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CHILE: Tier 1

The Government of Chile fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Chile remained on Tier 1. These efforts included establishing its third specialized anti-trafficking unit, expanding staffing of another specialized unit, and identifying more trafficking victims. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it investigated and prosecuted fewer traffickers. Further, Chilean courts issued lenient sentences to convicted traffickers, resulting in a pattern of suspended sentences that could undercut nationwide efforts to fight trafficking. Victim services provision remained uneven, with limited access to care for male victims and victims outside the capital. Allegations against a shelter director indicated children living in National Service for Minors (SENAME) facilities were at risk of abuse, including sex trafficking.

Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict all forms of human trafficking, including domestic child sex trafficking, under Article 411 of the penal code. • Sentence traffickers to adequate penalties, which should include significant imprisonment, as required by Articles 367 and 411. • Provide suitable, safe shelter for child and adolescent trafficking victims as required by law, including through implementation of plans to restructure or replace the SENAME child protection system. • Increase training on application of Article 411 for judges and prosecutors. • Actively screen for trafficking victims among vulnerable migrant groups. • Continue efforts to disrupt systematic child abuse, including trafficking, in care facilities used by trafficking victims and hold violators accountable. • Expand access to specialized shelters for trafficking victims, including male victims, child victims, and victims outside the capital. • Provide victims access to a full range of services, including long-term rehabilitation. • Develop guidelines for officials to screen for trafficking indicators for children involved in illicit activities to ensure no trafficking victims are penalized for unlawful acts their traffickers compelled them to commit. • Consistently support victim efforts to seek restitution.

The government decreased prosecution efforts. Article 411-quater of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking, prescribing penalties ranging from five years and one day to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine for offenses involving an adult victim and 10 years and one day to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine for those involving a child. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Chilean officials continued to investigate and prosecute many internal child sex trafficking cases under Article 367 of the penal code, which penalized “promoting or facilitating the prostitution of minors.” Although Article 367 prescribed penalties ranging from three years and one day to 20 years’ imprisonment, many child sex trafficking crimes were subject to penalties of only three years and one day to five years’ imprisonment under this provision, significantly lower than the penalties available under Article 411-quater. Under mandatory sentencing laws, judges frequently suspended or commuted sentences of less than five years’ imprisonment, even when adjudicating cases of human trafficking and other serious crimes.

Anti-trafficking police units opened 30 new investigations in 2020 (21 for sex trafficking and nine for labor trafficking), compared with 92 new investigations in 2019, 39 in 2018, and 21 in 2017. Authorities prosecuted seven individuals in 2020 (two for sex trafficking under Article 367 and five for labor trafficking under Article 411), compared with 22 individuals in 2019 (4 under Article 367 and 18 under Article 411), and 19 individuals in 2018 (13 under Article 367 and six under Article 411). There were 14 ongoing prosecutions initiated in previous reporting periods. The government convicted six traffickers in 2020 (one sex trafficker under Article 367 and two labor traffickers and three sex traffickers under Article 411), compared with six convictions in 2019 (two under Article 367 and four under Article 411), nine in 2018 (four under Article 367 and five under Article 411), and 29 convictions in 2017 (26 under Article 367 and three under Article 411).

Judges issued sentences ranging from three to eight years’ imprisonment for the five traffickers convicted under Article 411 and approximately 18 months’ imprisonment for the trafficker convicted under Article 367. Some of these sentences undercut the mandatory minimum penalties prescribed for each article in the penal code; consequently, four traffickers (three convicted under Article 411 and the one convicted under Article 367) received suspended sentences. The government deported another trafficker, convicted under Article 411, upon conviction, and prohibited re-entry into Chile for 10 years. Only one of the six convicted traffickers, a woman convicted of exploiting two Bolivian girls in sex trafficking and sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment, was expected to serve time in prison post-trial, which limited the deterrent effect of convictions against traffickers. In the past five years, just seven of 58 convicted traffickers have been sentenced to penalties above the mandatory minimum. Judges have suspended the sentences of more than 60 percent of traffickers convicted since 2016, which weakened deterrence. The majority of traffickers ultimately served parole or probation without post-trial imprisonment. The government continued to investigate and prosecute individuals that engaged in commercial sex with children, resulting in two convictions in 2020, compared with eight convictions in 2019 and four in 2018. Judges convicted and sentenced these two individuals to 541 days’ and three years’ imprisonment, respectively. However, the courts suspended these sentences, allowing them to be served on probation in lieu of imprisonment.

