Navigation path



    Spain’s commitment to combat human trafficking can be traced to 1996, when a Commission on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities was establishedin the Spanish Parliament to study trafficking in women and children in Spain. The conclusions and recommendations of the Commission’s report subsequently served as the basis for the first National Action Plan.

    Spanish anti-trafficking policies have, along with a focus on trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, also put special emphasis on child trafficking. Although the development of a special action plan to combat trafficking in human beings for labour exploitation is under way, thefocus of current Spanish anti-trafficking policy is still exclusively on human trafficking for sexual exploitation.

    Spain is a transit and destination country for men, women and children trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour. Victims are mainly trafficked from Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Latin America and Africa (primarily Nigeria). In smaller numbers, Chinese victims are also trafficked to Spain, primarily for forced labour.

    Women are trafficked for sexual exploitation, while both men and women are trafficked for forced labour, most often in the agriculture and construction sectors. There has been an increase in the number of minors trafficked into Spain for forced begging.

    Approximately 90 percent of women engaged in prostitution in Spain are victims of forced prostitution, controlled by organized networks operating throughout the country.

    This text is also available in the official language of the country.




    All forms of human trafficking in persons are prohibited by the Criminal Code (art. 318) and the Organic Law 11/2003. However, the Criminal Code criminalises different forms of human trafficking through different offences established in the Organic Law 10/1995. Trafficking for sexual exploitation has been included as a specific offence in the Criminal Code since 2000 (Article 188, Organic Law 4/2000).

    The Spanish Criminal Code was amended in 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2007 to expand the areas related to human trafficking covered by national legislation.

    The government implemented new legislation in 2007 that increased prescribed penalties for trafficking from two to six years in prison if the offender is found to be part of a criminal organisation. Additional legislation was passed in 2007 that allows Spanish courts to prosecute cases of trafficking that have occurred outside Spain’s borders.

    Article 59of the OrganicLaw 4/2000 on the Rights and Freedoms of Foreign Citizens provides victims of trafficking, with a permit to stay and work if they assist in investigations and prosecutions. Victims of trafficking are thereby exempted from the obligation to leave the country. If the victim decides to return to the country of origin, the costs will be covered.

    Amendments to the Organic Law 4/2000 in December 2009, included improvements of specific procedures for Unaccompanied and Trafficked Minors (art 35); provisions in case of victims assisting in investigation and prosecutions, temporary suspension of return decision if applicable (art 59); and a new article 59 bis to set up measures for identification, treatment and protection of victims of trafficking, including a reflection period of at least 30 days.

    These amendments have also been reflected in the Penal Code where a new title has been added under the name of Crimes against third country nationals' rights; new article 318 bis has been added for illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings; and amendments to articles 515, 517 and 518 have established sanctions and penalties for the traffickers.

    The Ministry of the Interior (Secretary of State for Security) has passed Instruction 1/2010 on the provisional application of article 59 bis of Organic Law 4/2000 to victims of human trafficking. The Instruction stipulates the procedure to be followed in trafficking cases to identify the victims, and to ensure a period of reflection, referral to social and health services and the granting of a residence and work permit.

    According to the United States state Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report 2010, Spain prohibits transnational trafficking and smuggling in persons though Articles 313 and 318 of its criminal code, and the Organic Law 11/2003. However, the US TIP Report states that these specific laws fail to protect Spanish citizens, as they do not prohibit trafficking crimes occurring wholly within Spain’s border and they do not legally distinguish between trafficking and smuggling. The US TIP Report also states, however, that in November 2009 the government drafted and submitted to Parliament a bill to remedy current legislative deficiencies.

    NGOs and international observers report that the judicial authorities often use Article 188, which covers forced prostitution and pimping, to prosecute traffickers. This article prescribes penalties of only two to four years.

    National Strategy/National Action Plan

    A National Action Plan on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings for Sexual Exploitation for the period 2009-2012 was approved on 12 December 2008 by the Council of Ministers.

    The Action Plan has a special focus on:

    • prevention and awareness raising;
    • training and education;
    • victim assistance and protection;
    • legislation and procedural measures;
    • co-ordination and cooperation.

