General information: situation on trafficking in human beings
The situation in Spain has greatly evolved since 2015. The changes have been considerable in all areas, from important legislative reforms to significant improvements in the prevention and fight against trafficking in human beings, protection and assistance to victims and cooperation and coordination among institutions at national and international level.
One of the elements that remained unchanged is the situation of our country as a destination and transit country of the victims of trafficking in human beings. The strategic location of Spain in Europe makes it the door of two continents: South America and Africa. Besides, Spain continues to be an attractive destination for Asian citizens who try to later access the United Kingdom, United States of America or Canada.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, one of the most remarkable phenomena in the last years is the recruitment of victims within our borders, that is, domestic trafficking. This phenomenon has consolidated in the period 2017-2020: 7% of the police reports show Spain was the country of recruitment, which represents 6% of the total.
In order to identify the way of operating and the trends for the period 2015-2020, this is an analysis of trafficking in human beings from the point of view of recruitment, transfer and exploitation of the victims.
The forms of recruitment are inherently linked to the nationality of the victims and the offenders. The ways of operating change substantially depending on whether the networks are Nigerian, Chinese, Romanian or South American.
Among the victims from Eastern Europe, the “lover boy” method continues to be the most common. The recruiters approach their victims, usually from poor backgrounds and low educational level, and manage to establish a relationship with them and later on convince them and their families to travel to Spain. In order to convince them, they offer the victims work in the hotel or restaurant sector, caring of the elderly or children, etc. Sometimes, the deception is not in the type of activity but in the working conditions. Some victims know the activity they will carry out, mostly prostitution, but don’t know the semi-slavery conditions and even the real debt they will have towards their traffickers.
The way Nigerian networks work is linked to voodoo-juju practices, detailed in the Second Report. However, in the last two years, a considerable decrease of the number of victims of this nationality was observed. Among the potential reasons that led to this decrease may be the revocation of voodoo rites or curses by the Oba of Benin City, Nigeria in 2018. Most of the victims are recruited in Edo state, taking advantage of the vulnerability generated by poverty and lack of opportunities in the country.
The victims from South American countries are usually recruited being deceived about the conditions they will be subject to in Spain. Many times they know their final destination will be prostitution but they ignore the real conditions. In other cases, they are deceived with false job offers to care for the elderly or children, or to work as waitresses.
In the case of Asian victims, many of them are brought to Spain and once they are there, under the excuse of repaying the debt generated to facilitate their entry in the country, they suffer several forms of exploitation, among them labour exploitation, and are also forced to commit criminal activities, such as marijuana cultivation.
The recruitment means have not changed over the years: job advertisements in newspapers, travel agencies, recruitment using acquaintances or family members of the victims who are part of the network facilitating their transfer and exploiting them and other means. Nevertheless, the recruitment factor with the largest rise has been through online technologies. Social media and the internet are now one of the top means to recruit new victims. Even if we don’t have exact data, this form of recruitment was used in at least 10% of the registered cases; however this figure may probably be much higher. During the COVID-19 pandemic the use of online technologies reached an outstanding increase.
Finally, the age of the victims and their sex are stable compared to the previous report. In trafficking for sexual exploitation, the average percentage of women is more than 90%, while in the case of trafficking for labour exploitation, men represent around 80%. Regarding the age of the victims of trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation, the victims are mostly between 18 and 32 (70%). In the case of trafficking in human beings for labour exploitation, the age of most victims is between 18 and 42 (80%).
The figures of children victims identified continue to be limited compared to the total number of victims identified. This does not mean there are no children victims but rather the children are hidden and it is difficult to detect them.
Concerning women from Latin America, the Government Delegation for Gender Violence has informed (according to the information provided by non-governmental agencies) about new profiles which, even if they are included in our Criminal Code, differ from the stereotype of victims of trafficking who suffer violence or are coerced and threatened. Specifically, the recruitment of women in a situation of special vulnerability who are fleeing situations of poverty, need or conflict, and are recruited by trafficking networks that do not finance their journey any more but request them to repay that debt later. In order to start the journey, the victims are put in contact with the lenders so that, when the victims arrive to Spain, if they are not finally exploited (because they escape the network or are sent back to the border), this will entail no cost for the trafficking network, but the victims are indebted in their country of origin, compromising their families.
The routes used by the traffickers have not changed substantially compared to those informed by Spain in the previous Report. Nevertheless, as regards to the Mediterranean area, the migration crisis of the last few years has generated new routes, and the trafficking networks and the traffickers have adapted to the new circumstances. This route has been specially used by Nigerian networks to bring Nigerian women into Europe. Specifically, a wide majority of the Nigerian women identified in Spain in 2017 and 2018 stated that they had come into Europe through Italy coming from Libyan coasts after crossing Niger and Algeria.