The national investigations police (PDI) had two specialized anti-trafficking units operating in Iquique and Santiago throughout 2020. During the reporting period, PDI established a third specialized unit in Arica and expanded the staffing of the Santiago unit. The government established special procedures to allow prosecutors to work remotely and courts to hold most hearings via videoconference; as a result, criminal trials proceeded throughout the pandemic with only modest delays. The government exchanged eight cooperation requests with Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Switzerland, and Uruguay. Authorities’ use of electronic transmission of cooperation requests facilitated the continuation of these exchanges during the pandemic. The national prosecutor’s office (MP) and PDI provided specialized training to investigators, attorneys, advisors, and staff on a range of trafficking issues, utilizing online delivery during the pandemic. Law enforcement could use a software system to search for evidence of official complicity in trafficking cases. The government investigated one law enforcement official accused of obstruction of justice associated with a sex trafficking case; the investigation was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. In April 2020, media reported the children’s rights defender registered a complaint against a SENAME care facility director for facilitating the sexual abuse of two children under her supervision in exchange for financial compensation – allegations which, if proven, would amount to sex trafficking under international law. In March 2021, officials reportedly charged the director with commercial sexual exploitation; the government confirmed the reports of two child sex trafficking victims exploited while under SENAME’s care but insisted there was no tie to SENAME or its employees. The government later closed this SENAME facility.

The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government’s interagency task force on trafficking (MITP) coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. The government identified 47 adult victims of trafficking (21 men and 26 women), compared with 37 victims in 2019, 41 in 2018, and 21 victims in 2017. Of the 47 victims identified, 42 were exploited in labor trafficking and 5 were exploited in sex trafficking. The government reported identifying two child trafficking victims during the reporting period, compared with two in 2019 and two in 2018. The National Service of Women and Gender Equality (SERNAMEG) provided shelter and legal service to 16 female victims among the 47 victims of trafficking. The MP provided housing to most victims, while the SERNAMEG-funded shelter could directly assist female victims identified in 2020 and other victims identified in previous reporting periods. The MITP’s protocol on victim assistance entitled victims to safe housing, health services, psychological services, legal assistance, education, employment assistance, and regularization of migratory status. However, provision of victim services remained uneven across the country, and NGOs reported funding was inadequate to provide necessary services, especially adequate shelter for children and male victims. The government did not fund most NGOs that provided victim assistance; most agencies did not have specific line items in their budgets for victim assistance. Reintegration services, such as education and job placement assistance, were insufficient, and officials reported access to adequate mental health services was expensive and limited.

The national prosecutor’s office’s Regional Victims and Witness Assistance Unit (URAVIT) budgeted approximately 84 million Chilean pesos ($118,350) to provide housing and other basic needs for trafficking victims and potential victims in 2020, up from 17.2 million pesos ($24,230) in 2019. SERNAMEG allocated 136 million pesos ($191,600) to fund the NGO-operated shelter for women victims of trafficking, smuggled women, and their children, compared with 127 million pesos ($179,000) in 2019 and 140 million pesos ($197,200) allocated in 2018. The government also housed trafficking victims in domestic violence shelters, although these facilities did not necessarily provide specialized services for trafficking victims. URAVIT could arrange housing for male victims on a case-by-case basis; however, there were no shelters for male victims. NGOs administered shelter services for most victims outside the capital region. The Ministry of Interior maintained official agreements on legal representation and civil restitution for victims with the Ministry of Justice. SENAME provided basic services to child sex trafficking victims through 18 NGO-operated programs specialized for child victims of commercial sexual exploitation and its national network of residential centers. SENAME allocated 3.26 billion pesos ($4.59 million) to these programs for child and adolescent victim services in 2020, compared with 3.37 billion pesos ($4.75 million) in 2019 and three billion pesos ($4.23 million) in 2018. SENAME assisted 1,371 children in 2020, compared with 1,477 children in 2019, 1,459 children in 2018 and 1,350 children in 2017; SENAME did not track how many of the children it assisted were trafficking victims. SENAME noted the worst forms of child labor registry identified 80 children or adolescents as victims of commercial sexual exploitation, eight of whom were sex trafficking victims. In response to ongoing concerns over the safety of children in certain SENAME-affiliated residential centers, the government continued efforts to replace the agency’s Specialized Redress Centers under Direct Administration (CREADs), the category of care facility most often serving child trafficking victims, with smaller “family-style residences.” According to government reports, children in CREADs were at severe risk of rights violations and sexual abuse. The government closed two CREADs in 2020, leaving four of the original 11 facilities operational. Legislation to restructure SENAME passed in 2020 and was pending implementation at the conclusion of the reporting period.

