Human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
trafficking and exploitation

MADRID – Human trafficking is a massive problem throughout the world! However, it is something that often people don´t want to acknowledge could be happening in their neighbourhood. But it is very much something we should all be made aware of and know what to look out for.

Human trafficking takes many forms including labour, organs, sex, and children. Recently, the Spanish national police gave a talk at a school in Cuidad Real on International Day Against Violence and Bullying. They talked about the dangers of grooming or sexting on social networks.

Blackmailed into prostitution

Last week, the police successfully released a woman who had been blackmailed into prostitution. She had confided her life story in a man near where she lived in Seville. He had gained her trust by grooming her over a period of time. But then used this against her when he threatened to tell her “conservative” family some details of her life. After a week of forcing her to prostitute in Seville, he moved her to work for him in Valencia. It was on this bus journey that she managed to contact the police from the bathroom of the bus.

Many women are tricked into prostitution by well-organised sex trafficking gangs who demand the women pay off a debt by selling themselves for sex.

The promise of a new life

Jobs may be advertised luring women with the prospect of a good income and a new life, but the reality is quite different the minute they are met at the airport.

Prostitution is sometimes a choice women make, however more often than not they are unwilling and forced into it by blackmail or fear. According to an official report by Defensor del pueblo de España the majority of victims in Spain, originally come from Romania, Bulgaria, China, and Nigeria.

ASSSA - health insurance in Spain

TAMPEP, the European Network for the Promotion of Rights and Health Among Migrant Sex Workers, estimates that 80-90% of sex workers in Spain are migrant women. Most come from Latin America, Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria or Romania, and some African countries like Nigeria. 

Sanchez pledges to criminalise prostitution in Spain

At a party conference in Valencia last month, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez pledged to criminalise prostitution in the country.

Speaking to supporters at the end of his Socialist Party’s three-day congress in Valencia, Sánchez said that the practice “enslaves” women.

According to a US government state report -Trafficking in persons, Spain, compared with 2019, authorities increased cooperation on international law enforcement investigations, including with INTERPOL, Lithuania, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Italy, Nigeria, Austria, Colombia, and Romania. This cooperation resulted in the identification of at least 85 victims. And also, the arrest of at least 113 suspected traffickers, and the conviction of seven traffickers in 2020.

Trafficking can happen to anyone

However, modern slavery and human trafficking do not only happen to adults. Victims are of all ages, sex, and nationality. So, if you suspect a child is being sexually exploited, these are some signs your should look for.

  • Mood swings, including being angry, upset or withdrawn
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour
  • Dressing inappropriately for their age
  • Not attending school and with no valid reason
  • Displaying expensive gifts

Report it

In a Tweet by the Spanish national police, they advise that if you suspect you are a victim of sexual exploitation, do not hesitate to report it. There is a confidential phone line open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Do not collaborate, call 900 10 50 90 or you can email They wish to support citizen collaboration by reporting these criminal acts.

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