More than 40 Venezuelan women were rescued from a “21st century sex slavery” ring after being kidnapped along the Colombia-Venezuela border and forced into prostitution, according to Colombian authorities.
Sex trafficking has been a longtime problem in Colombia; the United States has called the country “a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.”
Just last month Colombian prosecutors announced that they had dismantled a sex trafficking ring that tricked more than 100 girls and women into working as sex slaves in Trinidad and Tobago.
In 2017, the government appropriated 2.3 billion pesos, more than $771,000 to aid just internal trafficking victims, yet the problem still remains strong in the South American country.
And as the groundswell of migration from Venezuelan into Colombia increases, so are concerns that those migrants, specifically women and children, are increasingly becoming the targets of human trafficking.
Migrants arrive to Colombia with little more than a suitcase and hopes to get a job and send money back to family members, but as the situation grows more desperate experts say that those populations become increasingly more vulnerable to exploitation.
Chief prosecutor Nestor Humberto Martinez said the migrants were captured in the border city of Cucuta which has been overwhelmed by the thousands of migrants that cross over the country’s border every day. Many of the women are drawn to the traffickers with prospects for money and food.
The women were provided transportation to Bogota, where leaders of the sex trafficking network allegedly confiscated their documentation and forced them into prostitution for 20 days to “pay off” that transportation.
Leaders of the human trafficking network gave the women 15 minutes of freedom each day and hired a doctor to perform abortions on victims who got pregnant as a result of their forced sex work, according to Martinez.
“It’s absolutely despicable,” he said.
Colombian law enforcement were closing on the sex traffickers previously, but Martinez said an official at Migracion Colombian alerted the leaders to an incoming raid, allowing them to escape.
“This official will be prosecuted today for allegedly leaking information and thwarting operations against human trafficking for the purpose of sexual slavery in several locations in Bogotá,” he said.
In addition to sex trafficking, illegal armed groups and criminals have increasingly begun to profit from the economic crisis in Venezuela and it’s rather porous border, charging migrants illegal access into the country.
For groups, who have historically smuggled illegal goods and drugs in the areas, those migrants have become yet another commodity.