2013 Trafficking in Persons Report
Tier 1

Spain is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Women, primarily from Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Venezuela, China, and Nigeria, are subjected to sex trafficking in Spain. Victims are recruited by false promises of employment in the service industry or agriculture and are subsequently subjected to sex trafficking and debt bondage upon their arrival to Spain. Nigerian women are subjected to sex trafficking under debt bondage and threats through voodoo rituals. An estimated 90 percent of women in prostitution in Spain are under the control of organized crime networks. Chinese, Nigerian, and Albanian trafficking networks operate out of major cities in Spain. Undocumented migrant men and women reportedly are forced to work in domestic service, agriculture, construction, and the service industry. A growing number of Portuguese nationals are subjected to forced labor in restaurants, agriculture, and domestic work in Spain. Barcelona is a transit area for Pakistani nationals subjected to labor trafficking in other European cities. Unaccompanied migrant children in Spain continue to be vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced begging. Spanish nationals are also vulnerable to trafficking within the country, including sex trafficking of children.

The Government of Spain fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the year, police improved implementation of a protocol on victim identification and referral through increased coordination with NGOs prior to law enforcement actions. However, a continuing need to improve screening methods by law enforcement among vulnerable migrants and foreign women in prostitution coupled with victims’ fear of reprisal or mistrust of authorities resulted in too few victims making use of the government’s reflection period for suspected trafficking victims. The government continued to vigorously prosecute trafficking offenders, including complicit officials. However, the government did not convict any offenders for forced labor. Specialized services for child victims or male labor trafficking victims remained inadequate.

Recommendations for Spain: Continue to institutionalize use of the protocol on victim identification and referral to ensure that NGOs are included in implementing a victim-centered approach to screening and assistance; ensure that the process for granting potential trafficking victims a reflection period are based on identification procedures that account for victims’ likely trauma, fear of reprisal, and mistrust of authorities and ensure victims are afforded the full time to recover before making a decision of whether to cooperate with law enforcement; establish national procedures for the proactive identification of child victims and ensure prosecutors and child protective services are coordinated to avoid re-victimization; establish specialized anti-trafficking services for child victims and male labor trafficking victims; ensure anti-trafficking law enforcement actions include victim protections and do not punish victims for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; continue to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, including those for labor trafficking; provide comprehensive data on law enforcement efforts, including investigations and sentencing for trafficking offenses; and vigorously prosecute and punish government officials complicit in trafficking.


The Government of Spain maintained strong law enforcement efforts in 2012. Spain prohibits all forms of human trafficking through Article 177 bis of its criminal code, which prescribes penalties from five to 12 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with the prescribed penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. Courts prosecuted 46 defendants for sex trafficking and seven for labor trafficking, compared with 50 prosecutions initiated in the prior year. In 2012, the government convicted 13 offenders for sex trafficking and sentenced 24 offenders, including some convicted during the previous reporting period. While the government did not provide comprehensive sentencing data, it provided individual case information to demonstrate efforts to hold traffickers accountable in 2012. A Barcelona court sentenced two traffickers to eight years’ imprisonment for trafficking and four years’ and six months’ imprisonment for forced prostitution, with a fine of the equivalent of $12,800 in victim compensation; one trafficker received six years and seven months’ imprisonment for trafficking and forced prostitution; and two traffickers received two years’ imprisonment for forced prostitution, with a fine of the equivalent of approximately $5,000 in victim compensation. The government investigated government officials allegedly complicit in trafficking. During the reporting period, the government sentenced a national police officer complicit in trafficking to three years’ imprisonment; he was formerly employed in the Aliens Service. A Galician court continued to investigate members of the National Police and the Civil Guard alleged to be complicit in exploiting Brazilian women in prostitution. Prosecution of a major complicity case from the prior reporting period continued against officials for alleged forced prostitution. Police dismantled a criminal organization that exploited 400 women in six brothels in several provinces of Andalusia; arrests included a former councilman and the president of the chamber of commerce of Ayamonte. The government increased training for consular officials on identifying human trafficking. The government trained law enforcement on trafficking and funded NGOs to provide specialized training for officials in identifying trafficking and providing assistance to victims.


