The US State department downgraded Colombia in its annual human trafficking report on Friday, claiming the country’s government is not complying with the minimum standards aimed at preventing and prosecuting forced recruitment, child labor and sex trafficking.
|“Authorities reported high rates of child prostitution in areas with tourism and large extractive industries, and NGOs reported that sex trafficking in mining areas sometimes involves organized criminal groups.”|
The country has long been recognized as a source and destination country for sex and labor trafficking, while rebel groups like the FARC and urban militias have long been forcibly recruiting both adults and minors. Some children are subjected to forced labor.
Additionally, “authorities reported high rates of child prostitution in areas with tourism and large extractive industries, and NGOs reported that sex trafficking in mining areas sometimes involves organized criminal groups.”
Until last year, Washington consistently considers Colombia among the top-tiers of nations that impose the adequate measures to combat human trafficking, but demoted the country to the second of three levels in its latest report.
This year, the State department said that “the Government of Colombia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.”
However, in spite these “significant efforts,” the US government criticized the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos for failing to successfully promote a decree “to formally assign responsibility for victim services and to allocate specific funding. This decree was first drafted in 2008 but remained pending at the end of the reporting period.”
|“The government assigned only one prosecutor in Bogota to oversee cases of internal trafficking in the city, with no reduction in prior workload. Outside of Bogota, local prosecutors handled internal trafficking cases as well as prosecutions for other crimes. Many of these prosecutors were overburdened, underfunded, and lacked trafficking expertise.”|
Consequently, law enforcement and victim attention agencies claimed to be chronically understaffed and underfunded.
“As in previous years, one prosecutor handled all transnational trafficking cases for the entire country and faced a significant caseload. The government assigned only one prosecutor in Bogota to oversee cases of internal trafficking in the city, with no reduction in prior workload. Outside of Bogota, local prosecutors handled internal trafficking cases as well as prosecutions for other crimes. Many of these prosecutors were overburdened, underfunded, and lacked trafficking expertise,” said the State Department report.
Additionally, some of the state anti-trafficking committees “existed in name only,” the report said, citing civilian sources.
This was because the inter-agency anti-trafficking committee “met on a monthly basis, but did not produce tangible results and did not finalize the 2013-2018 draft anti-trafficking strategy or victim protection decree initially drafted in 2008.”
Latin America Tiers
In regards to child prostitution, the report said that in some cases local law officials failed to attend cases, because they “inaccurately believed that it was permissible under Colombian law for a child between 14 and 18 to engage independently in commercial sex.”
In spite the shortcomings that forced Colombia’s downgrade, the report recognized that more labor and sex trafficking victims abroad received assistance for repatriation, and more victims decided in favor of collaborating with justice.
The vast majority of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have a Tier 2 or 3 status. Chile and Nicaragua were the only countries that received a Tier one status for complying with the minimal necessary measures necessary to combat human trafficking.
Globally, the State Department registered almost 45,000 human trafficking victims in 2013. Prosecution of alleged perpetrators led to 5,776 convictions worldwide last year.
- Trafficking in Persons Report | June 2014 (PDF / US State Department)
- Country Narratives: A-C (PDF / US State Department)
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