Human trafficking is the illegal trade in persons used for reproductive slavery, sexual exploitation, forced labor, organ removal, and other forms of slavery. In Argentina, it is a crime punishable by law, however the country continues to be a source and hub for trafficking.
Human trafficking is an international crime, and a violation of human rights; however, it is a felony that is still committed frequently throughout the international community. The issue stems from a lack of communication between provincial and federal governments, as well as the lack of tri-border control. In order to combat this, government officials and law enforcement officers need to be educated on the red flags of human trafficking. There also needs to be more funding and support for legal systems and organizations advocating to end human trafficking. Additionally, there needs to be more border control on the three borders that surround Argentina.
According to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking, trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability” (UNODC). Trafficking is not limited to sexual exploitation; practices include: forced labor or services, slavery, servitude, or the removal of organs. This is an ongoing issue because the United Nations as well as individual countries have laws against these crimes but no one to ensure that the laws are being followed.
In Argentina, human trafficking is now part of the political agenda because of its link to organized crime. Official policy in Argentina has made progress in dealing with human trafficking, they have signed and ratified all UN conventions and protocols dealing with human trafficking as a crime. In 2000, Argentina signed the “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children”, this supplemented the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNODC). The protocol was later ratified in 2002, however there is still progress to be made because the number of people being trafficked it still high. In 2010, more than 600 women were abducted in 18 months, “for each known case there are 6 others which remain invisible” (Piché).
Argentina is a central point for human trafficking trade; men, women, and children from northern and rural areas are forced into prostitution in urban centers or wealthier provinces in central and southern Argentina. Many of those trafficked through the triple frontier are destined for the illegal labour market in Argentina. However in Argentina, it is estimated that 90 percent of the trafficking victims are sexually exploited women. Additionally, women from Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, and the Dominican Republic are subjected to trafficking in Argentina. According the United States Department of state, “in 2011 the number of labor trafficking victims identified was over three times the number of sex trafficking victims identified during the year” (Trafficking).
Argentina has consistently attracted migrants from Latin American regions seeking better economic opportunities. There are about 2 million immigrants from Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and Uruguay. Illegal immigration fuels the trafficking business because they are smuggled into the country, and they are easy victims for trafficking rings (Project Protection). At the same time, Argentineans from the northern provinces are at high risk for trafficking because of extreme poverty, lack of education, and access to health services.
Police in the northwestern province of Jujuy have received more than 50 reports of missing young women since September 2005. Most of these women have gone to see about jobs and were never seen again (Project Protection). Most end up in major cities and tourist areas
Corruption within the police force has also prevented Argentina from decreasing trafficking rates in the country. It has been reported that police officials have participated in criminal activities related to trafficking, which thwarts government efforts to prevent trafficking from happening. According to a report released by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, authorities are currently investigating over 75 federal officials who have been removed from their positions after turning a blind eye to trafficking related problems. However as of 2011, the government did not prosecute or convict any government officials involved in human trafficking. Officers have looked in the other direction when coming across sex and labor trafficking activity, or tipped off brothel owners about raids coming up.
The Argentine government has made progress over the past few years collecting data and stopping human trafficking. Over the past year, the government has reported and recorded the number of trafficking victims found, and implemented protocols and guidelines to eliminate trafficking, the country has increased prosecutions and convictions of trafficking. Further, the Argentine government funded five shelters to set up throughout the country as safe-havens.
Part of the progress made is due to one of the most well known cases in Argentina, the case involving Marita Veron. Maria de los Angeles Veron (Marita) went missing in 2002, when she was kidnapped. A few days later she was seen escaping from a house, but was taken on to a bus where she was never seen again. Her mother launched a campaign to find her daughter, and soon became a symbol of the fight against human trafficking in Argentina.
The Ministry of Security reported identifying about 1,000 victims, most of these victims being brought into Argentina from other countries such as Paraguay and Bolivia. A majority of human trafficking cases reported are reported as forced labor cases however, recently their have been more sex trafficking cases than labor cases. The quality and legal treatment of the victims varies from region to region, and many provinces lacked resources to care for trafficking victims, especially those in forced labor trafficking situations. Once the initial testimony is recorded, it is up to the Secretariat for Childhood, Adolescence, and Family (SENAF) of the Ministry of Social Development to provide follow-up care and assistance alongside the provincial authorities.
The government officials in each province, as well as SENAF officials should have greater access to resources needed to provide the best care possible to human trafficking victims. According to the NGO, the office’s effectiveness in providing sufficient care for human trafficking victims is consistently questioned based on flawed data reports and the inability to provide service to the victims.