Another key element that needs to be mentioned is the link between trafficking in human beings and population displacements generated by internal conflicts in certain countries. As an example, in Spain the identification of Venezuelan victims went up from 2 victims in 2016 to 75 in 2019. This has a direct correlation with the serious internal situation of the country, which has caused an increase in the applications for international protection by Venezuelan citizens, going from 4 196 to 40 886 applications (+875%).
The networks take advantage of the legal facilities to introduce victims in our country. This is the case of Colombian citizens who, from 2016 do not need a visa to access the Schengen area. This fact has facilitated, together with other structural factors in the countries of origin, for the number of asylum applications in Spain by these citizens to increase from 656 in 2016 to 29 410 in 2019. In parallel to this fact, a considerable increase was observed in the number of Colombian victims of trafficking in human beings, from 1 in 2016 to 61 in 2020.
Victims are picked up by members of criminal groups and transferred to places where they will be exploited, mostly erotic night clubs with accommodation for the victims within the premises, private apartments or farms located across almost all of Spain’s territory.
At this stage of the process, the victims are informed about the real nature of the activity they will carry out and the circumstances on which it will be developed. If necessary, they are forced into prostitution by means of threats, aggressions or coercion. Likewise, they are informed about the amount of their debt and the repayment conditions, which are generally increased by abusive charges in accommodation and maintenance, and even economic sanctions for breaking their “labour obligations”.
In the field of trafficking for labour exploitation, begging or committing criminal activities, the real nature of the activity and their conditions are not discovered until they are about to carry them out. The victims’ personal documents are taken away from them in advance under the pretext of drawing up a labour contract that will never become a reality.
Spain has the capacity to gather data about all forms of trafficking covered in the Anti-trafficking Directive. Since 2011, there are reliable data about trafficking in human beings for the purposes of sexual exploitation, since 2015 about trafficking in human beings for the purposes of labour exploitation, and since 2016 about the rest of the purposes.
Trafficking for sexual exploitation continues to be the most widespread form of trafficking. In 2020, preliminary data show that 59% of victims correspond to this category, 37% to labour exploitation and 4% correspond to the remaining forms (forced marriage and commission of criminal activities).
Concerning trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, a growing use of technology has been observed. This use is not exclusively linked, as it was mentioned, to the recruitment of victims, but the traffickers also use technology in other areas associated to exploitation. Among the emerging trends in this regard, one is the control that technologies enable over exploited women (real-time video), the possibility to offer sexual services in chats or mobile apps allowing for higher anonymity, or the use of apps such as Airbnb to facilitate the temporary stay in private apartments where the victims are exploited. This last phenomenon is now more widespread, favouring a decrease in the activity of erotic night clubs. All of this has generated a higher invisibility of the victims due to the difficulty to investigate, but especially in the preventive tasks conducted by the national security forces by means of administrative inspections.
This difficulty made the number of preventive inspections to gradually decrease in the last years (from 2 228 in 2016 to 1 771 in 2019) and, linked to this, the number of people identified as persons at risk in Spain has gone from 10 111 in 2016 to 8 405 in 2019. This decrease has become apparent in the figures about the inspections in erotic night clubs that have clearly gone down, as well as in the number of inspections conducted on women who work in prostitution on the street, that went from 8% in 2017 to 2% in 2019. Figures in this regard in 2020 has shown a huge decrease due to the ceases or restrictions of non-essential activities during COVID-19 pandemic.
Another fact highlighted by specialized organisations and by the Government Delegation for Gender Violence is the change in the way victims are controlled. Physical violence is now more marginal. However, threats and coercions using psychological fear on the victims are more common, in many cases generating the syndrome of learned helplessness, characteristic of gender violence.
In the area of trafficking for labour exploitation, the main police actions have taken place in farms, especially in the grape, olive or strawberry harvesting campaigns that attract many citizens from EU and non-EU countries to work in our country. The trend in the last years is remarkably upwards for this purpose. These figures are linked to large police operations where a high number of victims are identified. The victims are recruited by means of online ads or newspaper ads in their countries of origin. The intermediaries are in charge of facilitating their transfer and exploiting them during never-ending working hours and collecting their salaries. The conditions where the victims are accommodated usually lack the minimum sanitation and hygiene conditions.
Among the remaining purposes of trafficking, we could highlight the following:
- Trafficking in human beings for the purposes of exploitation in criminal activities - indoor marijuana cultivation, Chinese criminal organisations: Cultivation by criminal organisations and groups comprised of Chinese members is a reality in Spain. Rural areas and especially small villages are the main locations of these indoor crops.