    The implementation of the action plan involves several ministries (the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Labour and Immigration, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Equality), autonomous communities, local administrations and non-governmental organisations.

    A National Action Plan on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings for Labour Exploitation is currently under development.

    Coordination of anti-trafficking actions at a national level

    A Ministerial Coordination Group has been established to follow up and evaluate the implementation of the National Action Plan.

    This Ministerial Coordination Group is chaired by the Ministry for Equality, and includes officials from the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Labour and Immigration, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health.

    In July 2009, the Social Forum Combating Trafficking in Human Beings for Sexual

    Exploitation (Foro Social contra la Trata de Seres Humanos con Fines de Explotación

    Sexual) was established. The aim of the Forum is to enhance cooperation and exchange of information between public administrations and civil society.

    National Rapporteur or equivalent mechanisms

    The delegate of the Minister of Health, Social Services and Equality, Blanca Hernández Oliver, exercises the role of a National Rapporteur or equivalent mechanism

    The most important challenges at national level

    • Legal changes are referred to trafficking, irrespective from the purpose of exploitation, however the Comprehensive Action Plan to combat trafficking is only referred to the purpose of sexual exploitation, as this is the principal aim of trafficking cases detected in Spain.
    • A Commission lead by the Ministry of Internal Affairs has been working in a Comprehensive Action Plan to combat trafficking for labour exploitation (including begging), that is pending for approval.
    • The Spanish Criminal Code must be amended again to be adapted to the 2011/36/CE Directive, as it has to introduce the purpose of exploitation for criminal activities, but most of our legal system is already adapted to the Directive.
    • One of the next year challenges will be to set up the Protocol for the identification, assistance and protection of victims and to consolidate an efficient system of data collection.
    • To coordinate between different territorial levels, especially with autonomous communities which are competent in social resources and in minors reception and assistance.


    Efforts to prevent human trafficking have included regular projects and awareness-raising campaigns. The following actions were undertaken in 2009:

    • A travelling exhibition on trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation, entitled Don't be part of it, was promoted by the Ministry of Equality in accordance with the European Anti Trafficking Day. The exhibition has been in several places in the region of Madrid, particularly two of the public universities in Madrid, as well travelling around other regions.
    • The driveway through El Retiro Park in Madrid held the exhibition The Journey. The exhibition attracted a large number of viewers, with over 5,000 visits, while also making a strong impact in the media.
    • An awareness campaign was designed based on an agreement with the Hotel and Catering Federation. This Agreement included the distribution of material (beer mats and stickers) for reporting and promoting awareness of trafficking on the premises belonging to the Federation. Moreover, a symbol for the fight against sexual exploitation was created which can now be found in over 13,000 premises throughout Spain.
    • The Ministry of Equality ran an awareness campaign in ten national publications on the International day against sexual exploitation and trafficking of women, boys and girls. A half-page advertisement was inserted titled Say no to sexual exploitation.
    • During 2008, the Madrid city government produced awareness posters targeted at potential sex clients with the slogan Because you pay, prostitution exists…Do not contribute to the perpetuation of 21st century slavery.
    • A government-funded NGOprovided a 24-hour hotline for trafficking victims, although the number was not toll free throughout the country.


    • The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Equality, through the Institute of Women, has drawn up a teaching unit on human trafficking for use in education centres, which is available on the INTERCAMBIA.
    • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation has trained consular staff in prevention and early detection.
    • The Departments of Justice and Defence and the Ministry of Equality - through the Institute of Women – have designed a training course for officials involved in anti human trafficking work.
    • Spanish troops receive trafficking awareness training before their deployment abroad for international peacekeeping missions.

    Assistance and support provided to victims

    A guide for the identification, referral and protection of victims of trafficking, the Red Contra la Trata de Personas en España, was issued in June 2008.

    In December 2008, the Spanish government established a formal mechanism for referring victims to service providers. The special Fund for the Assistance of Women Victims of Human Trafficking (Fondo de Ayuda a las Víctimas de Trata) was also established that year, aiming to improve assistance services for victims in Spain.

