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, and Russia), 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 the domestic service, textile, agricultural, construction, industrial, and service sectors. Victims are recruited by false promises of employment in the service industry or agriculture and 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 meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period, the government prosecuted and convicted fewer traffickers than in 2014, while the number of ongoing investigations increased. Law enforcement efforts continued to focus on sex trafficking, but increased attention to labor trafficking resulted in more victims identified. The number and proportion of trafficking prosecutions involving forced labor was higher in 2015 than in previous years (15 of 45 defendants prosecuted in 2015 were for labor trafficking, compared with six defendants in both 2013 and 2014). The government identified more trafficking victims, maintained funding for victim assistance and law enforcement efforts, and cooperated closely with NGOs on victim identification and referral to services. The government updated its national anti-trafficking action plan and increased public awareness campaigns aimed at preventing trafficking.


Increase prosecutions and convictions of trafficking offenses, particularly for forced labor; establish specialized services for men and labor trafficking victims; increase training on proactive victim identification, in particular among women in prostitution, irregular migrants, unaccompanied minors, and workers in industries and agricultural regions with high incidences of labor exploitation; ensure victims who do not testify against perpetrators are not detained or deported; train all prosecutors and judges on a victim-centered approach to law enforcement, not just those specializing in trafficking cases; establish national procedures for proactive identification of child victims and ensure coordination between prosecutors and child protective services to avoid re-victimization; continue to prosecute and punish government officials complicit in trafficking; and conduct awareness campaigns on forced labor.


The government maintained strong law enforcement efforts in 2015. Article 177 of the criminal code prohibits all forms of both sex and labor trafficking and prescribes penalties from five to eight years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with the prescribed penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government updated its criminal code in March 2015 to include trafficking for the purpose of the commission of crimes as a punishable form of trafficking in persons. The impact of this change was evident in the May 2015 arrest of 48 members of a Serbian trafficking ring that kidnapped and bought women as young as 13 and forced them to commit crimes. As of December 2015, the Office of the Prosecutor was investigating 344 cases for sexual or labor exploitation, an increase from 293 cases under investigation as of December 2014. The government initiated prosecutions of 30 defendants for sex trafficking and 15 for labor trafficking in 2015, compared with 98 and six, respectively, in 2014. Courts convicted 58 traffickers in 2015, a slight decrease from 62 in 2014, with 56 for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking (compared with 60 for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking in 2014). While the government did not provide comprehensive sentencing data, it sentenced the leader of a sex trafficking ring to 44 years in prison and gave 13 other members of the network prison sentences ranging from one to 31 years’ imprisonment. Two individuals convicted of child sex trafficking received sentences of 11 years’ imprisonment. In a separate case, a trafficker was sentenced to 11 years in prison for the sex trafficking of a woman. 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. In 2015, the government trained 110 police and civil servants in rural areas.


The government sustained strong protection efforts. Authorities reported identifying 169 trafficking victims in 2015, an increase from 153 in 2014; of the 169, 65 were reported victims of sex trafficking and 104 of labor trafficking. The government maintained funding levels equal to those of the prior year, allocating 4.9 million euros ($5.6 million) for trafficking victims across ministries, including 2 million euros ($2.3 million) for NGOs providing services and shelter to victims. Since 2013, the government has used a victim identification protocol 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. The government provided free health care, legal assistance, social welfare benefits, and funds for repatriation to trafficking victims, but also referred some victims to NGOs for care. A network of anti-trafficking NGOs ran most facilities with funding from both the government and private sources. NGOs provided victims temporary shelter and access to legal, medical, and psychological services. One NGO assisted 113 victims in 2015, some of whom were referred to the organization by government institutions and security forces. Another NGO in Catalonia assisted 189 victims, nearly half of whom were referred by law enforcement agencies in accordance with a cooperative agreement. Specialized centers for child victims of crime and seven trafficking shelters—all NGO-run—were available to assist child trafficking victims. Two multipurpose, NGO-run shelters were available specifically for adult male victims.

In April 2015, the government approved laws providing additional protections to sex trafficking victims, including more time to appeal the dismissal of cases against alleged traffickers, the ability to appeal penitentiary authority decisions regarding the terms of their traffickers’ incarceration and release, and the proactive provision of information about the status of criminal cases. The government has not yet reported on how these provisions have been implemented. Under the law, foreign victims could 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 participating in a criminal prosecution. The government granted reflection periods—time during which victims from outside the European Union could recover while deciding whether to assist law enforcement—to 44 victims in 2015, compared with 35 victims in 2014. In 2015, the 30-day reflection period was lengthened to a minimum of 90 days. Citizens of EU member states, however, are not subject to the 90-day reflection period and face no deadline for claiming social services or cooperating with authorities. Under the 2012 penal code reform, approved in March 2015, victims are protected from prosecution for any unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.


The government sustained strong prevention efforts during the reporting period. The Ministry of Health managed the national anti-trafficking working group, which included the Ministries of Interior, Justice, and Labor, and advised on all aspects of the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. Throughout the reporting period, the national rapporteur, who fills a deputy minister-level position in the Ministry of the Interior, held bi-monthly meetings with representatives of all ministries, NGOs, the judiciary, and security forces, with the goal of creating a unified anti-trafficking plan. The government updated its national action plan to combat trafficking in September 2015, with input from a range of government and non-government stakeholders. The new three-year action plan focuses on protection of women and girls, identification of and provision of services to victims, and multi-sector coordination. The government committed 104 million euros ($119 million) to the plan over four years. The government expanded prevention efforts through several public awareness campaigns, including a television series, traditional media, and digital media, which received extensive press coverage. It operated three hotlines for the reporting of suspected sex trafficking cases, fielding approximately 83,000 calls, some of which led to victim identification and opening of new cases. In 2015, the government began monitoring efforts to assist trafficking victims, and shared its assessments with domestic and international organizations. The government also continued to publish detailed information on the numbers of prosecutions, victims, and accused traffickers.

The government conducted 1,248 inspections related to sex trafficking in 2015, a decrease from 1,406 in the previous year, and 710 inspections related to labor trafficking, a decrease from 889 in 2014. While the government discouraged newspapers from publishing classified ads for sexual services offered by individuals engaged in prostitution, many of whom were likely trafficking victims, it did not make efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts. NGOs argue that regional and municipal government efforts to bar solicitation for prostitution on highways and in other public places penalize victims of trafficking. The government maintained strict prohibitions on international sex tourism, warning Spanish citizens they may be prosecuted and convicted under Spanish law for such acts committed overseas. While the government dramatically increased the number of investigations, inspections, operations, and arrests for labor exploitation and trafficking, it did not make efforts to reduce demand for forced labor. 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. The government maintained several bilateral accords with countries that are sources of trafficking victims in Spain, cooperated regularly with foreign governments on the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases, and organized anti-trafficking programs, seminars and training in countries of origin.