These organisations subdue citizens of their own nationality and mainly Vietnamese citizens for caring the cultivation. They threaten and coerce them and keep them under inhuman conditions in industrial plants during the process (3 months approximately) without any contact with the outside world apart from a mobile phone which they can only use to inform the heads of these organizations. They receive a sack of rice every 15 days to eat.
The victims, Asian citizens, are recruited within EU borders taking advantage of the irregular immigration routes to get to Europe. Once they are here, since they are vulnerable people due to their irregular status and since they fear to be returned to their country of origin, they are easy to deceive and subdue, so they are transferred to the cultivation where they will be exploited.
- Trafficking in human beings for committing criminal activities - “drug flats”. Also linked to drug trafficking, there are cases of trafficking for the purposes of exploitation for committing criminal activities in relation to the so-called “drug flats”. Two Pakistani citizens have been identified as victims of this practice after investigating a complex criminal network composed of Pakistani nationals involved in drug trafficking who may also be developing trafficking in human being for the purposes of criminal activities, since they foster or participate in the transfer of fellow country people from Pakistan to exploit them once they arrive to Spain, forcing them to sell drugs in Barcelona (under threats and violence) in order to repay the debt (between EUR 13 000 and EUR 26 000). Like the previous ones, this case is now in the pre-trial stage.
- Trafficking in human beings for committing criminal activities – theft, Bulgarian organisations: the victims are recruited in their countries of origin, usually among low-income families and unstructured environments. Many times they use social media (Instagram) for the first contact and are then transferred to Spain. Once they are in our country, they are forced to commit theft in crowded places as parties, festivities, markets, etc. taking advantage of the gathering of large crowds.
In a significant percentage, the perpetrators of these thefts were forced to commit them by organisations or organised groups that recruit/buy the victims in their countries of origin, often to their parents and make them become real slaves.
The organisations force their victims, mostly girls between 14 and 18, benefiting from their vulnerability situation and under threats and coercions to commit these criminal actions. This is why these people should legally be considered victims of trafficking in human beings, and not perpetrators or accomplices of a crime against property.
- Trafficking in human beings for the purposes of begging: possibly, together with trafficking for the commission of criminal activities, this form may be the most invisible and difficult to identify. The fear, lack of resources, the absence of self-identification or not knowing the national protection systems makes it very difficult for national security forces to identify the victims.
In this type of trafficking, the age of the victims is often lower as the traffickers look for more compliant profiles and an appearance that facilitates begging. It is also a form of trafficking with high mobility, since the victims are constantly transferred around different regions of Spain with the aim of avoiding detection by the authorities.
Victims are mostly from Romania and Bulgaria and in many cases of Roma ethnicity. In some cases, they have some disabilities or physical deformity to facilitate higher revenue.
- Trafficking for the purposes of forced marriage: This is the less documented case in our country. The victims are usually children from Eastern European countries or Morocco and they are forced to marry against their will. These girls are part of a business transaction where the family of the bride provides the dowry, mostly low, and the family of the groom pays the counter-dowry in exchange of having control over the victim with the purpose of exploiting her in other activities (sexual or labour exploitation), which enables them to recover the investment and obtain profit illegally.
- Cases of combined trafficking: Even though this is very rare, there are some cases of police operations with victims of more than one form of trafficking. This is the case of a Bulgarian criminal network that forced women (some of them under age) to sexual exploitation and also forced them to commit criminal activities, such as thefts, in large city centres. Another case was a criminal network that recruited Romanian and Moroccan victims and forced them to beg and also to steal in Murcia.
Another significant case involves a criminal network that exploited Paraguayan women sexually in the city of Santiago de Compostela. One of the victims arrived to Spain being pregnant and one of the leaders of the network arranged an illegal adoption when the child was born so this woman continued to be exploited.
Finally, there are also cases of drug trafficking linked to sexual exploitation of victims of trafficking in human beings. These victims are forced to sell drugs (cocaine, hashish and other synthetic drugs) to their customers during their sexual services, generating new profit for the criminal networks.
Trends observed in the nationalities of the victims of trafficking since 2017:
- Decrease in the number of Nigerian victims for sexual trafficking. Even if in 2017 and 2018, Nigerian victims were the largest group, the year 2019 confirmed a decrease that had already started in 2018.
- The percentage decrease of Romanian victims for sexual trafficking continues. In 2014 they represented 50% of the total number and in 2019 they only represented 10%.
- 2018 and 2019 confirmed the increase in the number and percentage of victims of Venezuelan and Colombian nationality. Both are now first and second place in the ranking of victims by nationality. In 2019, the victims of sexual trafficking from South American countries represented 66% of the total. An increase of victims of Paraguay has also been observed.
In the field of trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation, trends regarding nationalities are changing due to the low number of police investigations and the large number of people involved in each of them. The number of investigations have a considerable impact in the difference in the number of detected victims and their nationalities.
