Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons


Uruguay is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Uruguayan women and girls—and to a more limited extent transgender adults and male adolescents—are subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Uruguayan women are forced into prostitution in Spain, Italy, Argentina, and Brazil; however, the number of identified Uruguayan victims exploited abroad has decreased in recent years. Women from the Dominican Republic, and to a lesser extent from South American countries, are subjected to sex trafficking in Uruguay. Foreign workers, particularly from Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Argentina, are subjected to forced labor in construction, domestic service, wholesale stores, textile industries, agriculture, and lumber processing. In 2014, some foreign fishermen aboard foreign-flagged commercial boats docked in Uruguay reported indicators of forced labor, such as non-payment 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 destinations, particularly Argentina, as potential victims of sex and labor trafficking.

The Government of Uruguay does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Authorities prosecuted an increased number of suspected traffickers and identified and assisted an increased number of potential foreign sex and labor trafficking victims. Nonetheless, 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 prohibits only transnational forms of trafficking.


Enact legislation to prohibit all forms of trafficking consistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, including by criminalizing the prostitution of children as child sex trafficking; intensify efforts to investigate and prosecute all forms of trafficking and hold traffickers accountable through convictions and sufficiently stringent sentences; develop and implement standard procedures for officials to identify and refer trafficking victims; increase funding for and availability of specialized services for trafficking victims, especially outside the capital and including for male victims; increase anti-trafficking training for law enforcement officials, labor inspectors, prosecutors, judges, and social workers, particularly to identify and assist victims of sex and labor trafficking; develop and operationalize a data collection system to maintain official statistics on anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim identification efforts; finalize and implement a national action plan; and make efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor.


The government modestly increased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts; however, Uruguay does not prohibit all forms of trafficking. 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 aggravating factors rather than essential elements 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. Authorities 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. The court lacked sufficient staffing and funding, and local officials did not always refer to the court trafficking cases meeting these guidelines. All other trafficking cases were heard by local courts with less expertise in human trafficking. In 2015, the government began drafting a comprehensive anti-trafficking law.

The government did not collect comprehensive data on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and had no system for tracking court cases. In 2015, the attorney general’s office began piloting a new national data management system to compile all criminal and civil case data; however, Uruguay’s transition from an “inquisitorial” to an “accusatorial” justice system, planned for February 2017, must take place before the new system takes effect. In the interim, individual courts and police departments will remain the central repository for data collection. The government did not provide comprehensive data on investigations initiated during the reporting period; it reported investigating one transnational labor trafficking case in 2015. The government also initiated investigations of six cases, leading to prosecution of 16 suspected sex traffickers in 2015, compared with two investigations leading to five prosecutions in 2014; the cases involved Uruguayan and foreign victims, including one child. The government did not report any trafficking convictions in 2015, compared with two labor trafficking convictions in 2014. On appeal in 2015, sentences in the 2014 cases were reduced to 24 months’ and 10 months’ imprisonment, below the mandatory minimum under article 78. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. The government trained law enforcement, immigration, and judicial officials on human trafficking, including in partnership with an international organization. The Ministry of Interior drafted two protocols for police officers: one on detecting and investigating human trafficking and smuggling during highway procedures, and the other on detecting and investigating commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents. The government published and distributed to police departments, investigative offices, and specialized gender-based violence units a resource guide, with indicators to identify victims, that defines and guides responses to human trafficking, smuggling, and commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents. The government reported continued international cooperation through INTERPOL on an unspecified number of trafficking cases in 2015.


Uruguayan authorities assisted an increased number of transnational trafficking victims in 2015, 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 222 (212 female and 10 male) victims of trafficking in 2015, including 14 potential labor trafficking victims, compared with 113 potential victims in 2014. Of the total, 189 victims were from the Dominican Republic and 19 were Uruguayan. The government reported identifying one child trafficking victim in 2015. 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 3,638,280 Uruguayan pesos ($121,722) in 2015, an increase from 2,730,000 Uruguayan pesos ($91,334) in 2014, 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. 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, general asylum and residential work permits were available to foreign trafficking victims in 2015.


The government increased prevention efforts during the year. MIDES chaired an interagency committee that coordinated government anti-trafficking efforts. The committee met multiple times during the year and was developing a draft national plan for 2016-2020, in concert with the anti-trafficking law under development. Authorities conducted two awareness campaigns, largely focused on sex trafficking, on the borders with Brazil and Argentina. The government took actions to prevent child sex tourism and reduce the demand for commercial sex by implementing an awareness campaign aimed at companies in the hotel and travel agency industries to encourage proprietors to report suspicious or illegal behavior. The government 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 for its diplomatic personnel.