Cablegate: Colombia - Anti-Trafficking in Persons (Tip) Report

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

id: 14484
date: 3/2/2004 22:05
refid: 04BOGOTA2199
origin: Embassy Bogota
destination: 04STATE7869
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

----------------- header ends ----------------





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Embassy point of contact on trafficking in persons is
human rights officer Kiersten Stiansen, phone number (571)
383-2122, fax number (571) 315-2163. Approximate amount of
time spent to prepare this report: 30 hours.


2. Colombia is a significant source of trafficking victims,
especially women and children destined for sexual
exploitation. According to the Administrative Department of
Security (DAS), which has responsibilities similar to the FBI
and INS, Colombia is the second most common country of origin
of trafficking victims in the Western Hemisphere, and there
are approximately 45,000-50,000 Colombian women working as
prostitutes overseas. According to the DAS, between 2 and 10
Colombian women leave the country every day as unwitting
victims of trafficking. Some Colombian men are trafficked,
usually for forced labor, and there is significant internal
trafficking of women for sexual exploitation, especially by
the FARC terrorist organization, as well as forced
conscription into terrorist armies. Female trafficking
victims are at high risk for sexually transmitted diseases,
unwanted pregnancies, and forced abortions. Most trafficking
victims come from major cities such as Bogota, Medellin, and
Barranquilla, the Caribbean coastal region, the departments
of Valle del Cauca and Norte de Santander, and cities in the
so-called "Coffee Zone," which includes the departments of
Risaralda, Caldas, and Quindio. Victims of internal
trafficking are brought from small towns and rural areas to
large urban centers with active sex industries, including
Bogota, Medellin, Cali, and Cartagena.

3. According to the DAS, most trafficking victims go to
Europe, especially Spain (30 percent) and the Netherlands (20
percent), as well as Germany, Italy, France and Sweden. Many
other trafficking victims end up in Japan (40 percent). The
primary trafficking routes to Europe remain through Paris and
Madrid. The main routes to Japan are via Paris, Madrid, or
Miami. Colombia is also used as a transit point for
trafficking victims from other countries, usually from South

4. Most traffickers in Colombia are linked to narcotics
trafficking or other criminal organizations. Most
trafficking organizations include both Colombians and
criminals from destination countries. Colombia's continuing
economic difficulties, high unemployment, social exclusion,
crime, and terrorism contribute to the availability of
victims. Traffickers especially target females between the
ages of 14 and 30, especially those with limited education
and poor job prospects. They also target young single
mothers. They use a variety of techniques to recruit women.
According to the DAS, criminal gangs frequently allow
trafficking victims to return to Colombia if they agree to
recruit additional victims. These organizations place job
advertisements in major regional newspapers offering jobs in
Europe or Asia as nannies, maids, waitresses, sales clerks,
and models. They also advertise through internet chat-rooms
and marriage agencies. Once contact is established, criminal
gangs move quickly to send victims overseas before they can
reconsider or contact family. In addition, women are brought
to the airport at the last possible moment to minimize
potential government surveillance prior to their departure.
Victims are trained to memorize a fictitious cover story
designed to be convincing to immigration authorities in the
destination country. According to the DAS, 90 percent of
trafficking victims leave Colombia legally. In cases in
which women leave behind children in Colombia, criminal gangs
often threaten to harm them if the woman does not continue
working overseas.
5. There is political will at the highest levels of the GOC
to combat trafficking in persons. The Government has an
Inter-Agency Committee to Combat Trafficking in Women and
Children which includes representatives of the Ministry of
Justice and Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the DAS,
Interpol, the Colombian National Police (CNP), the Colombian
Institute for Family Welfare (ICBF), the Presidential Program
for the Human Rights, and the Offices of the Prosecutor
General, Inspector General, National Human Rights Ombudsman,
and Civil Registrar. The committee meets every two months
and has prepared information campaigns, promoted information
exchange between government entities, created trafficking hot
lines for victims, and encouraged closer cooperation between
the Government and Interpol. Some of the committee's
accomplishments over the last year included: training
prosecutors throughout the country on the application of
anti-trafficking Law 747 of 2002; updating the judicial
assistance manual to include trafficking crimes; inaugurating
a database to track criminal cases against trafficking
nationwide; and strengthening cooperation between the
government institutions that combat or discourage
trafficking. However, the effectiveness of anti-trafficking
efforts is limited by the scarce resources available to
relevant government agencies, which must devote most of their
resources to combating narcoterrorism. No Colombian
government official has been indicted for trafficking, and
there is no evidence of official complicity in any
trafficking activities.