SENAME trained 74 members of its shelters staff on identifying child and adolescent trafficking victims. The government provided training on detecting and addressing various crimes, including trafficking, in a clinical setting to an unspecified number of public health officials. The government issued 11 no-fee visas for foreign trafficking victims, compared to 13 in 2019 and 17 in 2018; two additional requests were pending. Such a visa was valid for up to one year and renewable for up to two additional years if the victim reported the trafficking crime to the prosecutor’s office. Foreign victims received the same victim services and courtroom accommodations – such as teleconference, witness protection, and video testimony – as Chilean victims. Officials recognized growing migrant populations, especially irregular Venezuelan migrants, as increasingly at risk of trafficking. Due to the pandemic, the government largely closed national borders to non-resident foreign nationals from March to December 2020; over the same period, a record number of irregular migrants entered Chile, primarily Venezuelans via northern land borders. Under a new immigration framework established in a December 2020 immigration reform law but retroactive to the March 2020 border closure, the government did not permit irregular migrants or those entering the country on a tourist visa to alter their residency status in-country. Civil society actors expressed concern the confluence of increased irregular arrivals and the new regulations would increase migrants’ vulnerability to trafficking. The same immigration reform law included a provision to expressly prohibit the deportation of identified trafficking victims. Officials expected to implement the new framework in early 2021.

In response to the pandemic, URAVIT implemented a video interpretation service to facilitate safe exchanges between law enforcement and victims of all crimes, including trafficking victims, providing access to interpretation in sign language, regional indigenous languages, Haitian Creole, and Chinese. Officials extended until 2022 the deadline for gradual implementation of a 2019 law to reduce re-traumatization of child and adolescent victims through required video testimony facilitated by an expert intermediary. Judges often held accused traffickers in pretrial detention. Despite these efforts, the government reported challenges in encouraging victims to participate in a full trial. Victims could receive restitution or compensation through civil or criminal cases, respectively; in 2020, the courts awarded one victim 7 million pesos ($9,860) in restitution during the criminal prosecution of her two traffickers.

The government maintained modest prevention efforts. The Ministry of Interior continued to lead the MITP, which included government agencies, international organizations, and local NGOs. The task force met once during the reporting period. The MITP promoted informal implementation of a draft 2019-2022 national action plan, which had not been approved at the ministerial level and was not public. There was no federal allocation to fund the implementation of the draft plan; instead, each agency contributed to implementation from its own budget. Personnel and budget constraints affected several agencies with victim protection and trafficking prevention responsibilities. Observers noted a need for more robust coordination and data-sharing among government agencies.

The government held awareness-raising events throughout the year, primarily for officials who might encounter trafficking victims and for the general public; the majority of these events took place online. Several agencies operated hotlines that could take calls on trafficking victims. There were at least 15 trafficking-related investigations initiated from hotline calls. Labor inspectors conducted more than 65,000 worksite inspections, during which they identified 66 child labor violations, some of which may have constituted trafficking offenses; in response, the labor inspectorate imposed sanctions and levied fines against offenders. The national tourism service, in collaboration with SENAME, continued its certification of tourism organizations and establishments that adhere to best practices for the prevention of child sex trafficking; businesses had to participate in an anti-trafficking training during the certification process. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) routinely offered consular trainings covering trafficking in persons for diplomats; in 2020, the MFA reported diplomats also had access to a virtual anti-trafficking training through an international organization.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Chile, and, to a lesser extent, traffickers exploit Chilean victims abroad. Chilean women and children are exploited in sex trafficking within the country, as are women and girls from Asia and other Latin American countries, particularly Colombia. Migrants’ vulnerability to trafficking increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 30 percent experiencing job loss with limited alternatives amid regional movement restrictions. Stricter immigration laws also contributed to heightened vulnerability in migrant populations, especially Venezuelans. Children staying in child protection centers are at risk of potential abuse, including trafficking. At least one child staying in a child protection center died as a result of abusive conditions. Some traffickers may recruit children staying in child protection centers. Traffickers exploit adults and children – primarily from other Latin American countries, as well as Asia – in forced labor in Chile in mining; agriculture; construction; street vending; the hospitality, restaurant, and garment sectors; and domestic service. Traffickers subject Chinese and Haitian immigrants to sex trafficking and forced labor and Colombian women to sex trafficking. Chilean authorities identified a significant number of children involved in illicit activities, including drug trafficking and theft; some of these children may have been trafficking victims. Traffickers subject Chilean men to labor trafficking in Peru and Chilean women to sex trafficking in Argentina, as well as other countries. An international organization expressed concern striking workers in certain industries could be imprisoned and forced to work. Police often frequented brothels in small towns and labor inspectors in rural areas maintained relationships with local businesses, dissuading potential trafficking victims from reporting exploitation and fueling perceptions of complicity.

U.S. Department of State

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