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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. These efforts included increasing resources for victim assistance, prosecuting and convicting more traffickers, issuing significant prison terms and fines for convicted traffickers, and requiring anti-trafficking training for all new judges. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it identified fewer victims compared to the previous year, and lacked a comprehensive national strategy on labor trafficking.

Increase investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of trafficking offenses, particularly for forced labor. • Increase training on proactive victim identification, in particular among irregular migrants, unaccompanied minors, and workers in industries and agricultural regions with high incidences of labor exploitation. • Draft and implement a new national action plan that adequately addresses all forms of trafficking. • Protect migrant unaccompanied minors from traffickers operating in immigration detention centers. • Expand victim service centers to all regions and autonomous cities. • Standardize protocols for child victim identification and care. • Increase witness protection resources available to victims and expert witnesses. • Increase resources to victim service centers. • Increase resources to the office of the national rapporteur. • Increase efforts to reduce demand for forced labor. • Train all prosecutors and judges on a victim-centered approach to law enforcement. • Provide victims with access to state compensation and assets seized from traffickers.

The government increased law enforcement efforts. Article 177 of the criminal code criminalized sex trafficking 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 rapporteur, NGOs, and GRETA reported the penal code did not clearly define forced labor, which made prosecutions difficult. The government is developing a stand-alone trafficking law that addresses this issue. According to provisional data, the Office of the Prosecutor initiated 137 new investigations, compared to 135 in 2017 and 272 in 2016. Law enforcement conducted targeted operations against 48 criminal organizations involved in trafficking in 2018 (37 sex trafficking, 11 labor trafficking). For example, in November 2018, the national police arrested 37 suspects of a Vietnamese transnational criminal organization for the labor exploitation of Vietnamese women in nail salons across Catalonia. The judiciary initiated prosecutions of 71 defendants (63 for sex trafficking, five for labor trafficking, and three for forced criminality), compared with 67 in 2017 (60 for sex trafficking and seven for labor trafficking). Courts convicted 61 traffickers (46 for sex trafficking and 15 for forced begging), compared with 28 convictions in 2017 (26 for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking). The government reported several cases in which convicted traffickers received significant penalties. In June 2018, the Madrid provincial court sentenced four traffickers to 32 to 37 years in prison and ordered them to pay each of their three victims €75,000 ($86,010). In March 2018, a Barcelona court sentenced a Nigerian woman to seven years in prison and ordered her to pay €10,000 ($11,470) in victim compensation for forcing a woman into prostitution using voodoo threats. In January 2019, an Oviedo court sentenced four Romanians to 20 to 55 years in prison for forcing 12 Romanian women into prostitution. In 2018, 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 imposed separate sentences on multiple criminal offenses.

The Interior Ministry coordinated law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking. Authorities collaborated with Colombian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish law enforcement on transnational investigations. Law enforcement officials trained South American officials on best practices at two seminars held in Guatemala and Uruguay. The government provided anti-trafficking training for new police officers, labor inspectors, consular and immigration officials, and judges. In 2018, the civil guard held 11 sessions that trained almost 400 police. The government included NGO input to evaluate proposed changes to police training. Specialized trafficking prosecutors maintained liaisons with the police and attended an annual training conference. The judiciary does not have courts that specialize in trafficking. In November 2018, the government, after consultation with the NGO community, published a comprehensive interagency legal guide on combating trafficking for the entire law enforcement community. The government incorporated the guide into the training curriculum of all new judges. The government did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses.

The government increased protection efforts. Authorities reported identifying 200 victims (115 of sex trafficking and 85 of labor trafficking), compared with 213 victims (155 of sex trafficking and 58 of labor trafficking) in 2017. Since the police could only identify victims who cooperated in criminal investigations and the government predominantly focused on sex trafficking, GRETA believed official victim statistics were underreported. Since 2013, the government has used a victim identification protocol developed with NGO input. Formal victim identification usually took place in the presence of an NGO that assumed care for the victim. The Intelligence Center against Terrorism and Organized Crime provided victim identification training to national police and civil guard personnel working at ports of entry. In 2018, the government implemented victim identification protocols at the Madrid airport.

