PERU: Tier 2

The Government of Peru 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 Peru remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by investigating and convicting more traffickers, increasing funding for law enforcement efforts, and implementing a new national anti-trafficking action plan. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Poor interagency coordination continued to hinder victim identification and assistance. Many ministries reported they did not have adequate funding to fulfill their anti-trafficking mandates. Complicity of some government officials undermined efforts to combat trafficking, but the government only reported one ongoing investigation of a complicit official in 2017.

Increase funding for, and access to, specialized, comprehensive services for all victims, including for adults and those exploited outside the capital; investigate and prosecute trafficking-related corruption and official complicity, and convict and punish complicit officials for these crimes; increase efforts to prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish traffickers, especially for forced labor; consistently implement protocols for interagency coordination and victim-centered investigations and prosecutions; establish systematic training for government officials to increase their understanding of trafficking and improve victim identification; conduct coordinated, intelligence-based raids and employ effective victim screening and referrals; protect victims’ rights throughout the entire legal process, including by assigning victim advocates to all identified victims when they are identified rather than waiting for the prosecutor to file a case; cease holding victims in police stations, especially children; train police, prosecutors, and judges to apply anti-trafficking laws effectively and issue stringent dissuasive sentences for convicted traffickers, including in cases involving psychological coercion; harmonize anti-trafficking laws, including through amending laws to remove the legal basis for inadequate sentencing; improve efforts to collect and report comprehensive, disaggregated data on anti-trafficking victim protection, law enforcement, and prosecution efforts and collect data on cases where trafficking charges were reduced to lesser offences during prosecution or at the time of sentencing; dedicate adequate funding in ministry and regional government budgets to carry out anti-trafficking responsibilities; and enforce laws against crimes that facilitate trafficking, such as fraudulent job recruitment, illegal mining, and counterfeit operations.

The government increased prosecution efforts. Article 153 of the penal code criminalized sex and labor trafficking, prescribing penalties of eight to 15 years imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law defined trafficking broadly to include all forms of labor exploitation. Article 168-B of Legislative Decree No.1232 prescribed a six-year minimum sentence for forced labor, which increased to a minimum of 12 years if the victim was 14-18 years old, or a 15-year minimum if the victim was younger than 14. Other laws criminalized elements of sex trafficking: profiting from sex trafficking carried penalties of three to 10 years imprisonment (20 years if the victim was younger than 14, 15 years if the victim was aged 14-17); pimping carried penalties of two to five years imprisonment (four to five years if the victim was younger than 18). Peruvian law also criminalized child sex tourism and prescribed penalties ranging from four to eight years imprisonment or eight to 10 years imprisonment under aggravating circumstances. The government continued to introduce the New Criminal Procedures Code, implementing it in 28 of 31 judicial districts by February 2018. The new criminal code did not require victims of trafficking to submit a complaint in order for the government to prosecute a suspected trafficker.

Peru’s overlapping legal framework on human trafficking and related crimes sometimes caused confusion for police, prosecutors, and judges in determining the appropriate charges, particularly in cases of alleged sex trafficking. For example, prosecutors often charged lesser, more readily provable offenses, such as pimping, that carried significantly lower penalties than trafficking offenses. Even when sex trafficking charges were filed, officials reported judges often reduced them to lesser charges, particularly in cases involving adult female victims. Judges applied the law unevenly in cases involving child victims; they occasionally ignored victims’ ages and therefore failed to apply the harsher penalty provisions applicable for crimes involving child victims. Prosecutors reported challenges in obtaining convictions in cases where traffickers used psychological coercion, rather than physical force or confinement, to compel victims into sex or labor exploitation.