    According to the US TIP report, non-governmental organisations throughout Spain identified 771 victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and 133 victims of trafficking for labour exploitation in 2008.

    Residence permit

    Amendments to the Organic Law 4/2000 in December 2009, includes a new article 59 bis to set up measures for identification, treatment and protection of victims of trafficking, including a reflection period of at least 30 days.

    If victims agree to testify against traffickers, a temporary residence permit can be obtained. The law also allows for a residence and work permit to be granted in exceptional cases, depending on victims' personal situation, even if they have not assisted in investigating the crime.The residence permit for exceptional situations applicable to victims is given for a one year period and can be renewed for a further year. Victims are entitled to medical and psychological assistance, including emergency care, through the national health care system, as well as access to temporary shelter and legal protection.

    Special protective measures for children

    Spanish anti-trafficking policies have long put a special emphasis on child trafficking. The Second National Action Plan to Combat the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents 2006– 2009 was jointly drawn up by the Ministry of Education, Social Policy and Sport, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and Children Support Organisations. The plan focuses on sexual exploitation for commercial ends.

    Investigation and prosecution

    The Centro de Inteligencia contra el Crimen Organizado (CICO) has developed a system for organising human trafficking data related to sexual exploitation and forced labour. This system will integrate information on trafficking victims and offenders from different bodies within Spanish law enforcement.

    The Ministry of Interior has reported that recent developments include the following:

    • financial investigation of trafficking criminal groups has been promoted;
    • specific training for Investigation Units has been carried out, including human trafficking-specific courses for liaison officers, United Nations peace missions officers and officers assigned to Asylum Offices;
    • information campaigns for raising awareness of victims' rights and the assistance to which they are entitled have been developed;
    • best Practice Catalogue on trafficking in human beings investigation techniques has been produced;
    • information exchange and police cooperation with third countries of origin, transit and destination have been improved.

    According to the US State Department Trafficking Report 2009, Spanish police arrested 403 people for sex trafficking and 68 people for forced labour in 2008.  The same year, the government prosecuted 135 trafficking cases and convicted 107 trafficking offenders (14 of whom were involved in forced labour) with an average sentence of slightly more than four years. Approximately 95 per cent of those convicted received sentences of one year or more imprisonment, and five per cent of those convicted received a fine and/or suspended sentence.

    The ICMPD study has reported that in 2007 state authorities identified 2,421 victims, arrested a totalnumber of 1204 persons, and prosecuted a total number of 102 persons. In 2007 a total of 142 persons were convicted.

    Latest initiatives/activities related to anti-trafficking

    The Government of Spain has been promoting the fight against trafficking during the last decade, but important changes had been carried out by the setting up of two key instruments:

    • The approval of the Comprehensive Plan for combating trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation (hereinafter, the Plan) by the Council of Ministers on 12 December 2008.
    • The ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on trafficking in human beings and its entry into force in Spain in August of 2009.

    From this time, the Spanish Government has improved its work in the awareness, prevention and investigation of trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation, through the promotion of researches to increase the knowledge about this reality and the design of a specific database on trafficking in human beings by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Centre for Organised Crime Research).

    This database was prepared on the basis of the collection and computerised processing of questionnaires on investigations of organised delinquency, which contains data on the modus operandi of criminal groups, as well as other data of interest for the preparation of strategic intelligence on organised crime activities (trends), specifically on trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation and sexual exploitation per se.

    Specialized training of law enforcement agents and other professionals in touch with victims of trafficking is also being an important tool for improving prevention, early detection and support to victims, as it is providing awareness and a better knowledge about trafficking.

    The ratification of the Council of Europe Convention has introduced an essential step in the fight against trafficking in human beings, as the Spanish Criminal Code has been amended to legally distinguish between trafficking and illegal immigration , so this new regulation explicitly prohibited internal trafficking and trafficking is not linked to organized crime.

    It likewise endeavours to introduce novelties concerning the confiscation of products, instruments and goods relating to the crime, since the main objective of this crime is financial profit. Therefore, the existing regulation on confiscation has been completed, allowing judges and courts to resolve on it with respect to those effects, goods, instruments and profits from criminal activities committed within the scope of a criminal organization.

    As a consequence of the Council of Europe Convention and the Directive 2004/81/CE, the Spanish Constitutional Act 4/2000, 11 January, on the rights and freedoms of foreigners in Spain and their social integration (immigration law) has been amended as well, in order to introduce article 59 bis, that grants a period of recovery and reflection for foreign victims of trafficking in human beings so that such person may recover and flee from the influence of traffickers and/or make an informed decision on cooperating with the competent authorities.

    Currently under study are reforms of the Criminal Procedure Code to broaden the provisional measures in relation with the crime of trafficking in human beings as well as to expressly include trafficking victims in matters of the preliminary assessment of evidence.

    A draft likewise exists of the work underway for the amendment of Law on Gratuitous Legal Assistance, in order to provide victims of trafficking in human beings with a system of immediate legal assistance and the rapid availability of an interpreter.

    The State Secretariat for Equality (Ministry of Health, Social Affairs and Equality), together with the State Secretariat for Security (Ministry of Internal Affairs), the State Secretariat for Immigration and Emigration (Ministry of labour and immigration) and the State Secretariat of Justice (Ministry of Justice) are preparing a Protocol for identification, assistance and protection of victims of trafficking, irrespective from the purpose of exploitation. This protocol seeks to design formal procedures in the mentioned issues to improve the protection and assistance of victims and to guarantee victims benefitted from the recovery and reflection period.

    Other measures, particularly address to victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation had been set up, as specific funding for the support and assistance of victims (only victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation) by the State Secretariat for Equality, a Social Forum against trafficking (NGO’s, Ministries involved in fighting trafficking and territorial administration), a ministerial group for coordination of the Plan implementation, etc.

    • First year of the implementation of the Spanish National Referral Mechanism (Framework Protocol to Protect Victims of THB)[1] - approved on the 28th October 2011 - where the procedures for detection, identification, support and protection of victims of human trafficking (irrespective from the purpose of exploitation) are established.

    This Protocol fosters coordination among the institutions involved in the above mentioned processes and defines mechanisms for the relationship among authorities with responsibilities in the field and the processes for communication and cooperation with NGOs and other organisations and bodies with proven experience in assisting and protecting victims of trafficking, in particular those organizations which provide comprehensive support and are involved in public administration programmes for victim support and protection.

    Promotion of the coordination in the implementation of antitrafficking policies through encouraging interinstitutional participation and cooperation, under the following means:

    • The inclusion in the Thematic Committee for Equality (a cooperation body between State Administration and Autonomous Communities were all Autonomous Communities are represented) of trafficking as one of the issues to discuss in order to promote the adoption of the National Referral Mechanism in all the Autonomous Communities.
    • Constitution of a Monitoring Commission for the following up of the implementation of the Protocol (NRM) in june 2012 in order to review the evolution on the application of the Protocol. The Commission is integrated by the Ministries of Health, Social Services and Equality, Interior, Justice, Employment and Social Securtiy, the General Prosecutors office and the General Council of the Judiciary Power and it is preview the participation of NGOs specialized in trafficking to ensure coordination in the field.
    • Elaboration of instructions address to Units to Fight Gender Violence in provinces (units depending of Central Administration bodies) in order to assume competences in fighting trafficking for sexual exploitation.
    • Joint following up and monitoring of the Comprehensive Plan for fighting trafficking on the purpose of sexual exploitation through meetings of the Interministerial Group.
    • Promotion of coordination and exchange between members of the interministerial group, Autonomous Communities, local authorities and specialized NGOs through the meetings of the Social Forum on Fighting Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation.

