The Government of Uruguay does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Uruguay remained on Tier 2. These efforts include adopting comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation, finalizing the 2018-2020 national action plan, and establishing the national council to prevent and combat trafficking. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Law enforcement officials and labor inspectors did not proactively and systematically identify victims and the government did not have adequate victim services. Efforts to prosecute and convict alleged traffickers were insufficient; the government did not convict a trafficker for the second consecutive year and has only convicted five traffickers in the past six years combined.

Provide adequate services, including shelters, for all victims, including those outside the capital. • Increase training for law enforcement officials, labor inspectors, coast guard, prosecutors, judges, and social workers to proactively identify and assist victims of sex and labor trafficking, to include screening of victims among foreign workers and those in prostitution. • Increase funding for victim services, including long-term assistance and reintegration. • Vigorously investigate and prosecute forced labor, forced adult prostitution, and child sex trafficking. • Hold traffickers accountable with sentences commensurate with the seriousness of the crime. • Train law enforcement officials, judges, and prosecutors on the irrelevance of the initial consent into prostitution, as well as forms of coercion beyond physical restraint. • Provide funding for the implementation of the anti-trafficking law and the national action plan. • Conduct proactive inspections aboard foreign-flagged vessels in Uruguayan waters and the port to screen foreign workers for trafficking indicators. • Develop and operationalize a data collection system to maintain official statistics on anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim identification efforts. • Enhance international cooperation to investigate cases and protect foreign victims, including children. • Increase public awareness campaigns to inform the public about trafficking and about services available to potential victims. • Consider legislation requiring foreign fishing vessels to register in country and abide by Uruguayan labor laws. • Revise the definition of trafficking under Uruguayan law to align with the definition in the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

The government decreased prosecution efforts. Article 78 of the 2008 immigration law criminalized sex trafficking 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. The penalties were increased by one-third to one-half if the trafficking offense involved a child victim. Inconsistent with the definition of trafficking under international law, the law established the use of force, fraud, and coercion as aggravating factors rather than as essential elements of the crime. In 2018, the government adopted anti-trafficking law 19.643, which provided minimum standards for victim protection, prevention, and investigation, and created a comprehensive institutional response to combat trafficking.

The government did not collect comprehensive data on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and did not maintain a system for tracking court cases. In 2018, the government initiated 17 trafficking investigations (10 in 2017), including three for labor trafficking and 14 for sex trafficking. The government reported four prosecutions (23 in 2017), one for sex trafficking, two for sex and labor trafficking, and the other unknown. The government did not convict any traffickers, compared to zero in 2017; over the last six years, the government has only convicted five traffickers, out of 43 investigations and 52 prosecutions. The gender unit in the Attorney General’s Office focused on investigating and prosecuting crimes related to trafficking and the exploitation of children. Authorities did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses. Government authorities reported difficulty prosecuting trafficking crimes due to victims’ initially consenting to involvement in prostitution and, in most cases, the absence of physical constraint. The government did not report training law enforcement officials, judges, or prosecutors on the irrelevance of initial consent into prostitution or ways to deal with cases that include coercion beyond physical restraint. The government increased efforts to train law enforcement officials responsible for victim identification and investigation; yet an international organization assessed that, in practice, law enforcement officials did not employ systematic procedures to identify victims proactively. During the reporting period, the government failed to cooperate with a foreign government on a case involving four minor victims of trafficking. The government offered some training to strengthen law enforcement and border officials’ capacity to identify victims; most notably it conducted two training modules for law enforcement officials, reaching more than 2,300 individuals.

The government maintained inadequate protection efforts. The Ministry of Social Development (MIDES) was the principal provider of services for victims of all crimes, but specialized services for victims of trafficking did not exist in Uruguay. The National Institute for Children and Adolescents Affairs (INAU) was responsible for assisting child and adolescent victims. In 2018, 95 victims were identified; it was unclear who identified the trafficking victims or how many were victims of sex trafficking versus forced labor. MIDES reported assisting 72 victims of trafficking (71 in 2017), more than half of whom were foreign victims. INAU reported assisting 23 child victims of sex trafficking. The government had victim protection protocols and written referral mechanisms on assisting victims. Civil society and government agencies worked together to provide services for female victims; however, some organizations expressed concern about the lack of formality in victim referral. The new anti-trafficking law created an interagency response system that established a referral route for cases. The government and civil society continued to operate a 14-member mobile team of psychologists, social workers, and lawyers that responded to cases located in the interior of the country. Government officials had some facilities that could temporarily house victims; however, civil society expressed concerns about the suitability of these facilities, as they did not meet the needs of victims. The government provided services similar to those given to other vulnerable populations, such as the homeless, refugees, and citizens on welfare. Civil society reported government services focused mostly on psycho-social and legal assistance, while long-term services, such as housing, vocational support, and job placement were insufficient. Civil society reported challenges finding shelter for trafficking victims, particularly for those identified outside the capital. NGOs reported cases where social workers have used their personal funds to provide food for victims. The Ministry of Labor did not report identifying any victims.

The government did not identify or allocate funding for the implementation of the new law or the national action plan. The new law established a reflection period of up to 180 days for foreign victims to decide whether to stay in the country, return to their country of origin, or resettle in a third country. However, during the year, the government did not assist four foreign potential child trafficking victims who needed immediate administrative assistance to return to their country of origin.

The government increased prevention efforts. The government finalized the 2018-2020 comprehensive national action plan. The new law established the creation of a national council composed of high-level participants that is responsible for the implementation of recommendations from international organizations and institutional oversight on the implementation of law 19.643 and the national action plan. The interagency committee maintained its more technical role and met monthly. The government conducted three awareness campaigns commemorating national and international days in the fight against trafficking, reaching 189 individuals. The government operated a free, 24-hour hotline directing victims to police or MIDES; the government did not report how many calls involved trafficking cases. MIDES launched a cellphone app version of the hotline to promote use among younger audiences. 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.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Uruguay, and traffickers exploit victims from Uruguay abroad. 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, mainly 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. Migrants from Cuba were vulnerable to trafficking in border cities. Foreign workers aboard Taiwan- and Chinese-flagged fishing vessels in Uruguay’s waters and docked at the Montevideo port may be subjected to abuses indicative of forced labor, including unpaid wages, confiscated identification, and physical abuse, and rumors of murder at sea were common. Since 2013, one dead crewmember per month from these vessels has been recorded. Citizens of other countries, including China and the Dominican Republic, may transit Uruguay en route to other destinations, particularly Argentina. Domestic workers employed in the less-monitored interior of the country are at greater risk of trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

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