Although several ministries operated data collection systems to track their anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim protection efforts, the government lacked a single authoritative system to record all government actions, making it difficult for authorities to assess efforts and identify trends. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) and the public ministry, however, tested an integrated data collection system during the year. Police reported conducting 865 anti-trafficking operations in 2017 (764 in 2016), resulting in the arrest of 410 suspected traffickers (427 in 2016). The public ministry’s anti-trafficking unit reported participating in 122 anti-trafficking operations and investigating 228 suspected traffickers’ cases. Authorities did not report specific details for all operations, including how many victims were identified or received protection services. Several operations involved large, coordinated raids on fraudulent employment agencies and bar-brothels, each resulting in multiple arrests and possible victims removed from the trafficking situation. Police often conducted raids on commercial sex establishments with limited intelligence-gathering and ineffective victim identification procedures. The government did not report comprehensive data on the total number of prosecutions initiated, convictions obtained, or sentencing information for trafficking offenses in 2017. However, the public ministry reported its trafficking-related prosecutions resulted in 50 court decisions in 2017, compared with 18 in 2016. Thirty-three of these cases resulted in convictions (13 in 2016). In one case, a court in Cusco issued Peru’s longest-ever sentence in a trafficking case—35 years—to a trafficker convicted of subjecting four teenage girls to child sex trafficking. In July 2017, prosecutors opened a case charging two individuals under forced labor and aggravated human trafficking statutes following a June industrial fire at an illegal counterfeiting operation that resulted in the deaths of two workers, including a 17-year-old, who had been locked inside. One U.S. citizen arrested in December 2015 for suspected sex trafficking remained in custody while under investigation in Peru; police arrested an alleged accomplice in April 2017.

The government operated eight specialized anti-trafficking regional prosecutor offices and maintained 147 specialized anti-trafficking police officers. The MOI’s overall anti-trafficking budget increased to 7.5 million soles ($2.3 million) in 2017, from approximately 826,000 soles ($255,250) in 2016, the majority of which it spent on police hiring, operations, training, and equipment. Nevertheless, poor communication and coordination between police and prosecutors sometimes compromised efforts to identify and assist victims and investigate cases, especially during law enforcement operations. NGOs and regional officials reported regional police often did not involve the national anti-trafficking police or public ministry in their cases and did not share investigative information with prosecutors. Inadequate budgets for personnel and logistical support, combined with inconsistent regional and local government capacity, hindered law enforcement efforts; this was particularly acute in regions where trafficking occurred in remote locales with limited government presence. In partnership with NGOs and an international organization, officials trained police, prosecutors, and other officials on trafficking, including how to differentiate between sex trafficking and other prostitution-related crimes. The MOI conducted several sessions to certify police officers to train additional law enforcement officials and the public ministry provided training for prosecutors and police. Authorities coordinated with foreign governments on trafficking investigations; the government maintained bilateral counter-trafficking agreements with Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador and signed new agreements with Chile and Argentina.

The government did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. NGOs and government officials reported widespread corruption in Peruvian law enforcement and judicial systems severely hampered anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Government officials, NGOs, and victims reported police engaged in extortion and threatened nightclub and brothel owners with sex trafficking charges; they falsely charged victims trying to escape bars or brothels with crimes such as theft or trafficking and accepted money to close investigations, drop charges, or exonerate traffickers, including by compelling victims to sign declarations absolving their traffickers. Some judges and prosecutors may have accepted bribes to downgrade trafficking charges to lesser crimes. Some officials’ involvement in the mining industry posed a conflict of interest that impeded law enforcement action against trafficking in mining areas. Government officials and NGOs reported some police officers, including members of the specialized anti-trafficking units, accepted bribes from bar-brothels and illegal mining sites to avoid police anti-trafficking raids. A former member of congress remained under investigation for allegedly operating a hotel where child sex trafficking occurred. The government did not track accusations against or involvement of government officials in trafficking cases.