    Concerning the implementation of The Comprehensive Plan to fight trafficking for sexual exploitation, which coordination is the competence of the Government Delegation against gender-based violence, the latest initiatives are:

    • Following up of the implementation of the measures established in the Plan, in order to approve the correspondent annual report, but also to analyze the results of the Plan and to use this evaluation as a base document for the elaboration of a new one (the actual Plan will be in force until December 2012).
    • Support of specialized non profit organizations through financing projects for the detection, assistance and protection of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. There is an ongoing call for to grant projects for the comprehensive assistance of women victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation – adult and minor - and their children. There are also grants run by other departments[2] that include victims of trafficking as a prior target group.
    • Involvement of Autonomous Communities on the updating of the Spanish Guide of resources for the comprehensive assistance of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, giving information about public and private resources specialized in attending to victims in the territories.
    • Awareness raising campaign with the collaboration of UN Office against Drugs and Crime, that assigned the Delegation the right to use Blue Heart Campaign in the National Lottery tickets taking advantage of the Day against sexual exploitation and smuggling (23rd September).

    The Government Delegation is participating in an ISEC project (EuroTrafGuide), financed by the EC in order to develop common guidelines to help professionals from different bodies (public and private) to make the first identification of victims of trafficking, having into account that there are many places (hospitals, social services, reception of immigrants centres, detention centres, borders, NGOs) that are suitable to find victims of trafficking, so they need a tool to identify – at a first level – possible victims of trafficking in order to refer them correctly for formal identification and access to assistance and protection.

    After analyzing possible good practices in the participating countries and a document proposing common guidelines, we are preparing a training course on the application of the guidelines in a pilot phase that will be held in Madrid (Spain) on the 5, 6 and 7 November, as a first step for the validation of the guidelines.

    [1] Annex to this document in English and available in Spanish and French.

    [2] Grants of the General Directorate of Services for Family and Childhood (Ministry of Health, Social Services and Employment), the General Directorate for Immigration (Ministry of Employment and Social Security) or the Women’s Institute (Ministry of Health, Social Services and Employment).



    The National Action Plan for 2009-2012 includes specific lines of strategy and priority action to tackle human trafficking efficiently. This includes bilateral cooperation in the migration and development sector, such as establishing or reinforcing regulatory frameworks for social protection of migrants on a bilateral or regional scale. It also includes prevention, protection and help for victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation in conflict or post-conflict situations within the framework of application of UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

    The Spanish government is also contributing to several projects and studies aimed at fighting human trafficking in Latin America.

    Future plans in terms of implementation of the directive 2011/36/EU

    • Through the Interministerial Group of Coordination of the Plan an extend of its validity has been approved, so the Plan measures will be in force until the 31st December 2012, in order to effectively achieve the previewed results of the Plan and to design a new legal instrument to continue fighting trafficking in the purpose of sexual exploitation.
    • To establish common and formal procedures in the identification of victims (irrespective from the purpose of exploitation) and their protection, support and assistance (including the regulation for the access to the reflection period, temporary residence permit and voluntary return) through the design and implementation of a Protocol that intends to define ways for communication and coordination between different stakeholders involved in the mentioned issues, including the participation of civil society.
    • To continue training of professionals and population awareness and to promote particularly a legal tool aimed at the elimination of sexual trade adds from written press.
    • To continue improving information and support services for victims, especially consolidating grants for the comprehensive assistance of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
    • To reinforce measures for the identification and assistance of victims under 18 years old.
    • To establish a data collection system to provide reliable data referred to the assistance of victims of trafficking in the purpose of sexual exploitation.

    Many of the aspects regulated in the Directive were already included in Spanish legislation and policies against trafficking. Nevertheless we are working in the amendment of the Criminal Code in order to introduce some aspects regulated in the Directive:


    • The inclusion in the definition of THB, as provided in Article 177 bis of the Criminal Code, of “giving or receiving payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having the control over another person” that wasn’t cover by the definition of THB under 2010 regulation.
    • The establishment of necessary measures to ensure the seizure and confiscation of goods and proceeds from the offences referred to trafficking, reinforcing specially the aspects concerning preventive measures (precautionary) to confiscate goods and proceeds.


    Moreover, we are exhaustively analyzing the content of the Directive in order to propose other necessary measures related not only to legal amendments but also to procedures and policies referred to the fight against trafficking in human beings.


    This item has not been translated in this language please try in EN

Table of Contents