Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

SPAIN: Tier 1

Spain is a destination, source, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Women from Eastern Europe (particularly Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia, and Croatia), South America (particularly Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador), China, and Nigeria are subjected to sex trafficking in Spain. Men and women from China, India, and Pakistan are subjected to forced labor in domestic service, textile, agricultural, construction, industrial, and service industries. Victims are recruited by false promises of employment in the service industry or agriculture and are subsequently forced into prostitution and debt bondage upon their arrival to Spain. Traffickers also lure some victims from within Spain and other regions of the EU. A large percentage of individuals in prostitution in Spain are believed to be victims of human trafficking. Many women in prostitution in Spain are held under the control of Nigerian, Romanian, and Spanish trafficking networks that operate out of major cities in Spain, though victims are increasingly subjected to trafficking by individuals and smaller groups of traffickers. Unaccompanied migrant children in Spain continue to be vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced begging. Police and other officials have been investigated, charged, and convicted for complicity in human trafficking crimes.

The Government of Spain fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period, the government convicted twice as many traffickers, but prosecuted slightly fewer suspected traffickers, than in 2013. The government identified more trafficking victims and increased funding for victim assistance and law enforcement. The government and NGOs cooperated on victim identification and referral to services. The new position of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in People was created in April 2014, but the government did not fulfill its plan to update its national anti-trafficking action plan.


Increase investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenses, particularly those involving labor trafficking; continue to prosecute and punish government officials complicit in trafficking; establish specialized anti-trafficking services for child victims and labor trafficking victims; continue to provide regular training on proactive identification of victims, in particular among women in prostitution, irregular migrants, and unaccompanied minors; continue targeting industries and agricultural regions with high incidence of labor exploitation to identify labor trafficking victims; train all prosecutors and judges on a victim-centered approach to law enforcement, not just those specializing in trafficking cases; take steps to ensure potential trafficking victims are afforded a reflection period to decide 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; and conduct awareness campaigns on forced labor.


The government maintained strong law enforcement efforts in 2014. Spain prohibits all forms of both sex and labor trafficking through Article 177 bis of its criminal code, which prescribes penalties from five to eight years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with the prescribed penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. As of December 2014, the Office of the Prosecutor was investigating 293 trafficking cases for sexual or labor exploitation. Courts initiated prosecutions of 98 defendants for sex trafficking and six for labor trafficking in 2014, compared to 104 and six, respectively, in 2013. Sixty-two traffickers were convicted in 2014, double the 31 convicted in 2013. Of the 62 convictions, 60 were convicted of sex trafficking and two were convicted of labor trafficking. While the government did not provide comprehensive sentencing data, it sentenced the leader of a Nigerian sex trafficking ring to 53 years and nine months in prison, and gave prison sentences to 18 other members of the ring ranging from six months to 12 years. Two individuals convicted of trafficking minors for sexual exploitation received prison sentences of 10 and 12 years. In May 2014, the government sentenced the leader of a Brazilian sex trafficking ring with alleged ties to the Spanish National Police and the Civil Guard to 20 years in prison, but police and civil guard officers accused in the case were not convicted. In June 2014, six police officers in Catalonia received prison sentences ranging from five to 11 years for their involvement in preventing immigration inspections at a brothel in Castelldefels between 2002 and 2008. The government did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. The government provided specialized training on trafficking to law enforcement officials developed with input from NGOs.


The government sustained strong protection efforts. In December 2014, the Congress approved additional protections for victims of crime, including more time to appeal the dismissal of cases against alleged traffickers. Authorities reported identifying 153 trafficking victims in 2014, an increase from 127 in 2013. Of the 153 victims identified, seven were minors, and seven had been subjected to forced labor. The government allocated 4.9 million euro ($5.9 million) for victims of trafficking across ministries, including 2 million euro ($2.4 million) to NGOs providing shelter and services to victims, compared with 1.5 million euro ($1.8 million) for NGOs in 2013. Since 2013, the government has used a protocol to identify trafficking victims developed with NGO input. NGOs reported good cooperation with law enforcement in the identification and referral of victims, including NGO participation in raids on brothels and locations where victims may have been present. NGOs provided victims temporary shelter and access to legal, medical, and psychological services. One NGO assisted 83 victims in 2014, of which 25 were referred by Spanish authorities. Another NGO in Catalonia assisted 117 victims, 28 of whom had been referred by the Catalan regional police per a cooperative agreement. Specialized centers for child victims of crime and seven trafficking shelters were available to assist child trafficking victims. Two non-trafficking-specific shelters were available for adult male victims. In December 2014, the government released, in collaboration with NGOs, an updated guide of available shelters and service providers for sex trafficking victims.

Under Spanish law, foreign victims were able to request a renewable residence permit for up to five years based on their cooperation with law enforcement or, in some cases, on the basis of their personal situation without regard to whether they assisted law enforcement. Victims could also receive assistance to return to their country of origin, unless required to remain in Spain to participate in a criminal prosecution. The government granted reflection periods—time in which victims could recover while deciding whether to assist law enforcement—to 35 victims in 2014, compared with 71 in 2013, and granted 20 temporary residence permits to victims who agreed to assist law enforcement, compared with 64 in 2013. In May 2014, the government granted asylum to a Mexican woman who escaped a drug and sex trafficking network in Mexico, making her the second victim of sex trafficking to be granted asylum on those grounds. Under the 2012 Penal Code Reform approved in March 2015, victims are not prosecuted for any unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. However, some victims who refused to testify against perpetrators have been detained and deported as illegal aliens.


The government sustained strong prevention efforts during the reporting period. The new position of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in People was created in April 2014. The National Rapporteur is a deputy ministerial-level position in the Ministry of the Interior. The health ministry managed the national anti-trafficking working group, which included the Ministries of Interior, Justice, and Labor. The government did not update the 2009-2012 National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings as planned in 2014, though two key elements of the plan continued to be operational: funding for NGOs to provide victim assistance and semiannual coordination meetings among ministries and NGOs. The government continued prevention efforts through public awareness campaigns and operated three hotlines to report suspected cases of sex trafficking.

The Civil Guard created a special anti-trafficking unit and made labor exploitation a strategic focus in 2014. The Civil Guard conducted approximately 1,500 inspections related to sex trafficking in 2014, compared with 1,205 in 2013, and 889 inspections related to labor trafficking, compared with 205 in 2013. Civil Guard operations identified 49 sex trafficking victims and seven labor trafficking victims in 2014, compared with 44 and 97 in 2013, respectively. The government discouraged newspapers from publishing classified ads for sexual services offered by individuals engaged in prostitution, many of whom were thought to be trafficking victims. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government maintained a website designed with UNICEF to warn potential Spanish child sex tourists they could be subject to prosecution under Spanish law for criminal acts committed abroad, but no such prosecutions were reported. Spanish troops received anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.