- Between 2015 and 2017, most of the victims were Romanian, Chinese and Portuguese. However, in 2018 there was a large rise of Vietnamese and Moldovans, who represented 50% of the victims. In 2019, apart from a large increase in the total number of victims, a diversification in their nationalities has been ascertained, where the most representative were Ukrainian, Moroccan, Romanian and Pakistani.
- Regarding the rest of the purposes, fewer investigations were conducted in comparison to cases of sexual and labour exploitation, so it is difficult to establish trends. Nevertheless, most of the victims come from Eastern European countries or Morocco.
With regard to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in trafficking in human beings, the Intelligence Centre against Terrorism and Organised Crime in its 2020 Annual Report has come to the following conclusions:
- The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened the invisibility of human trafficking and exploitation, resulting in the difficulty of detecting and investigating it.
- Criminal networks have been able to quickly adapt to the new situation caused by the pandemic, reinforcing the use of new technologies for their own benefit, and shifting the traditional locations for exploitation in escort clubs to private homes.
- A notable drop has been seen in the incidence of trafficking and sexual exploitation, although the 2020 figures are around the average of previous years, which gives an idea of the real volume that these criminal phenomena may have in Spain, as well as the effort made over the past year by law enforcement.
- The presence of minors continues to be low, both in inspections and in investigations. CITCO considers that these figures are due to a greater concealment of such victims, which makes it difficult for national law enforcement to detect.
- Most of the victims of trafficking, especially of the sexual kind, are of Latin American origin, with the downward trend in Nigerian victims continuing.
In the sphere of trafficking and labour exploitation, all indicators except for the number of victims of trafficking have shown notable increases that may be linked to situations of job insecurity that may have appeared or increased during the pandemic.
- The upward trend in the number of women victims of labour trafficking continues.
- There is a significant presence of victims linked to police operations against labour trafficking in domestic service.
- It is foreseeable that after the pandemic, the vulnerability of many people who were already in an unstable economic situation could lead to an increase in the recruitment of victims of trafficking and exploitation.
- Spanish nationals continue to be the main perpetrators of trafficking and exploitation, whether for sex or labour.
- The incidence of human trafficking for criminal activity, begging or forced marriages continues to be low compared to sex or labour trafficking.
- Trafficking for the purpose of forced criminality mainly involves perpetrators and victims of Asian origin in "indoor" marijuana plantations.
- There has been a drop in inspection activity and people identified as a result of the restrictions imposed in 2020 in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In order to analyse the figures showing the evolution of trafficking and exploitation of human beings, one can look at the 2016-2020 THB Statistical report from the Centre for Intelligence against Terrorism and Organised Crime.
Institutional, legal and policy framework to address trafficking in human beings
Since 2009, different legislative reforms have been passed that have adapted our legal system to the obligations established in International Protocols, Conventions, Treaties and Directives. Specifically, the protocol to prevent, repress and suppress trafficking in persons, especially women and girls, which complements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, and the Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting victims.
In the sphere of crime prosecution, the reforms of the Criminal Code in 2010 and 2015 have defined the crime of trafficking in Spain through Article 177, giving the definition of trafficking agreed in the international sphere (Palermo Protocols, Warsaw Convention and Directive 2011/36/EU). Other aspects have also been reinforced, such as the criminal liability of legal entities (Article 31), the confiscation of property arising from the crime (Article 127), and crimes of child sexual exploitation.
With all of this, the definition of trafficking in human beings in the Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and the protection of victims has been fully transposed.
In the sphere of victim protection, it is important to highlight the provisions of Organic Law 4/2000 on the rights and freedoms of foreigners in Spain and their social integration (amended by Organic Law 2/2009), as well as the Royal Decree 557/2011 of 20 April, approving the Regulations for the above mentioned Law, which establish a special administrative status for foreign nationals in an irregular situation who have been identified as victims of human trafficking:
- recovery and reflection period of at least 90 days
- possibility of exemption from administrative responsibility (arising from their irregular situation in Spain), assisted return to their country or proposal of residence and work authorisation due to exceptional circumstances
- specific actions in cases of Unaccompanied Foreign Minors (MENAs)
This regulation also provides for the preparation of the Framework Protocol for the Protection of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings, which sets out the ground rules for coordination and action by the institutions and administrations with powers in the sphere of trafficking in human beings.
The Sole Additional Provision of the above mentioned Royal Decree also extends the scope of application for the provisions of Article 140 (relating to the Framework Protocol for the Protection of Victims of Trafficking) to all victims of trafficking, stating that these “will also be applicable to potential victims of trafficking in human beings who are nationals of a Member State of the European Union or included in the subjective scope of application of the community immigration regime”.
