Spain

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Tier 1

SPAIN: Tier 1

The Government of Spain fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, Spain remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts through increased prosecutions of traffickers, including the first prosecutions of defendants who allegedly forced victims to commit crimes. Authorities cooperated extensively with multinational law enforcement efforts, trained more police and judicial officials, and strengthened collaboration with NGOs in victim identification and assistance. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it convicted fewer traffickers, initiated fewer investigations, and identified fewer labor trafficking victims than in the prior reporting period.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SPAIN

Increase prosecutions and convictions of trafficking offenses, particularly for forced labor; increase training on proactive victim identification, in particular among women in prostitution, irregular migrants, unaccompanied minors, and workers in industries and agricultural regions with high incidences of labor exploitation; increase efforts to reduce demand for forced labor, including in supply chains and government procurement; train all prosecutors and judges, not just those specializing in trafficking cases, on a victim-centered approach to law enforcement; extend protections for all victims under the 2015 Law of the Statute of Victims of Crime, including through increased training for judges; increase witness protection resources available to victims; continue improvements in police training at both national and provincial levels, including increased focus on effective and accurate interviewing standards of victims; further strengthen levels of cooperation between NGOs and law enforcement officials at both national and regional levels; continue implementation of the national plan, adding benchmarks and indicators of progress; provide victims with access to compensation, including from assets seized from traffickers.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Article 177 bis of the criminal code criminalizes forced labor or begging, sexual exploitation and organ removal by means of force, fraud or coercion. In keeping with international law, reliance on means of force, fraud or coercion is not necessary to prove a crime of trafficking when the victim is a child. The law prescribes penalties from five to eight years imprisonment, with enhanced penalties of up to 12 years in certain circumstances, including when the trafficker is a public official or part of a criminal conspiracy. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and generally commensurate with the prescribed penalties for other serious crimes. Trafficking for purposes of the commission of crimes is expressly prohibited in the criminal code. The Office of the Prosecutor reported investigating 272 cases for sexual or labor trafficking in 2016, compared to 344 cases in 2015 and 293 cases in 2014. The government initiated prosecutions of 54 defendants (37 for sex trafficking and 17 for labor trafficking) in 2016, compared with 45 in 2015 (30 and 15, respectively). For the first time the government prosecuted four defendants under article 177 bis for trafficking for the purpose of the commission of crimes. Courts convicted 24 traffickers in 2016, of which 22 were for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking, a decrease compared with 58 convictions for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking in 2015.

While the government did not provide comprehensive sentencing data, examples included a 34-year sentence for the leader of a sex trafficking ring, plus a fine of €80,000 ($84,300) to be provided to the victims. A court sentenced two traffickers to 10 and 13.5 years in prison, respectively, for sex trafficking of Nigerian women, plus a fine of €100,000 ($105,370) used for victim compensation. Two traffickers received sentences of 34.5 and 36 years, respectively, for labor exploitation of four Spaniards. Traffickers serve an average of 75 percent of their sentence before being eligible for parole, and courts may impose separate sentences on multiple criminal offenses.

The government did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. Authorities collaborated with transnational investigations, including one 2016 operation in which national police detained 24 members of a sex trafficking ring and assisted 21 Nigerian female victims. The government provided specialized training on trafficking to law enforcement officials developed with input from NGOs. In 2016, the government trained 300 new civil guard officers on victim identification, all new prosecutors on trafficking issues, and 600 civil servants and social workers in rural areas. The government included sessions on trafficking for the annual required training for judges. NGOs noted inconsistent application of victim protections by judges, and along with the Office of the National Rapporteur recommended increased training for judges on human trafficking. The government continued anti-trafficking training for consular and immigration officials.

PROTECTION

The government maintained protection efforts. Authorities reported identifying 73 victims of sex trafficking and 12 victims of labor trafficking in the first six months of 2016, compared with 65 sex trafficking victims and 104 labor trafficking victims identified in the first six months of 2015. Authorities also identified 274 victims of sexual exploitation and 207 victims of labor exploitation, who may also be trafficking victims. Since 2013, the government has used a victim identification protocol developed with NGO input. NGOs reported good cooperation with law enforcement in the identification and referral of victims for assistance, including NGO participation in inspections of brothels and at locations where victims may have been present.

The government maintained funding levels equal to those of the prior year, allocating €4.9 million ($5.2 million) for the protection and support of trafficking victims, including €2 million ($2.1 million) for NGOs providing services and shelter to victims. The government provided free health care, legal assistance, social welfare benefits, and funds for repatriation to trafficking victims, and also referred some victims to an NGO network running facilities, which received funding from national and local governments and private sources. There were specialized centers for child victims of crime and seven trafficking shelters—all NGO-run—to assist child victims. Two multipurpose NGO-run shelters were available for adult male victims. NGOs provided victims temporary shelter and access to legal, medical, and psychological services. The Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality, collaborating with NGOs, continued to update and use a victim resource guide, available in 12 languages, also for use by victims. The guide listed by region 50 NGOs providing services, 164 shelters for victims and their children, and covered social, psychological, medical, legal, training, housing, and job search tools.

