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 kidnapping. The rapporteur, NGOs, and GRETA reported the penal code did not clearly define forced labor, which made prosecutions difficult; the government had a draft stand-alone trafficking law to address forced labor, among other issues, but did not pass the law during the reporting period. According to provisional data for 2019, law enforcement initiated 103 new human trafficking investigations (82 sex trafficking, 16 labor trafficking, two forced criminality, and three forced begging), compared with 82 (61 sex trafficking, 18 labor trafficking, two forced criminality, and one forced begging) in 2018. In addition to law enforcement investigations, the Office of the Prosecutor initiated 167 new investigations, compared with 137 in 2018. From the investigations, law enforcement arrested 285 suspects in 2019, compared with 311 suspects in 2018. Law enforcement conducted targeted operations against 11 criminal organizations involved in trafficking in 2019, compared with 48 in 2018. For example, in October 2019, the civil guard arrested 13 suspects for fraudulent labor recruitment and the subsequent forced labor of 150 potential victims from Eastern Europe. During the reporting period, law enforcement increased efforts to investigate forced criminality and arrested 54 suspects for the forced criminality of street vendors from Pakistan. The judiciary initiated prosecutions of 127 defendants (117 for sex trafficking and 10 for labor trafficking), compared with 71 in 2018 (63 for sex trafficking, five for labor trafficking, and three for forced criminality).
Prioritization of prosecuting labor trafficking offences remained a challenge. In 2019, courts convicted 44 traffickers (37 for sex trafficking, four for labor trafficking, and three for forced criminality), compared with 61 convictions in 2018 (46 for sex trafficking and 15 for forced begging). Of the convicted traffickers, 20 were Nigerian, 19 were Romanian, and three were Bosnian, one Colombian, and one Spanish national. Sentences were significant and ranged from two years’ imprisonment and a fine to 30 years’ imprisonment. All cases, except two, included compensation for victims. In January 2020, another court sentenced five Nigerian traffickers to a total of 99 years in prison for recruiting women from Nigeria and forcing them into various forms of human trafficking. Traffickers served an average of 75 percent of their sentences before being eligible for parole, and courts imposed separate sentences on multiple criminal offenses.
The Interior Ministry coordinated law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking and continued its specialized anti-trafficking training efforts during the reporting period, though some online courses were suspended due to budgetary restraints. The government provided anti-trafficking training for 30 judges, 60 civil guards, and an unknown number of police officers, labor inspectors, and consular and immigration officials. Authorities continued to collaborate with Nigerian, Colombian, Paraguayan, Portuguese, Romanian, Nicaraguan, and French law enforcement on international investigations, including assistance at foreign trials and with raids, the identifications of at least 12 victims, and the arrest of at least nine suspected traffickers. The government did not have judges or courts that specialized in trafficking, but with regard to sex trafficking, cases could be heard in courts dedicated to crimes related to gender-based violence. Coordination between law enforcement, NGOs, and specialized trafficking prosecutors continued to be effective, though this varied by region. There was still some confusion regarding the roles between law enforcement and victim care providers. The government did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses.