The issue of human trafficking has come to the limelight in Argentina in the last couple of decades, especially in relation to young women and girls kidnapped or coerced into sex work. While there are no official numbers that relate exactly how many victims of human trafficking there are in Argentina, Argentina’s Ministry of Justice has stated that, since 2008, more than 10,000 victims of the practice have been rescued by federal and local police. The majority of victims, 54 percent, were foreigners, while 52 percent were victims of labor exploitation and 48 perent were trafficked for sex work.
“Many girls are tricked into sexual slavery,” said Luján Araujo, who works at Fundación María de los Ángeles, an organization that helps women and girls that have been rescued from human trafficking rings. “They are lured with false offers of work and then they find themselves trapped in the vicious web of sexual slavery. A girl from Misiones, for example, answered an ad in the newspaper for a nanny in Buenos Aires. They paid for her ticket and when she arrived she discovered that it was not a home but a brothel. She was held as a slave in the middle of Buenos Aires along with her daughter. They threatened to harm her child if she tried to escape.”
In the past few years especially, the Argentine government has ramped up the fight against human trafficking, enacting a number of new policies aimed at eradicating the practice. The 2008 National Program for the Rescue and Accompaniment of Victims of Human Trafficking, for example, has worked to provide medical, psychological and legal support to survivors of human trafficking, and also works to help and empower individuals in their reintegration into society. The federal government has also started a new trafficking hotline, while regional governments in a number of provinces have opened anti-trafficking centers.
It seems now that these efforts have paid off, at least in part. On July 5, the US government elevated Argentina in its 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report to the highest possible category in terms of countries that carry out the best, most comprehensive state policies to combat, prevent, and eradicate human trafficking.
The report, released by the US State Department, states that the Argentine government “fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” emphasizing that the government made “key achievements” in the area and has thus been elevated to Tier 1 category. Since 2011, Argentina had been classified as a Tier 2 country, primarily composed of nations who have made efforts in combating human trafficking but whose actions are overall insufficient in this area. Argentina now joins Chile and Colombia as the only Latin American countries with a Tier 1 rating. Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, and Mexico remain in the Tier 2 category, while Venezuela and Bolivia are in the Tier 3 category, the lowest of the scale.
The report goes on to list Argentina’s achievements in combating human trafficking: “Prosecuting and convicting complicit officials; identifying and assisting more victims; establishing additional legal protections for victims; increasing the number of prosecutions; providing more training to government officials and civil society members; and improving data collection.”
However, the report also lists a number of measures that Argentina can still take in its effort to eradicate human trafficking. Among the suggestions listed is the need to: strengthen efforts to condemn and punish traffickers with dissuasive sentences, to promote comprehensive assistance for victims in both the short and long term, and to revise Argentina’s 2012 trafficking law 2012.
Thus, while Argentina is now consolidated in Latin America as one of the countries with the most comprehensive policies and tools in place to combat human trafficking and exploitation, the new report not only acts as recognition for a job well done, but reminds the country that there are still many steps to be taken on the long road to eradicating the practice.