The government maintained weak victim protection efforts. Most victims continued to lack access to specialized services. The anti-trafficking law (law 28950) required the government to assist and protect victims by providing temporary lodging, transportation, medical and psychological care, legal assistance, and reintegration assistance, although the government did not fulfill this mandate. Peru’s anti-trafficking law and implementing regulations assigned responsibility to several ministries, as well as regional and local governments, for identifying suspected victims among the high-risk populations they served and referring them to appropriate authorities, but government capacity and some local officials’ understanding of trafficking was limited and hindered victim identification and assistance. The MOI attempted to address these capacity gaps by providing training for officials, police, and service providers on victim care and protection protocols. Police reported identifying 1,229 suspected victims in 2017, compared with 1,134 identified in 2016, though this number could not be verified. Of these, 1,155 were female and 74 were male; 302 of the total were children.

The Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations (MIMP) was responsible for coordinating and providing services to victims in partnership with regional governments, although confusion over whether the national or regional government was ultimately responsible for service provision at times hampered victim assistance. MIMP did not report how many victims received services in 2017. The public ministry’s program for victims and witnesses assisted 521 trafficking victims in 2017, compared with 437 trafficking victims assisted in 2016. The government operated two shelters, in Lima and Masuco, exclusively for trafficking victims, with a total capacity of 28 beds. While the government operated 48 residential centers for children and adolescents, staff in these shelters lacked the expertise and resources to provide adequate protection services to trafficking victims. Many civil society organizations operated shelters or provided other services for victims without government support, although few offered trafficking-specific services. Many shelters were in secure locations and victims could not leave unaccompanied. There were no facilities that could accommodate adult male victims and no specialized services for LGBTI victims. Shelter and specialized psychological, employment, and other services remained unavailable in most areas and for most adults and labor trafficking victims.

The law required the government to provide a victim advocate, known as a public defender, to safeguard victims’ legal rights, and to provide for witness protection. Because the government did not assign public defenders to victims until the prosecutor officially filed the case, which could take several weeks, many victims, including children, faced questioning from law enforcement and justice officials without this advocate’s assistance. The Ministry of Justice reported it provided legal assistance to 394 trafficking victims in 2017 and increased the number of public defenders available for trafficking victims from 217 to 225. Some anti-trafficking operations, however, were conducted without adequate resources, such as safe places to screen potential victims and provide them immediate care. Coordination problems between ministries often meant services for victims were unavailable immediately following law enforcement operations. Peruvian law granted victims the ability to receive restitution, but the government did not report any victims receiving restitution in 2017. Most victims did not receive sufficient protective services, leaving them at high risk of re-trafficking. Officials cited the lack of adequate protective services as a key impediment to their ability to combat trafficking effectively in the country as victims’ needs and safety concerns were not addressed sufficiently. The new national anti-trafficking action plan sought to reduce the risk of re-victimization by including a specific “victim reintegration plan” within the national action plan.

According to an international organization, the government treated foreign victims as refugees, referring them first to the UN, which then assisted them in filing a complaint and seeking government services. It was not clear whether all foreign victims went through this process or how many foreign victims were identified during the reporting period, although MOI reported identifying 59 possible foreign victims (all female). Foreign victims were eligible for temporary and permanent residency status under Peruvian refugee law, but the government did not report if any victims received this status in 2017. The government did not report whether it assisted in the repatriation of any Peruvian victims exploited abroad.

Due to inadequate victim identification procedures, some sex trafficking victims may have remained unidentified and been arrested, detained, or otherwise punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. Authorities often lacked training to identify sex trafficking victims among women in prostitution and authorities often made such determinations based on whether an individual had access to identity documents and a required public health certificate. The government had both inter- and intra-ministerial protocols for providing protection to trafficking victims, but implemented them unevenly due to insufficient resources and poor interagency coordination. At times, the government placed child victims in police stations among children apprehended for crimes, where they sometimes remained for extended periods. These children faced conditions similar to detention, though they were not charged with crimes.

