BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spain’s government presented Tuesday a new bill to fight human trafficking in the southern European country that seeks to offer better protection for economically vulnerable migrants in the clutches of international criminal rings.
The new regulation is designed to help the victims of different types of human trafficking, from sexual exploitation and forced laborers to those suffering from the sale of illegal human organs, forced weddings and other criminal activities, Spain’s Justice Minister Pilar Llop said.
Once a court accredits a person’s status as potential victim, that person will receive personalized and free legal assistance, Llop said, along with the ability to seek economic aid and help with housing. The National Police will have a new surveillance office devoted to trafficking victims.
Spain’s interior ministry says that in 2021 Spanish police freed more than 1,000 victims from human exploitation rings. The large majority of the victims of sexual exploitation were women from Colombia, Paraguay, Romania and Venezuela. Two underage girls from Romania were also rescued by police from forced marriages.
One highlight of the bill is that a potential victim can seek assistance without having to accuse those behind the racket. That is intended to reduce fear of reprisal by criminals as well as assuage concerns that illegal migrants could fall foul of immigration authorities.
“There is nothing more important than the protection of the most vulnerable persons,” Llop said at a news conference in Madrid. “This is an ethical and democratic commitment of the first order.”
The bill, however, has been criticized as not going far enough by the junior member of Spain’s left-wing coalition government, which wants all potential victims to also be granted to permits to legally reside and work in Spain.
Llop acknowledged that the bill will likely undergo modifications before it finally is voted on by Spain’s Parliament.
The differences in points of view between members of the coalition comes amid a drawn-out debate in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez about a delayed transgender rights bill.