ECUADOR: Tier 2
Ecuador is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Ecuadorian men, women, and children are exploited in sex trafficking within the country, as well as in domestic servitude, forced begging, and forced labor, primarily in agriculture, as well as in the informal sector. In some regions, local gangs are involved in sex trafficking. Indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorians, as well as Colombian refugees and migrants, are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking. Traffickers recruit children from impoverished indigenous families under false promises of employment; these children are forced to beg or to work as domestic servants, in sweatshops, or as street and commercial vendors within Ecuador or in other South American countries. Ecuadorian children are subjected to forced labor in criminal activity, such as drug trafficking and robbery. An illegal armed group reportedly has attempted to recruit Ecuadorian children along the northern border with Colombia. Ecuadorian women and children are exploited in forced labor and sex trafficking abroad, including in other South American countries, the United States, and Europe. Ecuador is a destination for Colombian, Peruvian, Paraguayan, and Cuban women and girls exploited in sex trafficking, domestic servitude, and forced begging. Ecuadorian citizens may be vulnerable to forced labor on palm oil plantations. In 2014, U.S. officials arrested a U.S. citizen for attempting to facilitate child sex tourism in Ecuador. Corrupt Ecuadorian officials allegedly alerted traffickers prior to some law enforcement operations and ignored sex trafficking in commercial sex sites, and some local authorities issued falsified business licenses to brothels.
The Government of Ecuador does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Authorities maintained efforts to convict traffickers and continued to provide funding for food and emergency services for trafficking victims and shelter for girl trafficking victims. Average sentences for traffickers increased. Specialized services were unavailable in most of the country for female and male victims. Identification of potential victims significantly decreased. Official complicity in trafficking remained a challenge. Authorities’ failure to finalize a new anti-trafficking plan meant government agencies did not have adequate resources to implement anti-trafficking efforts.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ECUADOR:
Strengthen the provision of specialized care services for trafficking victims, including for adults, in partnership with civil society organizations through increased funding; amend anti-trafficking statutes so they do not penalize non-trafficking crimes in order to bring them in to compliance with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish traffickers, particularly for cases involving adult trafficking victims; hold criminally accountable public officials complicit in trafficking; develop and implement procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as children and adults in prostitution or child and migrant workers; implement procedures to ensure identified victims are referred to care services; increase anti-trafficking training for police officers, judges, labor inspectors, immigration officials, social workers, and other government officials, particularly to enhance victim identification; issue and implement guidelines to ensure officials consistently offer foreign victims legal alternatives to removal; and enhance data collection and interagency coordination.
The government maintained law enforcement efforts. In August 2014, a new criminal code came into effect that increases the penalties for trafficking crimes and penalizes a range of activities it defines as exploitation, including those prohibited in the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; however, it is overly broad and includes as exploitation all child labor, illegal adoption, and begging. Article 91, entitled “trafficking”, defines the crime by reference to acts undertaken for exploitation—broadly defined to include not only sex and labor trafficking, but also illegal adoption; the sale of tissues, fluids, and genetic materials of living persons; and all child labor. Penalties under this article range from 13 to 16 years’ imprisonment. The new code also separately penalizes forced prostitution (Article 101), as well as forced labor and other forms of exploitative labor (Article 105), including all labor of children younger than 15 years of age. Penalties under Article 101 are 13 to 16 years’ imprisonment, while penalties for forced labor under Article 105 are 10 to 13 years’ imprisonment—less than the penalties for forced labor under Article 91. The new criminal code allows for enhanced law enforcement investigation techniques for human trafficking, such as undercover investigations and wire-tapping. The penalties for trafficking crimes under the new penal code are sufficiently stringent. The previous penal code prescribed punishments of six to nine years’ imprisonment for labor trafficking and eight to 12 years’ imprisonment for sex trafficking.
