The Government of Uruguay 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 Uruguay remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by increasing both investigations and prosecutions, identifying more trafficking victims, allocating increased funding for the care of female victims, and continuing work on passage of a comprehensive anti-trafficking bill and national action plan. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not report convicting any traffickers, efforts to provide specialized victim services remained inadequate, and prevention efforts decreased.

Vigorously investigate and prosecute labor trafficking, forced prostitution, and child trafficking, and hold traffickers accountable with strong sentences; increase availability of specialized services, including shelters, for trafficking victims, especially outside the capital and for male victims, and continue services throughout investigation and prosecution; increase anti-trafficking training for law enforcement officials, labor inspectors, prosecutors, judges, and social workers, particularly to identify and assist victims of sex and labor trafficking, such as those in prostitution; approve the comprehensive anti-trafficking bill and finalize the national action plan; develop victim identification procedures and increase training for border patrol officials; develop and operationalize a data collection system to maintain official statistics on anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim identification efforts; increase coordination between government agencies and civil society; and increase public awareness campaigns to inform the public about trafficking and about services available to potential victims; and revise the definition of human trafficking under Uruguayan law to more closely align with the definition in the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

The government maintained prosecution efforts. Article 78 of the 2008 immigration law criminalized sex and labor trafficking, prescribing penalties of four to 16 years imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent, and with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 79 made it a crime punishable by two to eight years imprisonment to facilitate the movement of persons into or out of the country for human trafficking. Article 81 provided enhanced penalties for both articles 78 and 79 when the crime was committed by a habitual offender or by police or other safety officials and when the victim was a child. Inconsistent with the definition of trafficking under international law, article 81 established the use of force, fraud, and coercion as aggravating factors rather than essential elements of the crime.

The Uruguayan Senate approved the draft comprehensive anti-trafficking bill developed by the Interagency Committee to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Persons. The proposed legislation focused on prevention, investigation, support for victims of trafficking, and data collection. It remained pending in the Uruguayan House of Representatives at the end of the reporting period.

The government did not collect comprehensive data on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and there was no system for tracking court cases. Individual courts and police departments were the primary repositories for data collection. In 2017, the government initiated 10 trafficking investigations, compared with six investigations in both 2016 and 2015. The government reported 23 sex trafficking prosecutions, compared with four prosecutions in 2016 and 15 in 2015. The government did not report whether it convicted any perpetrators, compared with three convictions in 2016 and zero in both 2015 and 2014. The three convictions reported during the previous reporting period remained under appeal. Authorities did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.

The gender unit in the Attorney General’s Office focused on investigating and prosecuting crimes related to trafficking and the exploitation of children. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) and an NGO jointly organized a workshop on victim identification for 38 police officers. The Ministry of Social Development (MIDES) held 16 sessions for 593 government officials on combating sexual exploitation of women. The MOI held a training course for 39 police officers on combating gender-based violence.

The government increased protection efforts. The National Institute for Women (Inmujeres), under MIDES, was the principal provider of services for female victims of abuse. Inmujeres reported assisting 172 victims of trafficking (71 new cases, 101 initiated during previous reporting periods), an increase from 131 in 2016. More than half of those assisted were foreign victims; it was not reported how many were victims of commercial sexual exploitation as compared to victims of forced labor. An NGO partially funded by the government separately reported they provided services to more than 200 female trafficking victims, of which approximately 150 were Dominican. The National Institute for Children and Adolescent Affairs reported assisting more than 500 cases of sexual exploitation of minors in 2017, an increase from 333 in 2016; it was unclear how many were victims of trafficking. The Ministry of Labor reported identifying potential trafficking victims during a routine inspection of a private construction site in Montevideo; the case was still pending further investigation. Inmujeres continued outreach to the interior of the country through a 14-member mobile unit with psychologists, social workers, and lawyers who provided psychological support, social services, and legal guidance.

Border officials did not have standard procedures to identify trafficking cases. The MOI and other law enforcement officers closer to the capital used a standardized protocol to investigate, respond to, and assist trafficking victims. The government continued distribution of this protocol to law enforcement officials, labor inspectors, prosecutors, judges, and social workers. An NGO noted there were limited avenues available for the public to contact authorities with suspected cases of trafficking. While a formal victim referral process existed between the government agencies and NGOs, numerous NGOs reported that they were not aware of this process or that the process was unclear.

The government provided 7.7 million pesos ($267,730), an increase from 4.6 million pesos ($159,940) in 2016, to Inmujeres to assist adult female sex trafficking victims and women in prostitution with psychological, medical, and other services and to an NGO to provide assistance for female trafficking victims. MIDES was the principal provider of services for trafficking victims. Services specialized exclusively for trafficking victims did not exist in Uruguay; the government provided trafficking victims services used for other vulnerable populations, such as the homeless, refugees, and citizens on welfare. There were no shelters designated for trafficking victims, so temporary and long-term housing solutions, funded by the government, were determined on a case-by-case basis. There were no specialized services for male victims. According to an international organization, the government provided services for victims for 30 days, after which victims received general support similar to that provided to homeless people. Foreign victims had the same access to care as domestic trafficking victims, including children.

The government provided protective measures, through formal victim protection protocols, to encourage victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. According to an international organization, the government did not, in practice, provide several of the protective measures, such as victim relocation, changes of identity, and economic assistance. There were no reports victims were penalized for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. While the government did not offer trafficking-specific legal alternatives to victims’ removal to countries where they faced retribution or hardship, general asylum and work permits were available for foreign trafficking victims.

The government decreased prevention efforts. The interagency committee met monthly, including meetings specifically to develop a national action plan, which remained incomplete at the end of the reporting period. NGOs noted a decline in awareness campaigns conducted by the government during the reporting period. Local government committees hosted several awareness activities, including marches, and a seminar focusing on preventing gender-based violence. The Uruguayan parliament’s trafficking committee hosted a screening of a trafficking-themed film by a Uruguayan filmmaker during International Trafficking Day in July. Inmujeres operated a free, 24-hour hotline to request assistance from MIDES. The government made efforts to prevent child sex tourism, but did not otherwise make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor. While the government inspected legal brothels and massage parlors, inspectors lacked specific procedures to identify trafficking. Prior to their deployment, authorities gave peacekeeping troops a handbook that included a chapter on exploitation and sexual abuse.

As reported over the past five years, Uruguay is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Uruguayan women and girls—and to a more limited extent transgender adults and male adolescents—are subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Uruguayan women and LGBTI individuals are forced into prostitution in Spain, Italy, Argentina, and Brazil. Women from the Dominican Republic, and to a lesser extent from South American countries, are subjected to sex trafficking in Uruguay. Foreign workers, particularly from Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Argentina, are subjected to forced labor in construction, domestic service, cleaning services, elderly care, wholesale stores, textile industries, agriculture, fishing, and lumber processing. Uruguayan officials have identified citizens of other countries, including China and the Dominican Republic, transiting Uruguay en route to other destinations, particularly Argentina, as potential victims of sex and labor trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

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