Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
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 increasingly subjected to sex trafficking in the country through debt bondage and threats. Many women in prostitution in Spain are held under the control of organized crime networks, including Chinese, Nigerian, and Albanian trafficking networks that operate out of major cities in Spain. Some undocumented migrant men and women reportedly are forced to work in domestic service, agriculture, construction, and the service industry. Unaccompanied migrant children in Spain continue to be vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced begging.

The Government of Spain fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the year, law enforcement and NGOs cooperated on victim identification and referral for assistance. The government prosecuted and convicted more traffickers, including forced labor cases. However, the government did not improve victim identification among vulnerable migrants and children. Services for male victims and victims of labor trafficking were lacking; specialized shelters and assistance for child victims were inadequate. No awareness campaigns aimed at forced labor were conducted.

Recommendations for Spain:

Continue to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, including those for labor trafficking; prosecute and punish government officials complicit in trafficking; improve victim identification by strengthening the multi-disciplinary approach; establish specialized anti-trafficking services for child victims and male labor trafficking victims; provide regular training on victim identification and victim-centered approach to law enforcement; train immigration authorities to make identification of potential trafficking victims a priority and to encourage a low threshold for initial screenings and determination of possible trafficking; train all prosecutors and judges on a victim-centered approach, not just those specializing in trafficking cases; proactively identify victims, in particular among irregular migrants and unaccompanied minors; 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 is 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; adopt a comprehensive approach to anti-trafficking action, in particular with regard to forced labor; conduct awareness campaigns on forced labor; and provide comprehensive data on law enforcement efforts, including investigations and sentencing for trafficking offenses.


The Government of Spain increased law enforcement efforts in 2013 by prosecuting and convicting more traffickers. Spain prohibits all forms of both sex and labor 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. The Office of the Prosecutor investigated 295 trafficking cases. Courts initiated prosecutions of 104 defendants for sex trafficking and six for labor trafficking, compared with 46 and seven in 2012. Thirty-one traffickers were convicted in 2013, an increase compared with 13 in 2012. Of the 31 convictions, 26 were convicted of sex trafficking and five were convicted of labor trafficking; four defendants were acquitted. While the government did not provide comprehensive sentencing data, it was reported that sentences ranged from three to 12 years imprisonment, as well as restitution.

The Government of Spain did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking. 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. Police dismantled 14 criminal trafficking organizations and three criminal organizations involved in sexual exploitation. The government coordinated with NGOs when conducting raids intended to identify trafficking victims and immediately provide victim services; for example, an NGO was present during a police raid against a trafficking network that exploited Chinese women. The government provided specialized training on trafficking to law enforcement officials. It also collaborated with NGOs in the development of training materials on victim identification and incorporated them into training sessions. In April 2013, the national police launched a three-year plan against human trafficking. The purpose of the plan is to combat all forms of trafficking through a variety of measures, including specific training on trafficking for law enforcement officials, cooperation with NGOs to assist victims, and international cooperation with trafficking source countries such as Brazil, Romania, and Nigeria.


The government maintained protection efforts by continuing to identify victims and coordinating with NGOs to provide services and assistance. The Organized Crime Intelligence Center reported identifying 127 trafficking victims of sex trafficking, compared with 125 in 2012. Of the 127 identified, 12 were child victims. NGOs provided assistance to 112 newly identified victims during the year, 41 of whom were referred by law enforcement. NGOs reported increased cooperation with law enforcement in the identification and referral of victims. NGOs provided victims with temporary shelter and access to legal, medical, and psychological services. Medical attention, including emergency care, was provided through the national health care system. NGOs reported that they often accompanied the regional police to meet with victims of sex trafficking and provide them with information and resources. Through a Barcelona project focused on trafficking victim reintegration, 18 women received medical and psychological assistance, as well as vocational training and employment assistance. All child victims were accommodated in the specialized centers for child victims of crimes. In 2013, two child victims were granted emergency shelter and received assistance from an NGO. Two non-trafficking-specific shelters were available for male victims. The Delegation Against Gender Violence in the Ministry of Health has the responsibility for the coordination of the government anti-trafficking efforts with regard to sexual exploitation; this gender focus resulted in a lack of focus on providing services to male victims and victims of labor trafficking. The government allotted the equivalent of approximately $2 million to NGOs providing shelter and services to victims for the interim period before a new national action plan is developed, compared with $2.6 million in 2012. Experts expressed concern about the adequacy of victim assistance funding.

Under the national referral mechanism (NRM), NGOs were involved in victim assistance with regard to accommodation, protection, and support for victims, although NGOs lacked clearly defined roles. The police increased their cooperation with NGOs on victim identification, and during raids, and the prosecutors’ office held monthly meetings with NGOs. Experts observed that child trafficking cases were underreported in the official statistics and were concerned by the lack of specialized services available for child victims. Child victims were sheltered either in women’s trafficking shelters or in child protective services, which were not trained to serve trafficking victims. At border checkpoints and airports officials reportedly required significant substantiation from individuals before they would determine them to be potential trafficking victims.

Under Spanish law, foreign victims who cooperate with law enforcement are eligible for temporary or permanent residency status. Only victims who testify at trial, however, are eligible for permanent residence and there is no exception to this testimony requirement for child victims or for victims suffering from trauma. The government granted reflection periods—time in which victims could recover while deciding whether to assist law enforcement—to 71 victims in 2013, compared with 93 in 2012, and granted 64 temporary residency permits to victims who agreed to assist law enforcement, compared with 66 in 2012. Victims who were willing to testify in court were allowed longer-term one-year residency permits, which were renewable in two year periods. Victims also received assistance to return to their country of origin, unless a criminal prosecution required them to stay. In October 2013, for the first time, the government granted asylum to a Nigerian woman because she was a sex trafficking victim; her daughter was also granted asylum. The Spanish criminal code exempts trafficking victims from punishment for criminal offenses committed as a result of having been trafficked.


The government continued prevention efforts through a variety of public awareness campaigns involving flyers, banners, exhibits, and other displays. These initiatives were extensively covered in the print, broadcast, and internet-based media and promoted as part of the government’s publicity for the national lottery’s drawing. The government continued its UNODC partnership “Blue Heart” campaign which was broadcasted on all major private and public TV stations and focused on sex trafficking awareness. The national action plan was under active review to be updated in 2014 for a new three-year period. In June 2013, the government completed an EU-funded project to produce multilingual guidelines and practical tools for service providers identifying victims of forced labor, forced participation in illegal activities, and sexual exploitation. In April 2013, the government launched an anti-trafficking awareness campaign that included a toll-free hotline and email address for reporting suspected cases of sex trafficking. In December 2013, the government, in collaboration with NGOs, released an updated resource guide for victims of trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation, covering available social, psychological, medical, judicial, training, housing, and job search tools and resources in 12 languages. In October 2013, Spanish regional associations and government agencies signed the Protocol on the Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking in Catalonia. The protocol aims to develop and adapt the nationwide framework protocol on victim identification and assistance to the region. The government undertook a demand reduction campaign to discourage newspapers from publishing classified ads for explicit sexual services, through which trafficking victims may be exploited. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. The government maintained a website, designed with help from UNICEF, to warn potential Spanish child sex tourists that they could be subject to prosecution under Spanish law for criminal acts committed abroad, but no such prosecutions were reported. Spanish troops received trafficking-specific training prior to their deployment abroad for international peacekeeping missions.