Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons


Uruguay is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children exploited in forced labor and sex trafficking. Uruguayan women and girls—and to a more limited extent transgender and male youth—are exploited in sex trafficking within the country. Uruguayan women are forced into prostitution in Spain, Italy, Argentina, and Brazil, though numbers of identified Uruguayan victims exploited abroad have decreased in recent years. Women from the Dominican Republic, and to a lesser extent from South American countries, are exploited in sex trafficking in Uruguay. Foreign workers in domestic service, agriculture, and lumber processing are vulnerable to forced labor. Some foreign fishermen aboard foreign-flagged commercial boats that have docked in Uruguay have reported indicators of forced labor, such as nonpayment of wages and physical and verbal abuse. Uruguayan officials have identified citizens of other countries, including China and the Dominican Republic, transiting Uruguay en route to other countries, particularly Argentina, as potential victims of sex and labor trafficking.

The Government of Uruguay does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Authorities identified and assisted an increased number of potential foreign sex trafficking victims and achieved the country’s first reported conviction for labor trafficking. The lack of accurate data on trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions made it difficult to assess the government’s overall law enforcement efforts. Government funding for victim services, particularly for lodging, continued to be inadequate. The extent of efforts to assist internal trafficking victims and investigate internal trafficking cases was unclear, in part because Uruguayan law defines human trafficking as a movement-based crime.


Intensify efforts to investigate and prosecute all forms of trafficking and hold traffickers accountable through convictions and sufficiently stringent sentences; pass and enact a law that prohibits all forms of trafficking and specifically criminalizes prostitution of children as child sex trafficking; increase funding for and availability of specialized services for trafficking victims; continue to increase training for law enforcement officials, labor inspectors, prosecutors, judges, and social workers on how to identify and assist victims of sex and labor trafficking; implement a data collection system to maintain official statistics on law enforcement efforts and victim identification; create and implement formal guidelines for additional government officials to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, including people in prostitution and migrant workers; and publish and implement a national action plan.


The government convicted two labor traffickers, but made mixed progress on other law enforcement efforts. Article 78 of the immigration law, enacted in 2008, prohibits only transnational forms of trafficking, prescribing penalties of four to 16 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes. This article establishes the use of violence, intimidation, deceit, or abuse of the vulnerability of the victim as an aggravating factor rather than an essential element of the crime. Articles 280 and 281 of the penal code prohibit forced labor occurring within Uruguay’s borders, prescribing sentences ranging from two to 12 years’ imprisonment for reducing a person to slavery or for imprisonment for the purposes of profiting from the coercive use of the victim’s services. Authorities can use sexual exploitation or pimping statutes to prosecute domestic sex trafficking cases; some of these statutes prescribe lesser sentences that can be commuted to community service or fines. Two judges in the specialized court on organized crime in Montevideo had jurisdiction over all trafficking cases carried out by organized criminal groups of three or more individuals; this court lacked sufficient staffing and funding. Some trafficking cases meeting these guidelines were not referred to this court by local officials. All other trafficking cases were heard by local courts with less expertise in human trafficking.

The government did not collect comprehensive data on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and had no system for tracking court cases. Uruguayan officials reported investigating two transnational sex trafficking cases in 2014, but did not report how many internal trafficking investigations were initiated during the year. A prosecutor and a judge determined there was insufficient evidence to investigate claims of labor trafficking of African fishermen aboard a Chinese-flagged vessel, ruling that any potential abuse occurred out of Uruguay’s jurisdiction. Notably, not all potential victims in this case were interviewed. The labor ministry brokered an agreement between the Chinese company and the fishermen to cover back pay and the fishermen’s return to their countries of origin. The government initiated the prosecutions of five suspected sex traffickers in two cases in 2014; both cases involved Dominican victims. The organized crime court convicted two traffickers for labor trafficking in 2014; after appeal, the sentences were reduced to 24 months’ and 10 months’ imprisonment, below the mandatory minimum under Article 78. The government did not report if either sentence was suspended. In comparison, authorities did not report any trafficking convictions in 2013. The government did not report any other prosecutions or convictions despite numerous press reports of possible trafficking investigations in recent years. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. The government provided training to law enforcement, immigration, and judicial officials on human trafficking, including in partnership with an international organization. Authorities reported collaboration with foreign governments on an unspecified number of trafficking investigations in 2014.


Uruguayan authorities assisted an increased number of transnational trafficking victims in 2014, although specialized victim services remained inadequate. While labor inspectors screened for possible trafficking cases and Uruguayan officials had access to a regional guide on how to identify female victims of international sex trafficking, some officials lacked guidelines for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations. The Ministry of Social Development (MIDES) reported assisting 113 possible victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation in 2014, including five potential labor trafficking victims, a significant increase from 40 possible victims identified in 2013. Ninety-seven possible victims were from the Dominican Republic, while 12 were Uruguayan. The government did not distinguish between women consensually engaged in prostitution and potential victims of sex trafficking, so it was unclear how many of the women assisted by MIDES were exploited in sex trafficking. Authorities did not report identifying any male victims, although an international organization assisted three male victims. The government did not report identifying any child victims of trafficking in 2014 and the National Institute for Children and Adolescent Affairs (INAU) did not report how many children it identified in commercial sexual exploitation during the year.

The government provided 2,730,000 Uruguayan pesos ($114,000) for MIDES to assist adult female sex trafficking victims and women in prostitution with psychological, medical, and other services. MIDES provided some of this funding to an NGO providing specialized services. There were no specialized shelters for trafficking victims in the country, and NGOs and the government reported a need for more adequate lodging options for sex trafficking victims, as accommodation at other shelters accessible to victims was often not available. INAU did not report how many child trafficking victims it assisted at shelters for at-risk youth. Victim care services were weaker outside the capital. There were no specialized services for male trafficking victims. While authorities did not identify the 28 African fishermen as labor trafficking victims, they provided the men with health care and lodging for several weeks before repatriation. NGOs reported a need for long-term services such as reintegration, housing, and mental health care. MIDES provided an unspecified number of trafficking victims with employment assistance services. There were no reports trafficking victims were jailed, deported, or otherwise penalized for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. While the government did not offer trafficking-specific legal alternatives to victims’ removal to countries where they faced retribution or hardship, authorities offered general asylum and residential work permits to foreign trafficking victims in 2014.


The government maintained limited prevention efforts during the year. MIDES chaired an interagency committee that coordinated government anti-trafficking efforts; a decree made the committee an official government institution in 2014. Experts reported the committee met infrequently and was largely ineffective. A draft national plan remained under development in 2014. Authorities conducted awareness campaigns largely focused on sex trafficking, including in tourist areas, and launched a campaign with EU funding to raise awareness on commercial sexual exploitation of children. The government took actions to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts involving children by charging individuals who paid children for commercial sex, but did not make efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. Authorities provided anti-trafficking training to Uruguayan troops prior to their deployment on international peacekeeping missions during the year. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.