By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
April 12, 2007
Central and South American mafias use Spain as their door to Europe. As the language is not a barrier to them, they find making illicit contacts in Spain to be straightforward and quite easy.
One of the best illegal money-making ventures in this region is human trafficking. Poor north Africans want to slip into Europe and the south Americans handle a huge human trafficking effort for the sex industry.
Methods used by traffickers to maintain control of their victims included physical abuse, forced use of drugs, withholding of travel documents, and threats to the victim’s family.
Women from Eastern Europe reportedly were subject to more severe violence and threats by traffickers.
Traffickers lured some victims from other regions with false promises of employment in service industries and agriculture but then forced them into prostitution upon their arrival in the country.
The media reported that criminal networks often lured their victims by using travel agencies and newspaper advertisements in their home countries that promised guaranteed employment in Spain.
Typically in the case of Romanian organized networks, women were forced into prostitution where 90 percent of their earnings were marked for the criminal network; men were often employed in low-paying construction jobs.
Clandestine clothing production and sales as well as work in restaurants were typical employment for illegal Asian immigrants, who came to the country with false documents through trafficking networks in places like Vietnam and Cambodia.
A typical police raid to actually catch traffickers may take more than a year to develop. In 2005, Spanish police arrested 14 people suspected of running a prostitution ring and human trafficking. The investigation had started in 2003. The group recruited hundreds of women coming mainly from Brazil. Gang members arranged passports and air tickets to Spain, where the women were persuaded and forced to work illegally as prostitutes in clubs in the southern regions of Andalusia and Extremadura.
According to the U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2006, “Spain is a destination and transit country for women trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor. These victims are trafficked from Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, South and Central America, and Africa. The most prominent source countries for these victims are Romania, Russia, Brazil, Colombia, and Nigeria. Spain continued to serve as a transit country for victims destined for Portugal, France, and Germany. Romanian trafficking networks continued to expand their operations in Spain.”
A man familiar with Spain’s legal system told me “Spanish law doesn’t help either.”
A recent example: after a raid on a human-trafficking ring in the north of Spain (with collaboration from the Brazilian Federal Police), the ringleader skipped the country.
Several law enforcement officers in Spain told me that the penalties for trafficking are very lenient in Spain and even after a perpetrator is arrested he is likely out of prison quickly and back at work.
The Maghreb is the region of Africa north of the Sahara Desert and west of the Nile River — specifically, the region coinciding with the Atlas Mountains.
Spanish police say the Maghreb is ‘just down the road’ and is the mafia’s stronghold.
Mafia traffickers use the now infamous ‘cayuco’ system whereby they stuff anything from 10 to a few hundred people into Zodiacs and motor them across the straight.
Of course, if the Coast Guard sees them it’s into the water with them and hundreds perish every year.
A man familiar with Spanish law enforcement told me, “The Moroccan ‘Government’ (for want of a more realistic term for them) collect the ‘illegals’ from the borders in Ceutas and Melilla, Spanish strongholds, and dump them in the desert. They never actually get home again.
Spain in some ways is “The Wild West” of human trafficking.
We hope to report more on this unique area soon.
Our thanks to our sources in Spain.