Furthermore, Law 12/2009 regulating the right to asylum and subsidiary protection recognises persecution on the grounds of gender (Article 7 paragraph 1e) and includes an express reference to the situation of vulnerability of victims of trafficking who apply for international protection and who should be guaranteed different treatment (Article 46). On this legislative basis, and in accordance with international norms, the competent Spanish authorities in matters of asylum have been recognising the special protection that the concept of asylum provides for certain victims of trafficking who meet the requirements of the definition of refugee in the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and who cannot return to their countries of origin in safe conditions.
Approval of Law 4/2015 of 27 April on the Standing of Victims of Crimewas extremely important. It constitutes a general catalogue of the procedural and extra-procedural rights of all crime victims, providing a legal and social response for victims and their relatives, and including specific assistance for the most vulnerable victims, such as those of trafficking in people and minors.
Specifically, their protection needs will be taken into account in the individual assessment of trafficking victims to determine what special protection needs they require and what measures should be adopted, which translates into access to specific protection measures aimed at preventing secondary victimisation during the investigation and prosecution phases.
Later, through Royal Decree 1109/2015 of 11 December, which implements Law 4/2015 of 27 April on the Standing of the Victims of Crime, the Offices for Aid to Victims of Crime were regulated.
Organic Law 8/2015 of 22 July, modifying the protection system for children and adolescents and Law 26/2015 of 28 July, also modifying the protection system for children and adolescents, improved the care and protection of the sons and daughters of women victims of gender violence, as well as of minors who are victims of other forms of violence against women, emphasising for the first time among the guiding principles for public powers’ action in relation to minor the inclusion of their protection against all forms of violence, including trafficking in human beings.
Finally, there is the noteworthy recent approval of Organic Law 8/2021, of 4 June, on comprehensive protection of children and adolescents against violence, intended to guarantee the fundamental rights of children and adolescents to their physical, mental, psychological and moral integrity against any form of violence, ensuring the free development of their personality and establishing comprehensive protection measures, which include raising awareness, prevention, early detection, protection and redress of damage in all spheres in which their life develops. The Law establishes trafficking in human beings for any purpose, prostitution, child pornography and forced marriage as forms of violence, among many others.
In the context of the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the following normative instruments and action plans have been fostered to minimise the possible negative consequences in the lives of many women victims of gender violence and victims of trafficking:
- Extension of the Contingency Plan against gender violence in the context of the COVID-19 crisis: additional measures aimed at victims of trafficking, sexual exploitation and women in contexts of prostitution: This document creates strategic and operational measures to prevent, control and minimise the possible negative consequences for the lives of many victims of gender violence resulting from lockdown measures.
This extension specifically aims to guarantee the rights of victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation, as well as to provide services and resources to attend to their specific needs.
The measures included in the Extension include:
- the right to information for victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation and other women in contexts of prostitution
- detection and identification of victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation and cases of extreme vulnerability in contexts of prostitution
- comprehensive assistance and protection for victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation, as well as assistance in cases of special vulnerability
- comprehensive care services and safe accommodation are declared as essential
- the right to minimum vital Income for victims who need it and who meet the requirements, as well as for those who are in an irregular administrative situation
- alternative accommodation, with public entities able to use tourist accommodation establishments
- Contingency Plan against gender violence in the context of the COVID-19 crisis of 17 March 2020, extended with additional measures aimed at victims of trafficking, sexual exploitation and women in contexts of prostitution.
- Royal Decree-Law 12/2020 of 31 March on urgent measures in the field of protection and assistance to victims of gender violence, which declared essential all aid services, including accommodation services for victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation, as well as including these victims as beneficiaries of the minimum vital income (MVI).
- Royal Decree-Law 20/2020 of 29 May, establishing the minimum vital income, which has been partly amended by Royal Decree Law 3/2021, of 2 February, adopting measures to reduce the gender gap and other matters in the spheres of social security and the economy.
- Law 1/2021, of 24 March on urgent measures regarding protection and aid for victims of gender violence.
Other relevant legal instruments
In addition to the regulatory instruments described above, protocols and plans have been drawn up that include commitments by administrations and institutions geared towards fostering the detection and identification of victims so they may access systems of support and assistance and exercise their rights. The inter-institutional coordination protocols include the following noteworthy ones:
- Framework Protocol for the Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking: As mentioned above, this includes the procedure for the coordination and activity of the institutions and administrations with competences in the matter of trafficking in human beings, applicable to all persons who could be victims of this crime of trafficking in human beings for any purpose, with no discrimination based on sex, nationality or administrative situation in the case of alleged foreign victims.