Poor coordination among officials in Argentina is preventing the human rights laws from being as effective as they could. The lack of communication between the federal and provincial governments continues to hinder the effectiveness of anti- trafficking efforts. In many provinces, there is limited or no funding for the provincial and local efforts working to combat human trafficking in their area which creates an issue in making sure victims receive the proper care.
Authorities reported funding campaigns for public awareness and public service announcements about trafficking. These PSA’s are being shown on long distance buses and aired on television, but until the country receives the proper funding, support for legal systems, the human trafficking problem will continue.
In December 2010, the new Ministry of Security attempted to coordinate the efforts of different federal law entities, create a database system for human trafficking crimes, and establish protocols with other ministries to strength federal-level collaboration. NGO’s also targeted the Ministry of Security, government officials, and federal law officers in order to improve the enforcement of human trafficking laws in Argentina.
Specialized services for trafficking victims remain uneven across the country; competing mandates and lack of coordination between federal and provincial authorities caused delays in some investigations, and significant allegations of trafficking-related complicity of government officials at the local and federal level prevented more comprehensive anti-trafficking efforts.
With the corrupt police force, and lack of funding, Argentina will never be able to successfully implement the programs. NGOs and some officials asserted that poor coordination among the federal and provincial governments continued to hinder the effectiveness of anti-trafficking efforts, as did limited or nonexistent funding for provincial and local efforts to combat trafficking.
The Argentine Government, in collaboration with the International Organization of Migrations, has recently published a report on human trafficking. The report identified crucial gaps in the fight against human trafficking that need to be addressed: 1. The lack of qualification of judiciary personnel and the lack of knowledge concerning the dynamics of human trafficking networks and international and national laws and treaties. 2. The lack of security along the Tri-Border area.
3. The lack of human and material resources to carry out adequate investigations. 4. The absence of programs for the middle and long-term assistance to the victims and lack of protection for the witnesses.
The biggest issue for Argentina comes from the Tri-Border area. Along the border between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, young prostituted children and adolescents can be seen on the streets of towns such as Puerto Iguazu, Argentina; Foz do Iguazu, Brazil; and Ciudad del Este, Paraguay.
After years of debate within the Senate in Argentina, a law was passed to “prevent trafficking in persons, protect victims of trafficking, and punish perpetrators of human trafficking” (Project Protection). Under the new law, prison sentences were established for those convicted of participating in the recruitment, transportation, or reception of people for the purpose of sexual or labor exploitation. The law provides protective measures for victims of trafficking, and gives victims the right to free psychological, medical, and legal assistance, in addition to the right to privacy.
The Organization of American State has closely watched Argentina’s anti-trafficking efforts. the Argentine government has partnered with an institute in Buenos Airs to create incentives in urban areas for companies that obey the country’s labor laws.
Based on the issues identified above, it is recommended that the Argentine government uses a multilateral approach to stop trafficking.
Recommended action :
In order for Argentina to successfully combat human trafficking at a national level, the government needs to continue to implement the anti-trafficking law with increased efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenders, including public and police officials who are involved in trafficking crimes. An increase in funding for victim assistance, particularly through shelters and specialized services, on a local and national level would also be beneficial to stopping internal trafficking. There should be continued education for law enforcement officials, public figures, a judiciary actors to know how to stop a trafficking ring.
To prevent trafficking in individual provinces in Argentina, the government must develop and implement protocols for provincial officials to identify and assist trafficking victims. Continued investigations of labor trafficking in urban and rural areas of Argentina, and holding companies whose supply chains benefit from labor trafficking accountable for their actions. The government needs to have better communication between the federal and provincial officials to develop and national anti-trafficking plan, and continue to raise awareness nationwide.
The multilateral approach to educating and preventing trafficking in Argentina involves an agreement between the Defense Ministry, and the Buenos Aires provincial Education Ministry. This partnership would create protection by educating military and law enforcement officials, in addition to students to be aware of the human trafficking issue, and how to prevent and protect themselves.
The final solution is better border control across the tri-frontier. The geography already creates an area that is hard to protect. It is hard to monitor traffic coming in and out of three countries, and some people just completely surpass border control and show no identification when passing between one country and the next. This area annually generates over $6 billion of illicit money and is nearly devoid of all governmental control.
Most governments among the TBA deny the problem claiming they have not detected activity in the regions, but other countries disagree. It is vital that Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina start paying closer attention to the border in order to stop trafficking among other illicit activity. The Argentine government’s multilateral approach to stopping trafficking by educating, training, raising awareness, and implementing better border control will help to decrease trafficking rates in Argentina, and eventually put a stop to it.
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