Data collection on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts was uneven. The anti-trafficking and human smuggling police unit reported conducting 19 anti-trafficking operations in 2014, while police dealing with crimes against children conducted 84 operations against child sexual exploitation in clubs and brothels involving 56 children. Prosecutors did not report the number of prosecutions begun in 2014, due to their privacy concerns based on interpretations of Ecuadorian law. In 2013, police referred 145 possible trafficking cases to prosecutors, and authorities initiated prosecutions of 95 alleged traffickers. Authorities convicted 20 traffickers in 2014; at least four convictions were for labor trafficking. Sentences ranged from four to 16 years’ imprisonment. This compares with 14 sex traffickers and five labor traffickers convicted in 2013. The anti-trafficking and human smuggling police unit in Quito focused on cases involving adult victims, while police units for crimes against children investigated cases of child trafficking, sometimes in coordination with specialized anti-trafficking police. The national organized crime prosecutorial unit in Quito handled trafficking cases in partnership with local prosecutors across the country. Limited resources, limited presence in parts of the country, inadequate victim services, bureaucratic delays, and the frequent rotation of specialized police hampered the effectiveness of police and prosecutors. Some officials, particularly judges, demonstrated a lack of knowledge about human trafficking, particularly forced labor. Authorities initiated the prosecution of a police officer for sex trafficking, but reported no convictions of complicit officials in 2014. The government reported no progress on the 2013 prosecution of two active and two former police officers for their involvement in sex trafficking or on the 2012 investigation of a judge for trafficking-related complicity. Authorities provided some anti-trafficking training to police, prosecutors, and other officials, though most specialized training was conducted by an international organization with foreign donor funding. Authorities provided mandatory training on trafficking as part of basic training for judicial police. The government undertook joint trafficking investigations with U.S., Colombian, and Peruvian officials.
Government efforts to protect trafficking victims remained weak. While the authorities did not report the total number of potential victims identified in 2014, the victim and witness protection program for individuals participating in penal processes (SPAVT) supported 66 victims of trafficking; most were sex trafficking victims. This is a significant decrease from 2013, when police reported identifying 450 potential trafficking victims. Authorities removed children from sites of commercial sexual exploitation, but did not systematically apply procedures to identify adult victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution. Officials reported difficulty in accessing areas where forced labor possibly occurs, particularly in agriculture. Victim referrals from many officials were often ad hoc.
Services for trafficking victims remained limited. SPAVT assisted 66 trafficking victims and six dependents in 2014, providing 45 percent with food and emergency shelter, 31 percent with referrals to temporary shelter with NGOs, and 74 percent with referrals to government entities for general health and education services. This program spent approximately $156,000 on food and lodging for these victims and their dependents between January and September 2014. The Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion operated one shelter for girls in commercial sexual exploitation but did not report how many victims it assisted in 2014. Authorities provided an undisclosed amount of funding to NGOs caring for child victims of sex and labor trafficking. One shelter for child victims of labor trafficking and other abuse reported receiving approximately 60 percent of its funds from the government, while another NGO received irregular funding from SPAVT for food and accommodation for 25 girl victims of sexual and labor exploitation. In some parts of the country, there were no facilities to house rescued victims. The national government funded no specialized services for adult trafficking victims in 2014 and provided few psycho-social, reintegration, or legal services. Officials assisted in the repatriation of eight Ecuadorian child trafficking victims. Authorities issued a resolution in 2014, granting trafficking victims up to 30 days of reflection to allow them to receive SPAVT protection while deciding if they want to participate in the penal process against their traffickers. Many victims chose not to participate in investigations due to fear of threats, inadequate protections in the witness protection program, or lack of faith in the judicial system. The new penal code states victims are not punishable for the commission of offenses that are the direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. NGOs reported some potential victims may have been deported without being screened for trafficking indicators. Some officials did not respect the confidentiality of trafficking victims and released personal information to the public. There were no specific legal alternatives for foreign victims facing removal to countries in which victims would face hardship or retribution. Authorities reported they could grant temporary or permanent residency to foreign victims, but did not report how many foreign victims received residency in 2014. NGOs reported some eligible victims were not granted residency, and some foreign victims with irregular migratory statuses had difficulties accessing government-provided services.
The government sustained prevention efforts. The Ministry of the Interior anti-trafficking sub-directorate coordinated anti-trafficking efforts, although civil society organizations continued to note a lack of coordination between government actors. The government did not finalize a new anti-trafficking action plan, resulting in inadequate funding to conduct anti-trafficking efforts. Authorities conducted awareness campaigns. A provincial government provided some funding to an NGO to conduct prevention activities. The new penal code prohibits sex tourism, but there were no reports of investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of child sex tourists in 2014. The government took actions to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts involving children, including in tourist areas, but did not report efforts targeting the demand for forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.