- Regional protocols to implement the Framework Protocol: To date, five regional protocols have been approved: in Galicia (prior to the Framework Protocol and updated in March 2012 to adapt it to the content of the Framework Protocol), in Catalonia (17 October 2013), Extremadura (29 June 2015), Navarre (approved by Foro Navarro against trafficking in women for sexual exploitation purposes on 2 December 2016) and Madrid (20 January 2017).
Moreover, various autonomous community regions have indicated that they have begun the process of drafting protocols to implement this Framework Protocol.
- Framework Protocol on specific action in relation to Unaccompanied Foreign Minors (MENAs): This aims to set out the guidelines for coordination as regards the procedures to identify minors, determine their age and hand them over to the public entity for protecting minors, as well as the suitable functioning of the Unaccompanied Minors Registry (RMENA in Spanish), concentrating on ensuring the minor’s greater interest. Furthermore, among the regulated matters, there are aspects concerning the protection of foreign minors as victims of trafficking.
- Protocol of the Subdirectorate General for the Integration of Immigrants to detect and act in the event of possible cases of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation: This is aimed at professionals in the migration centres attached to the current Secretariat of State for Migration, as well as centres managed by NGOs subsidised by it, in order to promote the coordinated and uniform intervention of said professionals to help detect possible victims of human trafficking and refer them to appropriate resources for assistance and protection.
- Annex to the Framework Protocol on protection of victims of human trafficking regarding action to detect and assist trafficking victims who are minors: Approved by the Children’s Observatory on 1 December 2017, this is intended to guide professionals in different spheres of activity (public authorities, bodies, entities and organisations from civil society) to recognise the signs of possible trafficking in minors, by setting out a catalogue of specific indicators to detect them, as well as giving them a streamlined process to refer them to protection and effective assistance services for their specific needs.
It also aims to foster cooperation between institutions to improve assistance for minors who are victims of trafficking for any purpose of exploitation, minimising primary victimisation as far as possible via prevention, early detection and immediate action, and avoiding secondary victimisation they may suffer in the procedure as of their identification.
- Annex on "Healthcare Action against Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation" to the 2012 Common Protocol for a Healthcare Response to Gender Violence in the National Health System (NHS): This annex complements the content already included in the Common Protocol for a Healthcare Response to Gender Violence 2012.
- Instruction 6/2016 by the Secretary of State for Security on actions by the state law enforcement bodies in the fight against trafficking in human beings and in collaboration with organisations and entities with proven experience in assisting victims: This establishes that the National Police and the Civil Guard will set up a Social Interlocutor in human trafficking, which aims not only to provide a new tool to prevent and combat this type of crime, but also to foster coordination of action by the national law enforcement with the various organisations and social entities that deal with the assistance and recovery of the victims.
The Instruction includes the procedures to detect and identify victims in accordance with the provisions of the Framework Protocol for the Protection of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings of 28 October 2011, indicating that the State Law Enforcement Bodies shall contact the specialised organisations for them to participate when a possible victim has been detected in the early identification and subsequent identification interview, thereby creating a formal space for civil society’s participation in this process in order to ensure better protection and assistance for the victims.
- Referral Procedure for Potential Victims of Human Trafficking who are Applicants for International Protection at Madrid-Barajas Airport: Signed on 15 October 2019, this is intended to detect the need to develop a specific referral procedure for potential victims of trafficking arriving through Barajas airport (Madrid).
The aim of this Procedure is to set out guidelines for action on arrivals of foreigners of legal age or family units at Barajas airport who request international protection, when it is suspected that they may be subject to a situation of human trafficking, by any professional with assigned functions during this process, so they may be properly referred within the framework of the Reception System for applicants and beneficiaries of international protection, or if there is no appropriate vacancy within the State Reception System and it is deemed appropriate, within the framework of those that the Government Delegation against Gender Violence could make available.
National action plan: 2015-2018 Comprehensive Plan to Fight against Trafficking in Women and Girls for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation
Coordinated by the Government Delegation against Gender Violence, this plan was a comprehensive, multidisciplinary instrument specifically to fight against trafficking for sexual exploitation, providing a framework for the competences attributed to the different ministerial departments. It was the roadmap to carry out activities aimed at combating these forms of trafficking.
It approached the problem from a multidisciplinary perspective encompassing prevention and prosecution of the crime, as well as providing protection and assistance for victims, involving the various parties with responsibilities in the matter.
It was based on the following foundations: a human rights perspective focusing on the victim, a gender approach, priority for the minor’s best interests, improved knowledge of situations of trafficking for sexual exploitation, prosecution of the crime, a comprehensive approach and improvement in cooperation and participation.
