Nicaragua boosts efforts against human trafficking

Nicaragua boosts efforts against human trafficking

By Dialogo
January 06, 2012




MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Synergy among human rights NGOs, government,
police and international organizations has produced results in the fight against
human trafficking in Nicaragua.
The institutions, grouped under the Coalition Against Human Trafficking, have
helped police in this Central American nation of 5.6 million to compile cases that
have led to more successful prosecutions of traffickers and an increase in the
number of rescued victims, who receive assistance from more than 35 organizations.
Multilateral organizations such as the United Nations Children’s Fund
(UNICEF) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM); government entities
like the Nicaraguan Attorney General’s office, Customs and Immigration, and the
Ministry for the Family; and local NGO’s like the Children’s Coalition and the
Women’s Association are among the coalition’s members.
“We are organized around a common goal: the eradication of human trafficking
in the country,” said Brenda de Trinidad, project coordinator for Human Trafficking
and Migration Issues at the IOM.
The coalition, created in 2004, is an initiative of the NGO Save the
Children, which supports similar groups in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and
Nicaragua that are overseen by the Central American Coalition Against Human
Trafficking, headquartered in San Salvador.
Nicaragua’s National Police have been working with the coalition since 2007
to raise awareness of the crime and offer training to its personnel, said
Commissioner Esther García, head of the National Police Women’s Affairs Division’s
Human Trafficking Unit.
And the results are promising.
Between 2007 and 2010, the National Police received 53 calls from residents,
prosecutors took to trial 90 cases, and the government’s Ministry for the Family
received about 1,000 human-trafficking complaints.
During the first half of 2011, the National Police documented receiving 21
reports of trafficking activity and was involved in the rescue of 78 victims and the
arrest of 31 suspects.
In March 2011, the National Police, with the coalition’s help, opened the
first shelter for victims of human trafficking, located in Managua.
“It’s the only shelter in the region managed by a police department,” García
said. “It has room for 16 people and has the staff needed to take care of victims
properly. Our goal is to create more shelters in the country’s border regions and
tourist areas.”
Other police entities, such as Women’s Affairs, Legal Assistance,
Intelligence, Transit, Economic Crimes and Forensic Medicine departments and the
Attorney General’s office have received training from the coalition in
human-trafficking issues, García added.
“Human trafficking isn’t limited to international networks,” García said. “We
also see it happening domestically. It’s often overlooked, and we are working with
the coalition to prevent it, investigate and prosecute offenders, and support the
victims.”

Identified as the slavery of the 21st Century, sexual and labor exploitation
through human trafficking is the third-most lucrative illegal activity in the world,
after narcotics and weapons trading, according to the International Labor
Organization’s (ILO) 2007-2010 Report.
In 2011, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimated the
crime claimed 700,000 victims in Latin America, most of whom were seeking better
employment opportunities outside their native countries.
The coalition is working to compile a statistical outlook for human
exploitation in Nicaragua.
Coordination issues among entities and fear of retaliation by the victims are
some of the causes preventing officials from compiling data.
“If there are children involved, then the Ministry for the Family takes over
and they don’t get processed by other [government] entities,” she said. “If there
are women, some of them don’t report what happened to them.”

Raising awareness and hope

The coalition is working to raise the awareness of the problem nationwide.
“We’re working directly with the community through neighborhood leaders,
trained by organizations such as the IOM and Save the Children,” said García, adding
the information is distributed by 4,027 volunteers throughout the country.
Through the Ministry of Education, human-trafficking training has been
provided by the coalition to 50,000 youth leaders, teaching them how to identify the
crime, learn the profile of the trafficker, assess high-risk situations and learn
how to file a complaint if they suspect the crime has occurred, said Juana Mercedes
Delgado, representative from the international NGO Save the Children.
“Through them, we can take a message of prevention to the border areas and
Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast,” she said.
The coalition has also assisted in the creation of the 133 help line,
available in Nicaragua for victims and for those who want to report a case or share
information about one with authorities.
The help line was created in 2005 with the assistance of the Ricky Martin
Foundation and the Llama y Vive (Call and Live) Initiative of the Inter-American
Development Bank, in coordination with the IOM.

Take shelter

Through coordinated work with other organizations throughout Central America,
victims of human trafficking are being given the resources to resume their lives
after recovery.
“Central America already has a repatriation protocol for children,
adolescents and women who are victims of human trafficking. The coalition has been
able to speed up the repatriation process for these people, an important step
forward at the regional level,” the IOM’s de Trinidad said.
Overall, Nicaragua has seen progress in reaching out to its residents,
teaching them steps to avoid being victimized, said Gonzalo Carrión, legal director
of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH).
“There’s been an increase in complaints, which means the public is
recognizing that the crime exists,” Carrión said. “That’s the first step. When
complaints are filed, the cases tend to decrease.”
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