The government improved protection efforts by coordinating with NGOs to protect trafficking victims in 2012, but screening for trafficking among vulnerable migrants and care of trafficked children needed improvement. The Organized Crime Intelligence Center reported it identified 125 trafficking victims and the Catalan regional police reported identifying 190 victims, including 23 labor trafficking victims, in 2012, an increase from a total of 234 victims identified in 2011. NGOs provided assistance to at least 191 newly identified victims during the year, 127 of whom were referred by law enforcement. During the year, law enforcement implemented a formal protocol that increased their efforts to coordinate with NGOs prior to raids on brothels and in preparation for identifying and assisting potential victims. NGOs report that the police are increasingly sensitized to the special needs of victims in trafficking investigations. The government granted reflection periods—time in which victims could recover while deciding whether to assist law enforcement—to 93 female victims in 2012, compared with 98 victims in 2011. A report by the Spanish ombudsman office released during the year noted concern over the low number of victims afforded a reflection period and attributed this shortcoming to officials conducting screenings for trafficking that were too routine and did not take into account potential victims’ unique situations or recent traumatic experiences. The report assessed procedures prior to implementation of the new protocol. Officials reportedly incorrectly discounted trafficking indicators if the potential victim initially consented to migrate, which is contrary to the provision on consent in the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. Immigration authorities returned trafficking victims in the asylum process to their countries of origin without a proper risk assessment or referral to services. NGOs reported authorities improved efforts during the reporting period to offer reflection periods to most victims, but this was not effective as victims’ reluctance to assist law enforcement resulted in the majority of victims rejecting the reflection period. Authorities granted 66 temporary residency permits to victims who agreed to assist law enforcement in 2012, compared to 58 permits granted in 2011. Victims who were willing to testify in court were allowed longer-term one-year residency permits, which were renewable up to two years. There was no exception made for child victims or victims suffering from trauma in applying the requirement that victims testify in order to receive immigration relief. The ombudsman report also highlighted the dearth of specialized care and shelter for child trafficking victims. Child protection agencies did not track child trafficking victims under their care, some of whom were involved in criminal proceedings as victims or witnesses; this lack of coordination between officials re-victimized children who were unnecessarily subjected to repeated procedures. The Spanish criminal code exempts trafficking victims from punishment for criminal offenses committed while they were suffering exploitation and observers report the government made improvements in applying this in practice. Nevertheless, media reports noted deportations of women in forced prostitution.

While the government restricted undocumented migrants’ access to health care during the reporting period, the Ministry of Health determined that the restriction did not apply to undocumented trafficking victims. The government funded its initial 2009 to 2012 national action plan against sex trafficking with the equivalent of approximately $61 million. In 2012, the government allotted an additional $8 million to fund the plan. The government’s approval in 2012 of an equivalent of approximately $2.6 million in funding for NGO services and shelter for trafficking victims was reduced to equivalent of approximately $1.9 million in 2013 as a part of government-wide budget cuts. During the reporting period, the government, in collaboration with NGOs, released an updated resource guide for trafficking victims listing available services and shelter.


The government continued to implement a variety of anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns, including through television broadcasts and during the national lottery drawing. The government undertook a demand reduction campaign to discourage newspapers from publishing classified ads for explicit sexual services, which are likely often provided by trafficking victims. Observers asserted that women in prostitution were penalized more often than buyers of commercial sex under new local laws against solicitation of prostitution. During the reporting period, a congressional subcommittee was created to assess anti-trafficking efforts in Spain and is currently evaluating the government’s national action plan in preparation for an updated 2013 plan, which should include efforts to combat labor trafficking. The government maintained a website designed with UNICEF to warn potential Spanish child sex tourists that they could be subject to prosecution under Spanish law for criminal acts committed abroad, but did not prosecute any Spanish citizens for child sex tourism during the reporting period. Spanish troops received trafficking-specific training prior to their deployment abroad for international peacekeeping missions.