Monday, June 06, 2005

Trafficking in persons

The US State Department issued its 2005 Report on Trafficking in Persons on Friday, June 3. The entire text of the section of the report relating to El Salvador is reproduced below:

El Salvador is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. El Salvador is also a source country for forced labor. There are no firm estimates on the size and scope of trafficking in El Salvador. However, there are reports of Salvadorans trafficked to the United States, Canada, Mexico, and other countries in Central America. Salvadoran women and children are trafficked internally for prostitution from the rural and eastern part of the country to urban areas. The vast majority of foreign victims are women and children from Nicaragua and Honduras. There have been past reports of Salvadorans being trafficked to the United States for agricultural labor exploitation.

The Government of El Salvador does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. In October 2004, El Salvador passed new anti-trafficking legislation to make trafficking in persons and conspiracy to traffic a felony. That same month, the Border Patrol of the National Civilian Police (PNC) created a special anti-trafficking unit dedicated to investigating trafficking cases. This new unit has stepped up efforts to rescue victims and arrest traffickers. To further its efforts to combat trafficking, the government should establish mechanisms to provide victim protection and services, including assistance for foreign victims. Additionally, increased regional cooperation would enable the government to further investigate trafficking cases that are occurring as part of cross-border migration.


Aided by a new anti-trafficking law, the Government of El Salvador increased its efforts to investigate, arrest, and convict traffickers during the reporting period. From October 2004 to February 2005, the newly created Police Anti-trafficking Unit arrested 15 traffickers and charged them under the new, more stringent, anti-trafficking law. Prior to the October passage of the new anti-trafficking law in 2004, the government brought cases under existing statutes against 19 traffickers. However, only three convictions were obtained among the 34 trafficking-related arrests. The passage of the new anti-trafficking law gives the government better tools to go after traffickers, and the Attorney GeneralÂ’s office should use it to more aggressively to investigate, prosecute, and convict brothel owners, especially those involved in the commercial sexual exploitation of children.


The government provides reasonable protections for Salvadorans, particularly children, but foreign trafficking victims remained relatively excluded from these protections during the reporting period. The government is in the process of amending its immigration laws to comply with treaty obligations respecting the protection of foreign trafficking victims. At the present time, though, illegal adult immigrants, some of whom may be victims of trafficking, face quick deportation as a matter of policy. Despite limited resources, the government's child welfare agency (ISNA) does provide protection, counseling, shelter, and legal assistance to at-risk Salvadoran children, including underage trafficking victims. The newly created anti-trafficking Police unit rescued and turned over to ISNA's care 19 minors between October 2004 and February 2005. The government plans to open a temporary shelter for trafficking victims, but efforts have been slow. Finally, the government is exploring legislation to create a witness protection program that would foster better victim participation in the prosecution of traffickers.


Resource constraints hampered the government's efforts to produce a sustainable anti-trafficking prevention effort over the last year, but the government has in the past aggressively used the media to warn the public about trafficking. The government sponsors programs to promote the participation of women in social, economic, cultural, and educational venues. The government is also supporting after-school activities for children to bind them to their communities and prevent them from falling prey to traffickers, gangs, drugs, and violence.

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