To do so, it listed 143 measures organised into 10 goals, with a structure divided into 5 priorities based on those included in the EU Strategy against trafficking in human beings:
- Priority 1: Strengthening the prevention and detection of trafficking
- Priority 2: Identification, protection and aid for the victims of human trafficking
- Priority 3: Analysis and improvement of knowledge for an effective response to trafficking for sexual exploitation
- Priority 4: More active persecution of traffickers
- Priority 5: Coordination and cooperation between institutions and participation from civil society
When the Plan ceased to be in force, it was evaluated, the final report being submitted to the Council of Ministers on 20 October to learn from it. Then it was sent to the Equality Commission in the Lower House of Congress in order to report on the advances made in the matter.
National Strategic Plan against trafficking and exploitation of human beings (PENTRA) 2021-2025
One of the priorities of the National Strategy against Organised Crime and Serious Crime (2019-2023) is the fight against trafficking in human beings, addressing the phenomenon through different lines of action, notably the preparation of a specific national Strategic Plan against the trafficking and exploitation of human beings (PENTRA). The Secretary of State for Security is coordinating its preparation with participation from all the parties involved.
- In its capacity as Focal Point of the National Rapporteur against Trafficking in Human Beings, the Intelligence Centre against Terrorism and Organised Crime (CITCO) was entrusted by the Secretary of State for Security with coordinating a working group that has been able to count on experts from the main public bodies with competencies in the matter. Hence, the plan that is now being approved is the result of a coordinated effort by the representatives of the
- Ministries of the: Interior; Equality; Justice; Inclusion, Migration and Social Security; Labour and Social Economy
- Social Rights and the 2030 Agenda
- Education and Vocational Training
- the General Council of the Judiciary
- the Attorney General of the State’s Office
There has also been collaboration and valuable contributions from other parties such as the:
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- European Union
- Representation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
- Spanish Office of the International Labour Organisation
- International Organisation for Migration in Spain
- organisations and entities from civil society represented by the Spanish Network against Trafficking in Persons
This plan echoes different recommendations made to Spain, including the one from the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Persons - GRETA, which in its last evaluation report for Spain urged our authorities to adopt a comprehensive plan as a priority to tackle human trafficking whatever the type of exploitation being tackled, improving the identification of victims and aid given to them.
The plan’s structure is split into two large blocks: on the one hand, a legal framework for the phenomenon of human trafficking together with an updated view of its situation in Spain; and on the other, the goals and criteria upon which it has been designed.
The following core priorities have been established for effective action against trafficking in human beings and to defend the victims:
- Detection and prevention of trafficking in human beings
- Identification, referral, protection, aid and recovery of victims of human trafficking
- Prosecution of the crime
- Cooperation and coordination
- Improvement in knowledge
For each of these priorities, lines of action and measures have been established that require fundamental work on legislative reform beforehand, as well as determined, coordinated commitment from all the parties involved.
Currently, the plan is only pending final approval.
National Action Plan against Forced Labour
The Labour and Social Security Inspectorate is heading the preparation of a Draft National Action Plan against Forced Labour.
The need for approval of this National Action Plan responds to the national interest in the fight against forced labour, as well as the need to comply with the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930. In Spain, the Protocol was ratified on 12 December 2017. Article 1 paragraph 2 requires the Member States of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to develop a national policy and plan of action in order to achieve effective and sustained suppression of forced labour and take steps to enforce the Protocol’s provisions.
The fight against this type of practice involves a significant number of government agencies and departments. Improvement in the coordination of all of them was understood from the outset as an indispensable condition to reinforce the effectiveness in the fight against forced labour. Thus, an interministerial working group was set up to draft the plan, including the different departments and bodies involved, specifically:
- Ministry of Labour and Social Economy
- Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migrations
- Ministry of the Interior
- Ministry of Justice
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs, EU and Cooperation
- Ministry of Social Rights and 2030 Agenda
- Ministry for Equality
- Ministry of Education and Vocational Training
- Public Prosecution Service
- General Council of the Judiciary
Social stakeholders and specialised entities (NGOs) will also be included to participate.
Forced labour is defined in Article 2 of the ILO Convention 29 as “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily”. The relationship between forced labour, human trafficking and the crimes of labour exploitation are also taken into account.
This plan takes on special relevance since it is the first time that a specific instrument has been adopted in Spain aimed at addressing and combating forced labour from a systematic, strategic perspective, enabling proper identification of the victims and consequently effective measures aimed at protecting them.
Method and structure of the plan: The plan will have a foreseeable duration of 3 years. In order to effectively implement it, an Interministerial Working Group will be created, chaired by the Labour and Social Security Inspectorate (ITSS) with the functions of coordinating, monitoring and evaluating the progress of the actions in the plan.
The action plan contains activities organised into goals and grouped into 5 areas of action, following the lines provided in the protocol and the ILO’s recommendation.
