Colombia still major source for human trafficking: US

Colombia continues to be a “major source country” for human trafficking Tuesday, despite receiving a top tier rating for its efforts to combat the problem, a report released by the U.S. State Department Monday said.

The report indicated that both men and women are victims of human trafficking in Colombia. Women are often subjected to sex trafficking and girls are forced to work in the child sex tourism industry. Females were listed as victims of domestic servitude and forced displacement from rural to urban areas for prostitution. Men were reported to be forced into labor internally in mining and agriculture.

The report also noted the importance of the drug trade in human trafficking, finding that many people involved in the drug trade force relatives, acquaintances, and displaced persons into forced labor or prostitution.

According to a different international report, Colombia also currently hosts 10,000 active child soldiers.

At the heart of these conditions is Colombia’s estimated pool of 3.6 million internally displaced persons — the largest of any country in the world.

Despite these conditions, the State Department gave Colombia a top tier for its efforts to eliminate human trafficking, stating “Colombia fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons.” The State Department noted stiff legal penalties for traffickers, active prosecution of offenders, and coordination on prevention efforts as criteria for Colombia’s tier one status, but noted that Colombia still lacked an effective infrastructure for providing services to adult victims of human trafficking. The report explained that Colombia has adequate shelters for child victims but relies on NGO’s for providing care to adults.

Colombia prosecuted its first domestic labor trafficking case this year. Overall prosecutions and convictions remained largely the same this year with 144 investigations and 17 convictions compared with 215 investigations and 14 convictions last year.

The report further noted that Colombia lacks a dedicated police unit for internal trafficking and that there had been reports of collusion between local authorities and traffickers with some police officers soliciting bribes or sexual favors from brothels in exchange for protection. Colombia did not investigate or convict any government officials for human trafficking this year.

Colombia has historically received a high rating on the State Department’s human trafficking report over the past decade and has received its highest rating every year since 2004.

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