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 and convictions of traffickers, extensive cooperation with multinational law enforcement efforts, and expanding anti-trafficking training to judges. Authorities improved victim identification within the national health care sector and bolstered regional governments’ resources to coordinate assistance. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it initiated fewer investigations, did not effectively implement victim protection laws during criminal trials, and lacked adequate resources for government-run victim service centers.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SPAIN

Increase investigations, 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; 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; increase resources to victim service centers; increase efforts to reduce demand for forced labor, including in supply chains and government procurement; train all prosecutors and judges on a victim-centered approach to law enforcement; standardize protocols for child victim identification and care; re-issue a new national plan, adding benchmarks and indicators of progress; and 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 criminalized sex and labor trafficking, prescribing penalties from five to eight years imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Office of the Prosecutor initiated 135 new investigations in 2017, compared to 272 cases in 2016 and 344 cases in 2015. The prosecutor’s office stated fewer investigations were initiated due to the government’s new focus on organized criminal organizations, rather than individual traffickers. For example, in March 2018, the national police arrested 155 suspects after a three-year investigation of a Chinese-led international trafficking organization. The government initiated prosecutions of 67 defendants (60 for sex trafficking and seven for labor trafficking) in 2017, compared with 54 in 2016 (37 and 17, respectively). Courts convicted 28 traffickers in 2017, of which 26 were for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking, compared with 24 convictions (22 for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking) in 2016.

The government reported several cases in which convicted traffickers received significant penalties. In January 2017 the Barcelona provincial court sentenced eight traffickers to one to five years in prison and ordered them to pay each of their five victims €8,000 ($9,600). In February 2017 the Madrid provincial court sentenced three traffickers to seven years and eight months in prison and ordered them to pay €60,000 ($72,030) to their victim. In March 2017, the Madrid provincial court sentenced five traffickers to prison terms ranging from five years and one month to 13 years and one month and ordered them to pay €75,000 ($90,040) in total to their victims. In July 2017, the Barcelona provincial court sentenced two sex traffickers to five and six years in prison, respectively, and ordered them to pay €6,000 ($7,200) in total to the victims. In 2017, all convicted traffickers received prison sentences more than one year. Traffickers served an average of 75 percent of their sentence before being eligible for parole, and courts may impose separate sentences on multiple criminal offenses.

The national police trafficking brigade consisted of 120 investigators and, together with the civil guard, conducted 610 operations related to sex trafficking and 339 related to forced labor (510 and 401, respectively, in 2016). Authorities increased already strong collaboration with transnational investigations; several major operations were conducted during the reporting period. In March 2018, in a collaborative operation involving Spanish, Nigerian, and British authorities, the civil guard arrested 89 members of a criminal network and secured the release of 39 Nigerian victims of forced prostitution. Also in March, the national police, working together with security forces from Albania, EUROPOL, and U.S. law enforcement, dismantled a major human trafficking network centered in Albania. Security forces detained 39 people accused of trafficking more than 7,000 individuals from Albania to North America. The government provided anti-trafficking training for new police officers, consular and immigration officials, and, for the first time, judges. Specialized trafficking prosecutors maintained liaisons with the police. The government did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses.

PROTECTION

The government increased protection efforts. Authorities reported identifying 173 victims (114 of sex trafficking and 59 of labor trafficking) in the first eight months of 2017, compared with 85 victims (73 of sex trafficking and 12 of labor trafficking) in the first six months of 2016. Authorities also identified 308 victims of sexual exploitation and 235 victims of labor exploitation, some of whom may be trafficking victims; an increase from 274 and 207 in 2016, respectively. 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 Intelligence Center against Terrorism and Organized Crime provided victim identification training to national police and civil guard personnel working at ports of entry. Government and civil society reported an increase in port-of-entry victim identification as a direct result from the training. In December 2017, the Ministry of Health, Social Services, and Equality (MSSSI) distributed standardized EU victim identification guidance to public health workers and NGOs and drafted a report on the actions for identification and care of child victims. Civil society reported the need to standardize protocols for child victims across the whole of government.

The government allocated €3.5 million ($4.2 million), plus an unspecified amount from regional governments, for the protection and support of trafficking victims, including €2 million ($2.4 million) for NGOs providing temporary shelter and access to legal, medical, and psychological services. The government, through victim service offices, provided free health care, legal assistance, social welfare benefits, and funds for repatriation to victims, and also referred victims to an NGO network running facilities, which received funding from national and local governments. Government and civil society reported victim service centers were generally overburdened and needed additional training and resources to provide trafficking victims with the assistance prescribed by law. 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. The MSSSI, collaborating with NGOs, continued to update and use a victim resource guide, available in 12 languages, which listed by region 44 NGOs providing services, 82 shelters for victims and their children, and 143 centers that provide services without lodging, including 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, but civil society reported the laws lacked effective implementation. The government expanded a regional program that assigned NGO-supplied “social interlocutors” (usually survivors of trafficking themselves) to act as a liaison for victims during legal proceedings and court testimony. In March 2017, social interlocutors received a week of training with judges, prosecutors, NGOs, and labor inspectors. 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 reported inconsistent application of victim protections by judges and called for legal reform to protect witnesses better, 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.

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 EU could recover while deciding whether to assist law enforcement. The government did not report how many victims received this benefit in 2017. Citizens of EU member states, however, were not limited to the 90-day reflection period and faced no deadline for claiming social services or cooperating with authorities.

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 continued to implement the 2015-2018 national plan, which focused on protection of women and girls, identification of and provision of services to victims, and multi-sectoral coordination. The government endowed €104 million ($124.8 million) to implement the plan over its lifespan. In September 2017, congress approved a four-year State Pact against Gender Violence, which included programming to combat trafficking at the regional level. In 2017, the regional governments of Madrid, Valencia, and Navarra increased prevention efforts by signing their own anti-trafficking protocols to reinforce national laws and promote awareness. The three regions joined the regions of Galicia, Catalonia, and Extremadura, which already had protocols in place. The national rapporteur served as an independent body to monitor, evaluate, and coordinate trafficking efforts. The rapporteur held bi-monthly coordination meetings with representatives from government, NGOs, and law enforcement. NGOs lauded the rapporteur for increasing their inclusion into proceedings.

The government continued to conduct public awareness campaigns, including a television series, traditional media, digital media, roundtable discussions, 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 might be trafficking victims, most major newspapers continued to publish 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. In the first eight months of 2017, labor inspectors conducted 1,892 inspections in places where prostitution occurred, and 4,124 in centers of labor activity, which resulted in 70 reports of trafficking (52 sex trafficking, 18 labor trafficking). The government conducted joint labor inspections with Romanian police agents. The rapporteur reported that forced labor is not clearly defined in the penal code, and has added its legislative reform as an agenda priority. Spanish troops received anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment on international peacekeeping missions.

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 Venezuela, 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 and Vietnam, are subjected to forced labor in the textile, agricultural, construction, industrial, and service sectors. Prostitution is allowed under certain conditions in Spain, although NGOs believe a large percentage of individuals in prostitution in Spain are trafficking victims. Spain has seen a rise in trafficking through the Western Mediterranean as traffickers shift routes from Libya to Morocco, where victims are moved by sea into southern Spain. Nigerian criminal networks recruit victims in migrant reception centers in Italy for forced prostitution in Spain. Unaccompanied migrant children continue to be vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced begging. The increased numbers of newly arrived refugees and asylum-seekers are vulnerable to trafficking.