The government maintained protection efforts. In 2019, the Ministry of Social Development (MIDES) assisted 83 newly identified victims, most of whom were foreign nationals; it was unclear what agency identified these victims or how many were victims of sex trafficking versus forced labor. There were, by comparison, 95 victims identified in 2018. The National Institute for Children and Adolescents Affairs (INAU) reported monitoring 240 incidences of child sex trafficking but did not specify how many victims were involved or how many of these cases were new in 2019. The government had a variety of victim protection protocols and written referral mechanisms on assisting victims. MIDES was the principal provider of services for victims of all crimes, but specialized services for victims of trafficking did not exist in Uruguay. INAU was responsible for assisting child and adolescent victims. Civil society and government agencies worked together to provide services for female victims; however, the government provided services to LGBTI and male victims on a case-by-case basis, and some organizations expressed concern about the lack of formality in victim referral. The government had an interagency response system that established a referral mechanism 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. During the reporting period, INAU established a program for up to 20 child and adolescent victims. MIDES inaugurated a second victim assistance center in 2019, where it provided services to 21 female victims during the reporting period. The Ministry of Health trained 2,500 health professionals on new protocols for treating potential victims of gender-based violence, including trafficking. The government provided venues, technical support, and allowed staff to attend trainings in victim identification and assistance conducted by an international organization.
The government contracted with NGOs to provide victims services similar to those given to other vulnerable populations, such as the homeless, refugees, and citizens on welfare; there were no specialized services for trafficking victims. 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 trafficking victims. Civil society reported challenges finding shelter for trafficking victims, particularly for those identified outside the capital. Observers identified a need for daytime facilities and programming for victims staying in overnight-only shelters. 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. The government did not report on its funding for victim protection and assistance. Although the government had a protocol to provide security and protection measures to victims, observers reported the government did not ensure victims’ physical safety, and fear of retaliation prevented victims from participating in trials against their traffickers. Victims could file civil suit to seek compensation from their traffickers, but the government did not report if any victims did so in 2019. Foreign victims were entitled to work permits and permanent residency status and had 180 days to decide whether to stay in the country, return to their country of origin, or resettle in a third country. However, the government did not report issuing residency permits to any foreign victims during the reporting period.