ARGENTINA: Tier 2
Argentina is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Argentine women and children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country, as are women and children from other Latin American countries. To a more limited extent, Argentine men, women, and children are subjected to sex and labor trafficking in other countries. Transgender Argentines are exploited in sex trafficking within the country and in Western Europe. Men, women, and children from Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, and other countries are subjected to forced labor in a variety of sectors, including sweatshops, agriculture, street vending, charcoal and brick production, domestic work, and small businesses. Chinese citizens working in supermarkets are vulnerable to debt bondage. Argentine officials report isolated cases of foreign victims recruited in Argentina and subjected to trafficking in third countries. Some officials, mainly at the provincial level, including police officers and mayors, protect brothels where trafficking occurred. NGOs and officials report that judges receive bribes from traffickers or do not adequately investigate signs of official complicity. A government entity has reported police were complicit in 40 percent of sex trafficking cases either as purchasers of commercial sex or as personal contacts of brothel owners; this serves as a disincentive for victims to report exploitation.
The Government of Argentina does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Authorities identified a significant number of potential trafficking victims, launched a national awareness campaign, and convicted an increased number of traffickers, including three government officials complicit in sex trafficking. Nevertheless, government funding for victim services was insufficient to assist the large number of potential victims identified during the year. Authorities did not report how many victims received specialized services or shelter in 2014, raising concerns that many trafficking victims—particularly in forced labor—might not have access to services beyond emergency assistance. Trafficking-related corruption, mainly amongst government officials at the provincial level, remained a serious concern.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ARGENTINA:
Increase funding for specialized victim services, particularly for forced labor victims, in partnership with civil society, at the federal, provincial, and local levels; increase prosecutions and convictions with dissuasive sentences for government officials complicit in trafficking; increase availability of shelter, legal, medical, and employment services for victims; consistently offer foreign victims the opportunity to remain in the country and document how many do so; strengthen efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish traffickers with sufficiently stringent sentences; strengthen coordination among the federal and provincial governments and NGOs, including through establishing the federal council on human trafficking and implementing an anti-trafficking plan with a budget; improve efforts to collect data on victim identification and assistance to verify that victims receive care beyond emergency services; and continue to train officials and provide guidance on victim identification and assistance.
The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Law 26842 of 2012 prohibits all forms of human trafficking and prescribes penalties of four to 10 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law establishes the use of force, fraud, and coercion as aggravating factors rather than essential elements of the crime, and defines facilitating or profiting from the prostitution of others and illegal sale of organs as human trafficking. The government issued implementing regulations for the law in January 2015; these regulations outline victim assistance procedures and mandate interagency collaboration, among other provisions. Although trafficking is a federal crime, some provincial authorities investigated or prosecuted trafficking cases under different statutes related to exploitation and pimping, making it difficult to collect comprehensive data. Confusion over whether federal or provincial governments had jurisdiction caused significant delays in trafficking investigations and prosecutions.
Authorities did not report the total number of anti-trafficking cases investigated by police in 2014. The anti-trafficking prosecutor’s office, which monitored trafficking cases heard by courts in the country, opened investigations of 139 sex trafficking cases and 59 labor trafficking cases. Authorities prosecuted 66 individuals for sex trafficking and 26 for labor trafficking in 2014, a decrease from 249 individuals prosecuted for sex and labor trafficking in 2013. The government convicted 37 sex traffickers and 18 labor traffickers in 2014 and acquitted seven alleged sex traffickers in one case. Sentences ranged from one to 14 years’ imprisonment. Authorities did not report how many sentences were suspended, although press reports indicated some traffickers served their sentences on probation, and at least one convicted trafficker continued to operate a brothel where sex trafficking had occurred. In comparison, authorities convicted 39 traffickers in 2013. The government provided anti-trafficking training to police, prosecutors, judicial officials, and other officials, including through a virtual training course. Some provincial judges had limited understanding of trafficking, which at times hampered efforts to hold traffickers criminally accountable. Some government materials and officials incorrectly stated that for the crime of trafficking to have occurred, the victims had to have been transported. In 2014, Argentine prosecutors coordinated with foreign governments on five new transnational trafficking investigations. Authorities initiated investigations and prosecutions for trafficking-related complicity, including charging four mayors in the La Pampa province with tolerating brothels where sex trafficking was suspected. The government convicted three police officers for trafficking in 2014; one received a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence while the other two officers were sentenced to four-and-a-half years’ imprisonment. Prior investigations of trafficking-related complicity remained ongoing, including: two separate cases from 2013 in which deputy police chiefs allegedly provided protection to brothels where sex trafficking occurred; a 2010 investigation of over 70 Buenos Aires police officers accused of taking bribes to protect brothels; and a 2010 investigation of the former head of the anti-trafficking police unit accused of running brothels.
