The government maintained mixed protection efforts – while victim identification decreased, victim assistance increased. In 2020, the three-month, pandemic-related national shutdown made identifying sex trafficking victims particularly difficult as the majority of inspections were traditionally conducted in clubs, all of which were closed during much of the year. Law enforcement continued efforts to identify trafficking victims during the reporting period, but gaps remained, and the government did not report identifying any child or Spanish national victims in 2020. In 2020, authorities reported identifying 226 victims (130 of sex trafficking, 89 of labor trafficking, and seven of forced criminality). This was a significant decrease compared with 467 victims (250 of sex trafficking, 173 of labor trafficking, 24 of forced criminality, and 20 of forced begging) identified in 2019, but similar to the 225 identified in 2018. In 2020, victims predominantly came from Colombia, Venezuela, Romania, Honduras, Nicaragua, and China. Law enforcement officials were the sole entity that could identify victims, and the government reported that formal victim identification was not tied to law enforcement cooperation. However, in its 2018 report, GRETA stated that law enforcement could only formally identify victims who cooperated in criminal investigations. Victims identified by NGOs or other entities outside of law enforcement, were not included in national statistics; according to NGOs, this, coupled with continued gaps in victim identification among irregular migrants and asylum seekers, resulted in probable underreported official victim statistics. However, victims who chose not to cooperate with law enforcement had the same rights and access to victim assistance. Experts asserted that 90 percent of women in commercial sex in Spain could be unidentified sex trafficking victims within the decriminalized commercial sex industry, and GRETA concluded victim identification statistics did not reflect the scale of trafficking. The government continued to utilize its national victim identification and referral protocols and usually coordinated formal victim identification with an NGO that would then assume care of the victims. The government lacked systematic victim identification protocols at temporary reception centers for irregular migrants and asylum seekers. The increased number of newly arrived irregular migrants, including 23,000 to the Canary Islands in 2020 (compared with 2,700 in 2019), were vulnerable to trafficking; officials did not identify any trafficking victims from among these numbers, but given the large number of vulnerable individuals, civil society suspected unidentified trafficking victims were among the new arrivals. The government continued to implement victim identification protocols at the Madrid airport and in 2020 added the Barcelona airport, as well, but it did not report how many victims were identified. The government continued to provide training to border police, though victim identification by border police remained low compared with identification by NGOs. Fourteen of the 17 autonomous communities in Spain continued to use their own protocols for trafficking victims, which they implemented simultaneously with the national protocol. The government and government-funded NGOs reported broadly assisting approximately 1,468 victims and 4,661 potential victims in 2020, including job training for at least 148 potential victims and safe housing for at least 98 victims. Additionally, at least 16 victims received witness protection and 129 received legal assistance from government funded NGOs. This compared with government-funded NGO assistance to 638 victims and 4,842 potential victims in 2019.
In 2020, the government allocated €6.5 million ($7.98 million) to NGOs providing victim assistance, the same amount allocated in 2019. Additionally, in 2020, the autonomous communities and municipalities received €20 million ($24.5 million) from the central budget for assistance to female sex trafficking victims, the same as 2019. The government, through victim service offices, referred victims to government-funded NGOs, which provided free healthcare, legal assistance, shelter, social welfare benefits, language training, psychological services, and funds for repatriation to victims. However, not all regions and cities had victim service offices; GRETA reported victim services were available in all regions except Castilla La Mancha, La Rioja, and the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla. While receiving assistance in shelters, victims had the freedom to come and go, and foreign victims could receive assistance in returning home, if they wished. The government enacted a pandemic contingency plan in 2020, which included alternatives to traditionally available accommodation and a daily subsidy; though civil society noted many victims were unable to access this new assistance due to their lack of internet access or a bank account and poorly coordinated accommodation services in some regions. Law enforcement authorities reported increasing assistance to some trafficking victims who had been abandoned by their traffickers during the pandemic, which included providing victims with basic necessities like water and electricity. In 2020, Murcia opened a new shelter for victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation, and Granada began offering online psychological services to sex trafficking victims, targeting rural communities, in response to the pandemic. There were specialized centers for child victims of crime, and seven NGO-run trafficking shelters assisted 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; however, migration to these regions decreased significantly in 2020. Shelters for male victims remained limited.
Prosecutors were required to seek restitution from defendants during all criminal proceedings unless the victims expressly waived that right; in 2020, all but one of the 19 victims of convicted traffickers received significant restitution from the perpetrators. The crime victim statute provided victims with the right to state compensation, but authorities have not reported awarding any state compensation to date. Assets seized from convicted defendants supported a fund used to fight trafficking and to assist victims; however, victims rarely received these assets as the process remained complicated. NGOs continued to report inconsistent application of victim protections by judges and called for legal reform to better protect witnesses, including permitting video testimony in all cases and increasing measures to protect the identity of NGO expert witnesses, whose testimony could not be anonymous under current law. 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; the government reported granting this protection to three trafficking victims in 2020. Foreign victims could request a renewable residence permit for up to five years based on their cooperation with law enforcement, but most usually received a permit for one year, and could apply for permanent residency after that five-year period. The government reported issuing five-year residence permits to three victims, temporary protection assistance to 15 victims, and international protection to 25 victims in 2020. Despite this, civil society reported that the majority of victims decided not to cooperate with law enforcement. 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.