The United States Department of State on Monday called on Colombia to step up efforts to prosecute alleged human traffickers, and improve the assistance to victims of slavery and sex trafficking.
In its annual human trafficking report, the State Department maintained Colombia’s Tier 2 position, again highlighting the South American country’s shortcomings when it comes to combating human trafficking.
For years, Colombia was a Tier 1 country, meaning it complied with all the US’ requirements to curb human trafficking, but the country was demoted last year amid criticism it failed to adequately prosecute alleged perpetrators and serve victims.
This year, the South American country maintained its Tier 2 qualification as it had failed to follow up on the previous year’s recommendations.
Colombia is one of the main origin countries for human trafficking in Latin America, mainly because of the trafficking of women and girls who are forced into prostitution.
“Sex trafficking of Colombian women and children occurs within the country and Colombian women and children are found in sex trafficking around the world, particularly in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia,” the report said.
Additionally, “authorities reported high rates of child prostitution in areas with tourism and large extractive industries, and sex trafficking in mining areas sometimes involves organized criminal groups.”
The State Department was particularly critical of the country’s Prosecutor General’s Office, which “took minimal steps to prosecute and convict labor traffickers and internal sex traffickers.”
The report called on Colombia to increase funding for both government and non-government organizations dedicated to fight human trafficking and “increase proactive identification, investigation, and prosecution of forced labor and internal sex trafficking.”
Secretary of State John Kerry did praise the work of one Medellin-based NGO, the Corporacion Espacios de Mujer, for its efforts to fight human trafficking and provide assistance to victims.
Director Betty Pedraza was named an Anti-Trafficking Hero and awarded for her efforts.
“We recognize your steadfast efforts to restore the rights of adults and children who have been victimized by human trafficking, your commitment to help survivors, and your relentless advocacy for victim care,” Kerry told the Medellin native.
Due to a lack of data, it is unclear how many Colombians annually fall victim to sex trafficking, forced labor or the illegal recruitment by illegal armed groups.