The government increased efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims, but overall victim protection remained weak. Peruvian law required the ministries of education, health, women and vulnerable populations, transport and communications, and labor to proactively identify and appropriately refer suspected victims from among the high-risk populations they served. However, the government did not report complete data on the number of victims these ministries identified and referred during the reporting period. Police reported identifying 1,600 suspected victims in 2018—including 287 children and 1,313 adults—compared with 1,229 suspected victims identified in 2017. The public ministry reported 882 suspected victims in 2018; of these, 738 were female and 144 were male, and at least 374 were children. It was unclear to what extent police and prosecutors’ statistics overlapped. Authorities identified 235 foreign victims, an increase from 59 in 2017; almost all were female and approximately half, 102, were Venezuelan. Police and prosecutors identified 96 suspected trafficking victims in La Pampa during the May 2018 raid and the government reported identifying 51 trafficking victims in La Pampa in February 2019, though some reports disputed this claim. Labor inspectors coordinated on operations with police and, additionally, identified eight suspected domestic servitude victims, and the transportation ministry participated in joint operations with law enforcement that resulted in the identification of 95 female victims. The government lacked standardized procedures for officials to screen for indicators of trafficking among the vulnerable populations they assisted and refer suspected victims to services. Local observers reported some officials were reluctant to identify and refer suspected trafficking victims due to fears of retaliation by traffickers. Police and prosecutors had difficulty identifying indicators of trafficking among women in prostitution, and officials had difficulty distinguishing between trafficking and similar crimes, including sexual exploitation and forced labor.
The anti-trafficking law (Law 28950) required the government to protect victims by providing temporary lodging, transportation, medical and psychological care, legal assistance, and reintegration assistance; but the government did not wholly fulfill this mandate. Authorities 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. 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. The government began implementing provisions from a 2017 decree that established new MIMP units responsible for the protection of vulnerable children including trafficking victims, and it developed a protocol to guide these units in providing protection to child trafficking victims.
MIMP provided services to 128 child trafficking victims, including 112 girls and 16 boys. The public ministry’s program for victims and witnesses provided short-term services immediately following law enforcement operations to 684 trafficking victims in 2018, an increase from 521 victims assisted in 2017. The government continued to operate two shelters exclusively for trafficking victims and expanded the capacity of one of these shelters; these facilities served 71 victims in 2018. In February 2019, the government opened a third trafficking-specific shelter for girl victims, in a property seized from a convicted money launderer during a previous reporting period, and refurbished this facility with support from a foreign donor. Together, the three shelters could comfortably accommodate 60 trafficking victims at a time, though they were often filled beyond their capacity. The government operated 48 residential centers for children that assisted an unknown number of child trafficking victims during the year; staff lacked the expertise and resources to provide adequate protection services to trafficking victims. MIMP operated 295 emergency centers for women victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, an increase from 222 in 2017; these non-residential centers provided drop-in legal, psychological, and social services to an unknown number of female sex trafficking victims. Many civil society organizations operated shelters or provided other services for victims without government support, although few offered trafficking-specific services. MIMP classified children based on the charges filed in their legal cases; because MIMP labeled many child sex trafficking victims as sexual exploitation victims, they could not access specialized trafficking victim services. There were limited shelter facilities for adult women and labor trafficking victims and no facilities that could accommodate adult male victims. There were no specialized services for LGBTI victims; transgender victims, in particular, did not receive adequate care. Authorities provided minimal, if any, services to reintegrate victims into communities. The government drafted guidelines for providing victims individual reintegration plans, but it did not finalize or implement them before the close of the reporting period. The Ministry of Interior held 15 workshops to more than 500 service providers on victim care and protection protocols.
Criminal justice officials often did not employ a victim-centered approach and at times they conducted anti-trafficking operations without adequate resources, such as safe places to screen potential victims and provide immediate care. Local observers reported MIMP did not participate in the February 2019 operation in La Pampa, and law enforcement officials failed to transfer victims to a secure location. Coordination problems between ministries often meant services for victims were unavailable immediately following law enforcement operations. Some prosecutors temporarily accommodated child trafficking victims in makeshift shelter spaces inside their office buildings. Lack of incentives to participate in investigations and prosecutions and limited access to specialized services, such as livelihood support, led many adult victims to decline government services. Officials cited the lack of adequate protective services as a key impediment to their ability to effectively combat trafficking in Peru; most victims did not receive sufficient protective services, leaving them at high risk of re-trafficking.
The law required the government to provide legal representation to victims, to safeguard their legal rights and guide them through the legal system. The Ministry of Justice reported providing legal assistance to 361 trafficking victims in 2018, a decrease from 394 victims in 2017. The government did not report whether any victims received restitution in 2018. Foreign victims were eligible for temporary and permanent residency status under Peruvian refugee law, but the government did not report what services it provided foreign victims during the year. It reported coordination with NGOs to repatriate some foreign victims exploited in Peru, but did not specify its contributions or the number of victims; nor did the government report assisting in the repatriation of any Peruvian victims exploited abroad. Inadequate victim identification procedures may have led authorities to arrest, detain, or otherwise penalize trafficking victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. At times, authorities placed child victims in police stations among children apprehended for crimes, where victims faced conditions similar to detention while waiting for referral to shelter.