6. Although the GOC acknowledges that trafficking in persons
is a significant problem in Colombia, there is no single GOC
entity responsible for anti-trafficking efforts and no
specific national anti-trafficking plan. However, as noted
above, the GOC has an effective inter-agency committee that
works to coordinate and amplify GOC anti-trafficking
activities. Government programs designed to empower women,
such as a quota law that requires that local and regional
authorities place women in 30 percent of all appointed
positions, may have a positive long-term effect on Colombia's
trafficking problem. The GOC has excellent relations with
national and international NGOs and international
governmental organizations regarding trafficking. Colombia
has good control over its international airports, and uses a
sophisticated system for tracking passenger arrivals and
departures. However, its maritime and land borders are
extremely porous and vulnerable to exploitation by criminals
who traffic in persons. Nevertheless, the vast majority of
trafficking victims leave the country legally. The DAS, as
the country's immigration control agency, has successfully
identified potential trafficking victims preparing to board
international flights from Bogota. In 2003, they persuaded
nine women not to go overseas after convincing them their job
offers were fraudulent. The DAS has also had success in
capturing traffickers, or "coyotes." In February, DAS
officials in Antioquia department captured four traffickers
in the cities of Rionegro, near Medellin, and Turbo, on the
Caribbean coast. Those caught in Rionegro were attempting to
send Ecuadorian children to the U.S. using false documents.

7. The Hope Foundation ("Fundacion Esperanza"), an
anti-trafficking NGO, in coordination with the DAS, sends
representatives to Bogota's international airport to watch
for potential trafficking victims. In February 2004, with
the support of the International Organization for Migration
(IOM), the Foundation launched an information campaign to
assist travelers in Bogota,s international airport.
Travelers will be able to register with the Foundation, view
information on trafficking, and access the addresses and
phone numbers of Colombian consulates worldwide through a
kiosk in the international terminal. This information is
also available on a new internet site.

8. In July 2003, the IOM implemented a major anti-trafficking
public relations campaign to raise awareness in Colombia.
The campaign included placing large posters in airports,
foreign consulates, and travel agencies and running
professionally produced public service announcements on radio
and television. The IOM, with USG assistance, also created a
Call Center that allows persons to phone in anonymously to
ask about the legitimacy of work offers and provide
information on potential trafficking cases. Between July 31
and September 30, 2003, the center received 2,338 calls.

9. The IOM has also signed two agreements this year with GOC
agencies to increase cooperation in trafficking prevention.
On November 6, the IOM and the Inspector General,s Office
(Procuraduria) signed a Technical Cooperation Agreement to
strengthen the prevention of trafficking and the punishment
of traffickers. The IOM has also begun training local
representatives of the Inspector Generals' Office nationwide
and is developing an information-sharing database. On
December 10, the IOM signed an agreement with the DAS on
increased cooperation and development of a shared information

Investigation and Prosecution of Traffickers

10. Law 599 of 2000 made the penalties for trafficking for
purposes of prostitution equivalent to those for rape and
sexual assault, carrying penalties of six to eight years in
prison and fines of up to 100 times the monthly minimum wage.
Law 747 of July 2002 broadened the definition of trafficking
in persons and provided for prison sentences between 10 and
15 years and fines up to 1,000 times the monthly minimum
wage. These penalties can be increased by up to one-third if
there are aggravating circumstances. Charges of illegal
detention, violation of the right to work in dignified
conditions, and violation of personal freedom may also be
brought against traffickers. Police actively investigate
trafficking offenses.