The government maintained prevention efforts. The interagency commission, which also included NGOs and international organizations, met regularly and produced an annual report of the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. The commission finished drafting a new national anti-trafficking action plan for 2017-2021, which took effect in June 2017. Twenty-four regional governments maintained anti-trafficking working groups, which varied in effectiveness. The national government provided technical support and training to some of these groups. The government dedicated 11 million soles ($3.4 million) to its anti-trafficking activities in 2017, an increase from 5.6 million soles ($1.7 million) in 2016. However, although several key ministries, including MIMP and MOI, had funding specifically for anti-trafficking activities, most government agencies did not have dedicated anti-trafficking budgets. Officials noted this lack of funding significantly impacted ministries’ ability to implement their duties as outlined in the national action plan, especially victim protection efforts. The government had a separate commission, inter-ministerial protocol, and plan for combating forced labor and child labor, which included greater oversight of employment agencies and strengthened response mechanisms to suspected forced or child labor. The government opened four new regional labor inspection offices in 2017 and continued to conduct inspections on formal businesses and employment and recruitment agencies. In response to the growing number of Venezuelan migrants arriving in Peru since 2016—of which more than 200,000 are expected to remain in Peru as of April 2018—the government created a permanent residence permit for Venezuelans that allowed them to work legally in the country, reducing their vulnerability to trafficking. Approximately 36,000 Venezuelans have received such permits. Various ministries conducted awareness-raising efforts, often in partnership with international organizations and NGOs and with foreign donor funding. Some of these efforts focused on preventing child sex tourism and providing information for reporting suspected abuses. In June 2017, the government entered into a partnership with another government to combat child sex and labor trafficking. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts involving children by investigating and assisting in prosecutions of child sex tourists. The government introduced a new law to criminalize illegal gold mining, which fuels the demand for trafficking in January 2017, although its impact was not clear. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel and for Peruvian peacekeepers prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

As reported over the past five years, Peru is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Indigenous Peruvians are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Peruvian women and girls, and to a lesser extent boys, are exploited in sex trafficking within the country, often recruited through false employment offers. Peruvian women and children are exploited in sex trafficking in other countries, particularly within South America, and women and girls from neighboring countries are subjected to sex trafficking in Peru. LGBTI Peruvians, especially transgender women, are vulnerable to sex trafficking. Communities located near illegal mining operations are often isolated and lack a permanent government presence, increasing the likelihood of illicit activity, including sex and labor trafficking. The high demand for commercial sex in these towns increases incentives for traffickers to bring in women and girls from various regions in Peru. Women and girls exploited in sex trafficking near mining communities are often indebted due to the cost of transportation and unable to leave due to the remoteness of camps. Tourists from the United States and Europe purchase sex from child trafficking victims in areas such as Cuzco, Lima, and the Peruvian Amazon. In the Loreto region, criminal groups facilitate transportation of foreign tourists by boat to remote locations where women and children are exploited in sex trafficking in venues on the Amazon River.

Peruvian men, women, and children are exploited in forced labor in the country, principally in illegal and legal gold mining and related services, logging, agriculture, brick-making, unregistered factories, counterfeit operations, organized street begging, and domestic service. Peruvians working in artisanal gold mines and nearby makeshift camps that provide services to miners are subjected to forced labor, including through deceptive recruitment, debt bondage, restricted freedom of movement, withholding of or non-payment of wages, and threats and use of physical violence. Forced child labor occurs in begging, street vending, domestic service, cocaine production and transportation, and other criminal activities. The terrorist group Shining Path recruits children using force and coercion to serve as combatants or guards, and uses force and coercion to subject children and adults to forced labor in agriculture, cultivating or transporting illicit narcotics, and domestic servitude, as well as to carry out its terrorist activities. While the group forcibly recruits children from the surrounding communities, many recent recruits are the children of adult members of the group. Peruvian men, women, and children are subjected to forced labor in other South American countries, the United States, and other countries. The number of Venezuelan migrants, many of whom are vulnerable to exploitation, has increased significantly each year since 2016. Migrants from other parts of South America, China, and Senegal transiting Peru to Brazil were reportedly vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking, as were migrants along Peru’s southern border with Chile.

U.S. Department of State

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