imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with international standards law 26842 establishes the use of force, fraud, and coercion as aggravating factors rather than essential elements of the crime. The law also includes as the crime of trafficking, facilitating or profiting from the prostitution of others and the illegal sale of organs without regard to the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Some provincial authorities investigated and prosecuted trafficking cases under different statutes related to exploitation and pimping, making it difficult to collect comprehensive data. Authorities did not report the total number of trafficking cases investigated by police in 2016. The government decreased prosecutions, but investigated and convicted more traffickers than in 2015, although it was unclear how many of the reported cases were for trafficking as defined by international law. The anti-trafficking prosecutor’s office (PROTEX) opened 1,089 preliminary investigations in 2016, compared with 358 in 2015 and 200 in 2014. The government prosecuted 54 suspected traffickers (32 for sex trafficking and 22 for labor trafficking), compared with 98 (47 for sex trafficking and 51 for labor trafficking) in 2015, and 92 for sex and labor trafficking in 2014. Despite the three-fold increase of investigations, prosecutions dropped nearly half. The government obtained convictions of 46 traffickers in 2016, compared with 35 in 2015 and 67 in 2014. Fifty-four percent of sentences ranged from two to five years imprisonment; however, under Argentine law, defendants sentenced to less than three years for any crime automatically have their sentences suspended; it was unclear how many sentences were suspended. Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, although the government continued to investigate and prosecute cases involving public officials. During the reporting period, PROTEX successfully appealed a case leading to the reopening of an investigation after allegations surfaced that one of three judges assigned to the case was involved in covering up trafficking crimes. In another case, investigations revealed members of the security forces and the judiciary were believed to be involved with three human trafficking networks; authorities indicted 26 individuals accused of sexual exploitation, and the case was pending at the end of the reporting period. In addition, the government indicted a provincial mayor and superintendent for allegedly protecting a sex trafficking organization. Despite several ongoing investigations and formal indictments, including cases from the previous year, there were no convictions of complicit officials. The government provided numerous anti-trafficking trainings to law enforcement, prosecutors, and judicial officials, among others, including virtual training courses.
The government increased protection efforts. The Program for Rescue is the government office responsible for coordinating emergency victim services nationwide; in 2016, it reported identifying 666 potential trafficking victims, compared with 424 in 2015. This includes all individuals discovered during anti-trafficking law enforcement raids, some of whom were likely in exploitative labor situations that may not rise to the level of forced labor. Federal officials had formal procedures for victim identification and assistance; however, in practice, the procedures to identify victims among vulnerable populations varied by province. Some front-line responders had limited understanding of trafficking; the government did not make efforts to identify victims of domestic servitude. Regional governments in the provinces of Chaco, Santa Fe, La Pampa, Mendoza, and La Rioja operated anti-trafficking centers, which provided psychological, social, medical, and judicial assistance to trafficking victims. In 2016, the government opened two more centers, in the provinces of Chubut and Rio Negro. A government-funded NGO operated two shelters that assisted trafficking victims, one in Buenos Aires, and one in Tucuman. The Secretariat for Children, Adolescents, and Families also operated two shelters, one for children and one for women. There were no specialized shelters for male victims; therefore, the government often placed male victims in other government-funded shelters or in hotels for temporary housing, while others returned to their country or province of origin. The Program for Rescue reported all identified victims could receive emergency assistance during the early stages of the investigation and during the initial testimony for the courts; the Ministry of Social Development provided mid-term and long-term care assistance. NGOs reported a need for long-term housing, skills training and employment, childcare and legal assistance. Foreign victims had the same access to care as Argentine nationals; however, victims were sometimes unaware of services available. Authorities did not report how many received assistance during the reporting period. The government did not report the number of victims who received repatriation assistance. There were no reports of identified victims jailed or penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being subjected to trafficking. Authorities organized 50 training courses on victim identification and assistance, reaching 2,257 individuals, including officials, members of civil society, students, teachers, and health professionals.
The government encouraged the participation of victims in trials of their traffickers by assisting victims throughout the initial testimony and during any subsequent appearances. The Program for Rescue provided tribunals with reports on the psychological state of victims and what requirements they might have to assist in the prosecution of their traffickers. Other support for victim testimony included the possibility of video testimony and the use of recorded testimony. It was unclear how many victims received such assistance during the reporting period. In 2016, a victim of sex trafficking filed and won a civil suit against her traffickers and the municipality where the abuse occurred, marking the first time that a trafficking victim was awarded restitution from her traffickers and the state.
The government maintained prevention efforts. In June 2016, the federal council on human trafficking, which included federal government entities, provincial officials, and a smaller executive council that implemented the initiatives of the federal council, met for the first time. During the reporting period, the government held sessions to draft a national action plan and identify NGOs to include on the federal council. Despite these efforts, NGOs advocated for improved interagency coordination. Some provincial governments undertook prevention efforts, such as awareness campaigns focused on students and teachers. NGOs and municipal authorities continued to express concern about child sex tourism, though there were no reported investigations or prosecutions related to this crime. The government continued proactive efforts to register informal workers and employers in rural areas and investigate non-compliance with labor laws. The government launched a new campaign to increase public awareness of trafficking indicators and to encourage the public to report cases of potential trafficking. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. Argentine troops received anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping operations.
As reported over the past five years, Argentina is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Argentine women and children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country, as are women and children from other Latin American countries. To a more limited extent, Argentine men, women, and children are subjected to sex and labor trafficking in other countries, mostly in Europe. Men, women, and children from Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, and other countries are subjected to forced labor in a variety of sectors, including sweatshops, agriculture, street vending, charcoal and brick production, domestic work, and small businesses. Chinese citizens working in supermarkets are vulnerable to debt bondage. Argentine officials report isolated cases of foreign victims recruited in Argentina and subjected to trafficking in third countries.
Vulnerable women and girls who live in extreme poverty, a violent family environment, or suffer from addiction are among those most vulnerable to trafficking; a significant number of them, originally from Bolivia and Paraguay, and to a lesser extent from the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Brazil, are subjected to sex trafficking in Argentina, as are Argentine women and girls from rural areas and the northern provinces. Traffickers from across Argentina bypass regulations that ban brothels by establishing “mobile brothels” in vans and trucks where sexual exploitation occurs, making raids more difficult; this practice is particularly prevalent in the northern area of the country. Street vendors may subject migrants from neighboring or African countries to forced labor. Transgender Argentines are exploited in sex trafficking within the country and in Western Europe. Official complicity, mainly at the sub-national levels, continues to hinder the government’s efforts to combat trafficking. In 2016, the Municipality of Ushuaia was ordered to pay restitution to a victim after being found complicit of facilitating trafficking by failing to adequately regulate brothels.