Government efforts to assist victims remained uneven. The Program for Rescue—a team of government officials in Buenos Aires responsible for coordinating emergency victim services nationwide—reported identifying 1,509 potential human trafficking victims in 2014 compared with 1,746 potential victims in 2013. This number may include the total number of individuals encountered during anti-trafficking law enforcement raids, some of whom were likely in exploitative labor without force, fraud, or coercion. Of the potential victims, 942 were women, 564 men, and three were transgender. Authorities did not report how many of these victims were adults or children, how many were Argentine citizens or foreign nationals, or how many were exploited in sex or labor trafficking. Some federal officials had formal procedures of victim identification and assistance, but implementation of systematic procedures to identify victims among vulnerable populations varied by province. Some front-line responders had limited understanding of trafficking. Efforts to identify and assist victims of domestic servitude were weak.
Authorities did not report how many victims they provided with comprehensive services in 2014 or how much funding federal, provincial, or local governments provided for services to trafficking victims. The Program for Rescue took initial victim statements and provided emergency post-rescue care after law enforcement operations to an unspecified number of victims. The Ministry of Social Development oversaw victim services, and each province had a designated government entity responsible for coordinating victim protection at the local level. The quality and level of victim care varied by province, and most provinces lacked dedicated resources to care for trafficking victims, particularly of forced labor. Federal and provincial authorities provided an unspecified amount of funding to one NGO for services for trafficking victims. Most government or NGO shelters provided care for trafficking victims along with gender-based violence or other populations, and authorities did report how many trafficking victims were assisted at shelters or lodged in hotels in 2014. The government announced a new initiative to improve the employment prospects of forced labor victims but did not report how many trafficking victims received employment assistance in 2014. Specialized services were limited, and NGOs reported an acute need for shelter, job training, legal services, and emergency care. The 2012 anti-trafficking law required the government establish a fund for trafficking victims, but this fund was not created in 2014. A new prosecutorial office provided victims assistance during trials and referrals to government services and pro bono legal services; this included 80 potential sex trafficking victims and 97 potential labor trafficking victims in 2014. There were no reports of identified victims jailed or penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being subjected to trafficking. Authorities did not report how many foreign victims received temporary or long-term residency as authorized by law. It was unclear whether foreign victims were fully informed of residency and assistance options before repatriation. Authorities did not identify or assist any Argentine trafficking victims abroad in 2014.
The government maintained prevention efforts. Authorities passed implementing regulations for the federal council on human trafficking in January 2015, a broad working group mandated by the 2012 law to include federal government entities, provincial officials, and NGOs, but the council did not exist in 2014. The smaller executive council on human trafficking—mandated to implement the initiatives of the federal council—launched a national anti-trafficking awareness campaign in 2014. Authorities did not issue a national anti-trafficking plan as required by law; without a plan, no specific budget allocations could be assigned to new anti-trafficking structures. Some provincial governments undertook prevention efforts. NGOs and municipal authorities continued to express concern about child sex tourism, though there were no reported investigations or prosecutions related to this crime. The government continued proactive efforts to register informal workers and employers in rural areas and investigate non-compliance with labor laws. The national anti-trafficking campaign included efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, but authorities did not report efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. Argentine troops received anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping operations.