11. In accordance with Law 360 of 1997, the Prosecutor
General,s Office (Fiscalia) created a special unit to
investigate and prosecute sexual crimes, including
trafficking in persons. In 2003, the Prosecutor General,s
Office negotiated 13 plea bargains and convicted 3 persons
for trafficking offenses. There were another 306 cases in
various stages of processing and/or investigation. There was
a 38 percent increase in the number of trafficking cases
investigated by the Prosecutor General's Office over the past
12. In the last year, the DAS conducted 6 major international
anti-trafficking operations that freed 14 women and led to
the arrest of 8 traffickers. For example, Colombia's
diplomatic mission in Japan, working with INTERPOL in both
Colombia and Japan, provided key information that led to the
capture of Japanese trafficker &Sony8 and two other
Japanese citizens, as well as the arrest of a Colombian woman
who worked as a recruiter for the Japanese mafia, the
"Yakuza." This woman would meet Colombian victims in Narita
airport in Japan where she would take their documents and
then sell the women to Japanese criminals. Based on the
information provided by an escaped victim, this woman was
deported back to Colombia in June 2003 where she was detained
by members of INTERPOL Colombia in Bogota,s airport, and met
by authorities with warrants for her arrest for the crimes of
trafficking in persons and conspiracy. According to the
police and DAS, most traffickers are linked to narcotics or
other criminal organizations. In some cases, Colombian
traffickers sell victims to foreign crime organizations; this
is especially the case with Japanese crime syndicates, as
noted above.

13. The IOM has provided training for government officials to
help trafficking victims. In particular, it has been working
with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to train its career
diplomats on how to spot and deal with trafficking victims,
as well as providing information on the scope of the problem
in Colombia and internationally. Since December 2002, the
IOM has conducted numerous workshops and trained more than
1,610 public officials from various government agencies in
different regional departments on the applicable regulations
for this crime.

14. GOC can extradite persons charged with trafficking in
other countries. However, there were no such extraditions
(nor requests for extradition) in the last year, according to
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

15. Colombia's legislature approved ILO Convention 182 on the
worst forms of child labor. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs
and Social Protection are taking the necessary steps to
finalize ratification. The GOC has already taken steps to
bring national law into conformity with the Convention. On
November 11, Colombia ratified the Optional Protocol to the
Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of
children, child prostitution, and child pornography. The
Protocol entered into force on December 11. It has also
signed, but not yet ratified, the Protocol to Prevent,
Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women
and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against
Transnational Organized Crime. The Colombian Congress has
approved the Protocol, but it is still pending approval by
the president and review by the Constitutional Court.
Colombia ratified ILO Convention 29 in 1969 and ILO
Convention 105 in 1963.

Protection and Assistance to Victims
16. Colombian consulates worldwide are responsible for
providing legal and social assistance to Colombian citizens
in need, including victims of trafficking. The GOC has
contracted legal advisors and social workers to help support
Colombians abroad. However, this type of assistance is only
provided in consular districts with at least 10,000 resident
Colombians. The GOC has no program for assisting trafficking
victims once they return to Colombia, but trafficked minors
can receive some assistance. For example, of the 25,000
children sexually exploited in Colombia, the Colombian Family
Welfare Institute (ICBF) has provided assistance, both
directly and through other specialized agencies, to over
14,400 over the last year. The IOM and the Hope Foundation
have provided short-term assistance to trafficking victims,
including educational information, social support, and
counseling. For example, with USG funding, the IOM is
assisting 50 children of female trafficking victims in
Bogota; 50 adult female trafficking victims in Medellin,
Antioquia department; 39 adult female trafficking victims in
Pereira, Risaralda department; 30 children of female
trafficking victims in Armenia, Quindio department; and
trafficking victims between the ages of 14 and 25 in
Cartagena, Bolivar department, and Barranquilla, Atlantico
department. The Foundation against Trafficking in Persons,
founded by the Ministry of Justice's former anti-trafficking
advisor, began a project to assist trafficking victims and
others hurt by the sex trade in Bogota. The Rebirth
Foundation ("Fundacion Renacer") provided assistance to
trafficking victims, especially children. In 2002, the
Rebirth Foundation helped 1,323 victims of trafficking,
including 392 girls and 270 boys.

17. The rights of trafficking victims are respected and the
government encourages victims to assist in the investigation
and prosecution of trafficking crimes. However, widespread
witness intimidation and limitations of the witness
protection program deter many victims from coming forward or
actively cooperating in investigations.

© Scoop Media

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