[ Country-by-Country Reports ]
EL SALVADOR (TIER 2)
[Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]
Salvador is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children
trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced
labor. Most victims are Salvadoran women and girls trafficked within the
country from rural to urban areas for commercial sexual exploitation,
although some adults and children are trafficked internally for forced
agricultural labor. The majority of foreign victims are women and children
from Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and Colombia who travel to El
Salvador in response to job offers, but are subsequently forced into
prostitution or domestic servitude. Some adults and children from neighboring
countries are subject to forced labor in agriculture and apparel assembly.
Salvadorans have been trafficked to Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, the United
States, Spain, and Italy, for commercial sexual exploitation.
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. During the reporting period, the government sustained strong
anti-trafficking prosecution, protection, and prevention activities, though
it neglected to take adequate measures to protect adult trafficking victims
and to confront trafficking-related corruption.
Recommendations for El Salvador: Continue to strengthen law enforcement efforts
against trafficking offenders; investigate and prosecute, as appropriate,
reports of forced labor and domestic servitude, as well as allegations
relating to public officials who may be involved with trafficking activity;
increase use of pro-active law enforcement techniques such as brothel raids
to rescue victims; increase victim services and assistance, particularly for
adults; and strengthen statutory penalties for trafficking-in-persons crimes.
The Government of El Salvador sustained solid law enforcement efforts against
trafficking offenders during the reporting period. Article 367B of the Salvadoran
Penal Code prohibits all forms of human trafficking and prescribes penalties
of four to eight years’ imprisonment. Sentences may be increased by
one-third when the offense is accompanied by aggravated circumstances, such
as when the victim is a child or the defendant is a public official. Such
penalties are sufficiently stringent but do not appear commensurate with
penalties prescribed for serious offenses such as rape, which carries a
punishment of six to 20 years’ imprisonment. Since passage of El Salvador’s
anti-trafficking statute in 2004, some prosecutors have elected to charge
trafficking-related crimes under the country’s rape statute in order to
secure heavier mandatory sentences against offenders. In 2008, the
government’s dedicated anti-trafficking police and prosecutorial units
brought charges in 15 cases of human trafficking, obtaining 8 convictions
with sentences ranging from four to 10 years’ imprisonment. Such
results compare with 46 prosecutions and five convictions secured in 2007.
The majority of the government’s law enforcement efforts focused on
trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, though a
smaller number of cases related to forced labor. During the reporting period,
police conducted undercover trafficking investigations and acted on
trafficking-related tips to execute raids on brothels and commercial sex
sites. The government also cooperated with neighboring foreign governments on
anti-trafficking investigations. Despite credible reports of public officials
involved with trafficking activity, particularly in the department of
Chalatenango, no investigations or prosecutions of such officials were opened
during the reporting period.
The Salvadoran government increased victim assistance last year. With U.S.
and international assistance, the government re-opened a dedicated shelter
for trafficking victims in January 2008. The shelter houses approximately 20
child trafficking victims. The country’s federal agency for children
and adolescents, ISNA, also operated a national network of 11 shelters to
provide secure housing, 24-hour medical attention, psychological counseling,
and vocational workshops to victims of abuse, including trafficking victims.
However, most government assistance and services were directed to child
trafficking victims, and were not readily accessible to adult or male
trafficking victims. NGOs noted that government support services typically
cease once a victim leaves shelter care, and that trafficking victims could
benefit from greater reintegration assistance. The government trained
personnel, including consular officers, on identifying trafficking victims
abroad; consular officials identified four trafficking victims during the
reporting period. Domestically, Salvadoran authorities encouraged victims to
assist with law enforcement efforts; 57 victims participated in the
investigation and prosecution of their traffickers during the reporting
period, though others did not do so due to social stigma or fear of reprisals
from their traffickers. Victims generally are not charged, jailed, or
penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
The government does not provide a formal legal alternative to deportation to
a country where a trafficking victim may face hardship or retribution, though
law enforcement and social service officials may request residency status for
a victim on a case-by-case basis.
The Salvadoran government sustained anti-trafficking prevention efforts
during the reporting period. The government ran information and education
campaigns, and operated an anti-trafficking hotline. During the reporting
period, the government trained more than 5,000 officials across the country
on preventing human trafficking. Border agents received training to detect
trafficking activity and irregular migration patterns, and referred
identified trafficking cases for further police investigation. Salvadoran
troops assigned to peacekeeping operations receive anti-trafficking training
before deployment. No specific government efforts to reduce demand for
commercial sex acts or forced labor were reported over the last year.