In 2015, the government enacted laws providing additional protections to sex trafficking victims, including more time to appeal the dismissal of cases against alleged traffickers; the ability to appeal decisions made by court officials regarding terms of incarceration, parole, and release; as well as requiring that victims receive updates on the status of cases. The government had not yet reported on implementation of these provisions. Police in Catalonia often asked NGOs to join investigations to better assist victims and provide information to victims on resources available to them. Assets seized from convicted defendants supported a fund used to fight or prevent trafficking or to assist victims, although NGOs reported that seized assets were rarely used for victim compensation. NGOs called for legal reform to better protect witnesses, including permitting video testimony in all cases and increased resources to the Office of Witness Protection to provide adequate assistance to victims, as fewer victims were willing to testify against criminal networks in cases where the court allowed release of witness names. NGOs noted while police training improved with increased use of NGO trainers and materials in victim identification trainings, law enforcement personnel in some provinces did not have sufficient knowledge on the sensitivities and techniques required for interviewing and advising victims.

Foreign victims could request a renewable residence permit for up to five years based on their cooperation with law enforcement or, in some cases, on the basis of their personal situation without regard to whether they assisted law enforcement. Victims could also receive assistance to return to their country of origin if they were not participating in a criminal prosecution. The government allowed for reflection periods of a minimum of 90 days—time during which victims from outside the European Union could recover while deciding whether to assist law enforcement—however, the government did not report how many victims received this benefit in 2016. Citizens of EU member states, however, are not limited to the 90-day reflection period and face no deadline for claiming social services or cooperating with authorities. Under the 2012 penal code reform, approved in March 2015, victims are protected from prosecution for any unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.

PREVENTION

The government maintained prevention efforts. The national anti-trafficking working group, operationally led by the Ministry of the Interior, and including the Ministries of Health, Justice, and Labor, set goals for fighting trafficking, established quarterly reviews, and facilitated data sharing between law enforcement and other agencies. The government extended the national plan through 2018, with an increased focus on protection of women and girls, identification of and provision of services to victims, and multi-sectoral coordination. A wide range of government and non-government stakeholders provided input, and NGOs supported these priorities, although noted a need to add indicators of progress and projected dates for achieving goals. The government continued a multi-year funding commitment of €104 million ($109.6 million) to the national plan.

Toward fulfillment of objectives in the national plan, the government continued expanded prevention efforts through public awareness campaigns, including a television series, traditional media, digital media, and social media that reached up to two million people, with extensive press coverage. The government and NGOs operated hotlines for reporting suspected trafficking cases. While the government continued efforts to discourage newspapers from publishing classified ads for sexual services offered by individuals engaged in prostitution, of which NGOs estimated 90 percent may be trafficking victims, nearly all major newspapers, with one exception, continued to publish some ads. The government monitored victim assistance efforts, shared its assessments on trafficking with domestic and international organizations, and continued to publish data on the numbers of victims, accused traffickers, prosecutions, and convictions.

The government partnered with an international organization to discourage international sex tourism and warned Spanish citizens they may be prosecuted under Spanish law for such acts committed overseas. The government’s efforts to reduce demand for forced labor included a nine percent increase in civil guard labor inspections. The government further increased cooperation with Romanian law enforcement officials to thwart labor trafficking rings, and supported public awareness campaigns in Romania to inform workers of their employment rights in the EU. The Romanian embassy reported that labor trafficking of its citizens in Spain has decreased by more than 30 percent over the past 10 years. Spanish troops received anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment on international peacekeeping missions. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel and distributed guidance to all foreign diplomatic missions in Madrid on identification of trafficking victims.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, Spain is a destination, source, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Women from Eastern Europe (particularly Romania and Bulgaria), South America (particularly Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador), China, and Nigeria are subjected to sex trafficking in Spain. Men and women from South and East Asia, particularly China, are subjected to forced labor in the textile, agricultural, construction, industrial, and service sectors. Victims are recruited by false promises of employment in the service industry or agriculture and forced into prostitution and debt bondage upon their arrival to Spain. Traffickers also lure some victims from within Spain and the EU. Prostitution is allowed under certain conditions in Spain, although NGOs believe a large percentage of individuals in prostitution in Spain are trafficking victims. Many women in prostitution in Spain are held under the control of Nigerian, Romanian, and Spanish trafficking networks that operate out of major cities in Spain. However, victims are increasingly subjected to trafficking by individuals and smaller groups of traffickers, often in homes or apartments where detection and investigation are more difficult. Unaccompanied migrant children continue to be vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced begging.