The government increased protection efforts. The Rescue Program was the government office responsible for coordinating short-term emergency victim services; a separate entity, the National Secretariat for Childhood, Adolescence, and Family (SENAF), assisted foreign victims, child victims, and victims identified in the autonomous city of Buenos Aires. The government reported identifying and assisting a total of 1,434 victims—including those assisted by SENAF and other government entities—compared with 933 victims in 2020, 1,438 victims in 2019, and 1,501 victims in 2018. The Rescue Program reported identifying 1,337 of these victims in 2021. Of the 1,434 identified victims, 945 were victims of labor exploitation, and 331 were victims of sex trafficking; the government was unable to specify a form of trafficking for the remaining 128 victims. The government provided incomplete demographic data on identified victims; there were at least 538 female, 680 male, and six transgender victims. At least 114 of the victims were children. More than 75 percent of victims in 2021 were Argentine nationals; officials also identified foreign victims, including from Bolivia, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Peru, Senegal, Syria, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The government reported observing an increase in victims self-reporting their exploitation. The government funded repatriation for five Argentine victims exploited in trafficking abroad, compared with funding repatriation of at least 10 Argentine trafficking victims in 2020. SENAF coordinated an unspecified number of repatriations for foreign victims from several countries, including Brazil, Paraguay, and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The National Directorate of Migration reported training 700 public officials on the identification and referral of trafficking victims amongst migrant populations since it established its anti-trafficking unit in the previous reporting period. The government reported its new Registry for Assistance to Victims of Human Trafficking (REDAVIT) database, developed with the support of an international organization, became operational in March 2021; the database recorded victims’ biographical information and their use of applicable services.
Federal officials had formal procedures for victim identification and assistance; however, in practice, the procedures to identify victims among vulnerable populations varied by province. The government encouraged officials to add pandemic-specific steps to these procedures in 2021, requiring them to brief victims on COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread. Some front-line responders had a limited understanding of trafficking. SENAF and the provincial governments shared responsibility for mid- and long-term assistance to adult victims, overseen by provincial coordination centers; experts noted the need for more integrated and comprehensive victim assistance. Regional governments in an unspecified number of provinces operated anti-trafficking centers that provided psychological, social, medical, and judicial assistance to trafficking victims. The government reportedly had four specialized shelters for trafficking victims across various provinces. SENAF reported operating one of these shelters specifically to serve foreign victims regardless of gender or age. In 2021, the SENAF shelter served 39 foreign victims. Shelters modified their services to comply with pandemic mitigation recommendations, providing staff and residents with personal protective equipment, setting shifts for mealtimes, and converting office spaces to bedrooms to reduce crowding in sleeping areas. The government could provide services to male trafficking victims, but it often placed them in other government-funded shelters or in hotels for temporary housing, rather than specialized trafficking shelters. NGOs reported a need for specialized shelters, long-term housing, skills training and employment, childcare, legal assistance, and financial assistance for victims after testifying in court cases; some officials expressed concern that many shelters did not distinguish between trafficking victims and victims of other violent crimes, limiting access to specialized care. The Ministry of Labor launched a pilot program to encourage trafficking survivors’ reentry into the labor market; the 29 survivor-participants received support in seeking employment and a monthly stipend. Certain assistance programs required victims to complete complex procedures to maintain eligibility. Foreign victims had the same access to care as Argentine nationals; however, foreign victims were sometimes unaware of available services. The national government did not report funding allocations to support victim assistance. Observers reported provincial and local governments dedicated insufficient funding to victim services.
The government encouraged victim participation in trafficking trials through an assistance framework whereby victims had access to psychological and legal support while preparing to testify. NGOs expressed concern for victims’ welfare and risk of re-traumatization while supporting cases against traffickers. In particular, observers indicated the Undersecretariat of Criminal Policy’s witness protection program was ill-suited to the needs of trafficking victims and posed a re-traumatization risk. The courts offered victims participating in trials the option to provide testimony via live video, recordings, or written statements; during the reporting period, all trafficking victims participating in trials delivered video or written testimonies, as required by the courts’ pandemic mitigation measures. The Rescue Program provided tribunals with an assessment of victims’ psychological state and ability to assist in a trafficker’s prosecution, as well as what accommodations the victims might need in doing so. The government maintained a trust fund for trafficking victims, comprised of traffickers’ forfeited assets and required criminal courts to award victim restitution at the time of traffickers’ convictions. Victims could also file civil suits against traffickers to receive additional compensation, although victims had limited success in securing compensation through civil suits. Courts granted between 1 million and 6 million pesos ($9,280 to $55,680) in restitution to each of 35 victims in three cases ending in criminal conviction in 2021. In another, ongoing trafficking case, the courts authorized officials to auction seized assets in preparation for victim restitution at the case’s conclusion. Despite these cases, observers reported prosecutors and judges still inconsistently prioritized financial restitution in trafficking cases.
The government trained inspectors and other Ministry of Labor officials on labor trafficking indicators. Labor inspectors used guidelines for the identification of trafficking during inspections; inspectors filed 31 reports of trafficking indicators during inspections in 2021, identifying 221 potential victims. The Ministry of Labor reported 90 percent of victims identified by labor inspectors were men and 85 percent were Argentine nationals. Civil society actors anecdotally reported observing increased inspection activity. The Executive Committee for the Fight Against Trafficking and Exploitation of People and the Protection and Assistance of Victims (“Executive Committee”) coordinated with civil society and regional law enforcement to respond to reports of forced labor in rural agricultural sites, including olive processing outfits, culminating in the identification of more than 150 labor trafficking victims in 2021. In one instance, national officials identified eight potential trafficking victims, forced to eat and sleep in tents where alleged traffickers compelled them to harvest eucalyptus leaves, after a volunteer fireman observed trafficking indicators at the site and reported them to a provincial labor authority.