The government allocated €4 million ($4.59 million), compared to €2 million ($2.29 million) in 2017, plus an unspecified amount from regional governments, for NGOs providing victims with temporary shelter and access to legal, medical, and psychological services. Additionally, these NGOs received €2.3 million ($2.64 million) in funding from tax revenues. The government, through 26 victim service offices, referred victims to NGO care providers and directly provided free healthcare, legal assistance, social welfare benefits, and funds for repatriation to victims. There were specialized centers for child victims of crime and seven trafficking shelters—all NGO-run—to assist child victims. GRETA cited NGO reports that unaccompanied migrant children in Ceuta and Melilla were vulnerable to trafficking in immigration detention centers, with reported cases of children disappearing from these centers. Two multipurpose NGO-run shelters were available for adult male victims. The government, collaborating with NGOs, continued to bi-annually update and use a victim resource guide, available in 12 languages, which listed by region 44 centers providing in-house services and 143 centers that provided services without lodging, including social, psychological, medical, legal, training, housing, and job search tools. GRETA reported victim services were available in all regions except Castilla La Mancha, La Rioja, and the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla.

The government continued to utilize 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 2018, the 54 social interlocutors received training from law enforcement officials, NGOs, unions, and business associations. In February 2019, a government academic institution and an NGO implemented a distance-learning course on mediation for victim service providers.

Prosecutors are required to seek victim compensation from defendants through civil action during all criminal proceedings unless the victim expressly waived that right. The crime victims statute provided victims with the right to state compensation, but authorities had not reported any cases of state compensation to date. Assets seized from convicted defendants supported a fund used to fight trafficking and assist victims. NGOs continued to report inconsistent application of victim protections by judges and called for legal reform to protect witnesses better, including permitting video testimony in all cases and increasing measures to protect the identity of expert witnesses from NGOs, whose testimony cannot be anonymous under current law. Foreign victims could request a renewable residence permit for up to five years based on their cooperation with law enforcement and could apply for permanent residency after that five-year period. Victims could also receive assistance to return to their country of origin. The government allowed non-EU victims to apply for reflection periods of 90 days, during which they could recover while deciding whether to assist law enforcement. A number of victims received this benefit during the reporting period. In both of its evaluations, GRETA expressed concern that reflection periods for non-EU citizens were contingent upon an application to the immigration police. 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.

The government maintained prevention efforts. The national rapporteur was responsible for analysis and assessment of efforts across the government and held frequent coordination meetings with representatives from government, NGOs, law enforcement, and international partners. NGOs lauded the rapporteur for continued efforts to include them in proceedings. Despite the large scope of work, the rapporteur’s office had a staff of only three personnel. GRETA criticized the office of the rapporteur’s ability to evaluate government efforts due to its prominent inter-ministerial coordination function and asked the government to consider creating a fully independent evaluation body. The government continued to publish data on its law enforcement efforts and victims identified. The government’s Delegation Against Gender-based Violence played a central role in coordinating efforts against sex trafficking and coordinated meetings for the Social Forum made up of central and regional government officials and NGO representatives. The government’s new national action plan was under development; the existing plan on sexual exploitation of women and girls covering 2015-2018 was still in effect at the close of the reporting period, and other active strategic plans had anti-trafficking objectives. GRETA reported the government lacked a national strategy for labor trafficking, despite the growing number of forced labor victims identified. Several regional governments also had anti-trafficking protocols to reinforce national laws and promote awareness. In 2018, lawmakers approved the release of the €200 million ($229.36 million) allocated for the State Pact against Gender Violence, which included programming to combat sex trafficking at the regional level.

The government continued to conduct public awareness campaigns, including a new campaign on forced labor and sex trafficking as well as a two-week media initiative aimed at reducing the demand for prostitution. The government and NGOs operated 24/7 hotlines for reporting suspected trafficking cases. In 2017, the most recent year complete data was available, the Spanish authorities conducted 2,228 inspections in places where prostitution occurred and 5,102 in centers of labor activity, which resulted in the identification of many potential victims.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit foreign victims in Spain and, to a lesser extent, Spanish victims abroad. Sex traffickers exploit women from Eastern Europe (particularly Romania and Bulgaria), South America (particularly Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador), Central America (particularly Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua), China, and Nigeria. Authorities report Nigerian women now make up the largest demographic of sex trafficking victims. Sex traffickers exploit Venezuelan women fleeing the collapsing social and economic conditions at home. Labor traffickers exploit men and women from Bulgaria, Romania, and South and East Asia, particularly China and Vietnam, in the textile, agricultural, construction, industrial, beauty, and service sectors. Spanish law does not permit nor prohibit prostitution, and NGOs believe a large percentage of individuals in prostitution in Spain are trafficking victims. Sex traffickers are increasingly using online apartment rental platforms to make their illicit operations difficult to track. An increasing number of victims arrived in southern Spain by sea via Morocco. 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.

U.S. Department of State

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