These areas are:
- steps to analyse and study the phenomenon
- prevention, awareness and training measures
- detection, investigation and prosecution measures
- protection and support measures for victims
- international coordination and cooperation measures
This National Plan is expected to be approved during 2021 or 2022.
Cross-border cooperation to address trafficking in human beings
Spain plays an active role in the European Union’s Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats (EMPACT-THB). Spain is currently co-leader of this priority and is also the leader of two operational actions related to
- identify, document and tackle the threat from other non-EU countries within the possibilities in the legal framework who are trafficking victims for exploitation into the EU (beyond Nigeria, China and Vietnam)
- integrate investigations on false and fraudulent documents in operational actions on THB to develop knowledge on the phenomenon at the EU level and to develop joint operational activities
Moreover, data exchange has been enhanced through the network of the Ministry of the Interior’s Councillors and Attaches, and with the Police Links of other countries and international bodies such as Europol and Interpol.
Likewise, all investigations into criminal groups linked to people trafficking go hand-in-hand with an investigation of the assets of those investigated, with a view to having their accounts and assets blocked, depriving criminals of the financial benefits generated by such activity.
The use of joint investigation teams is increasingly common among investigation groups specialised in prosecuting this criminal behaviour, mostly coordinated by Europol and implemented with other European Union police forces (France, Romania, Germany, Belgium ...) and less frequently with South American countries, mainly Paraguay.
- Ministry of Interior: 2016-2020 Trafficking in Human Beings Statistical report
- Spanish Ombudsperson: Trafficking in Human beings in Spain: Invisible Victims
- Spanish Ombudsperson: Assessment of the 2012 Report “Trafficking in human beings in Spain: invisible victims”
- Assessment reports on the Comprehensive Plan to combat trafficking for sexual exploitation 2009-12
- Assessment reports on the Comprehensive Plan to fight against trafficking in women and girls for sexual exploitation 2015-18
- Reports of the Specialized Prosecutor´s Office
- Other reports and studies
Relevant links to national authorities and institutions websites, and other relevant contacts
Ana María Prejigueiro Rodríguez
National Rapporteur Office
Telephone number: +34 91 537 27 89
Ministry of Equality - Government Delegation against Gender-based Violence
Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migrations - Secretary of State for Migrations
24 hours specialized helpline: 900105090
Twitter account: #contralatrata
Telephone number: 062
Civil society organisations
APIP-ACAM Foundation: Comprehensive and integral care for victims of trafficking in human beings for sex exploitation purposes and women engaging in prostitution (with or without children): reception, accommodation, protection and means of sustenance, psychological, social and legal assistance in a safe and stable environment. Design and incorporation into itineraries of social and labour insertion. Our beneficiaries acquire tools for their full integration and develop a life plan that helps them access their rights and rebuild their future.
24 hours emergency helpline: (+34) 638 942 994
Cruz Roja Española (CRE): Spanish Red Cross provides comprehensive support to trafficked persons or at risk of. Offers training and awareness-raising with the aim to build a protective and prevention network for trafficked persons that facilitates access to their rights.
Emergency helpline: (+34) 900 221 122
Diaconía: Diaconia works in preventing and combatting human trafficking in Spain offering complete assistance to victims and also in asylum. It uses integral programmes that include: safe housing, social support, legal counselling and representation, psychological services, health care and job seeking. A 24/7 national hotline is also available. The organisation works closely with police and coordinates a national network #Rompelacadena composed by local entities engaged in fighting human trafficking.
Emergency helpline: (+34) 670 337 153
Fiet Gratia: The NGO Fiet Gratia provides holistic assistance to women, victims of trafficking in human beings and their children, through the detection program, and residential after care. The organisation offers health care, psychological therapy, legal accompaniment, education and social reintegration.
Emergency helpline: (+34) 603 244 214
Fundación Cruz Blanca: An NGO specialised in human trafficking, it focuses on the detection and comprehensive care of victims and survivors, as well as on advocacy, training and awareness-raising. It provides care for victims of any form of exploitation and is the only organisation in Spain with specialised shelters for male victims of trafficking.
Emergency helpline: (+34) 699 860 941 (not a public line for victims. Only available for law enforcement agents and NGOs)
Fundación solidaridad Amaranta: Its focus is on preventing, assisting, protecting and training through programs, projects and services to women in situations of gender-based violence, prostitution, sexual exploitation, and trafficking for the purpose of gender-based exploitation.
Emergency helpline: (+34) 681 202 080
Proyecto Esperanza - Adoratrices: Specialized non-profit organisation offering comprehensive support to women victims of human trafficking, such as safe housing, psychological, medical, legal and social assistance. Advocacy, awareness-raising campaigns, and training are in place to ensure that victims of trafficking have access to their rights.
Emergency helpline: (24h) +34 607 54 25 15
Office telephone: +34 91 386 06 43