A group of Chinese citizens smuggled into Uruguay

At least 50 Chinese people have been smuggled through Uruguay in the last two years, perhaps signalling the country's growing importance as a human trafficking hub to move people in neighboring Argentina.

A report by Uruguayan national newspaper El Pais said human smuggling of Chinese and Dominican citizens is becoming more common in Uruguay as local "coyotes" -- criminals who facilitate illegal migration -- build up routes across the country into Argentina, which has become a regional human trafficking center.

The Chinese migrants travel by plane to Brazil, where they are not required to have an entry visa. There, coyotes meet the migrants and transport them in trucks to the scarcely-monitored Uruguayan border. From there, the migrants are passed to other coyotes who smuggle them into Argentina via the River Uruguay. Coyotes may use false paperwork and contacts with corrupt government employees to move the migrants "officially" across the border.

Once in Argentina, migrants are usually taken to Buenos Aires, often ending up in situations of forced labor or sexual exploitation.

The same logistics are used to transport Dominicans who arrive in Uruguay from Santo Domingo with false documents or tourist visas, according to El Pais. Most are women under the age of 25, who wait in hotels or apartments in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo for the opportunity to cross into Argentina. Uruguayan police have been investigating cases in which Dominican women have been forced to work as prostitutes during this waiting period. 

InSight Crime Analysis

That human smuggling is increasing in Uruguay is no surprise, given the profits available across the border in Argentina, where sex and labor trafficking have become a serious problem. More than 700 people were rescued from human trafficking networks during the first half of 2012, according to figures from Argentina's Ministry of Justice, with more than half of the victims from outside the country. Argentina's relative affluence, compared to most of its neighbors, make it an attractive prospect for human traffickers, who capitalize on income disparity to find both victims and clients for their trade.

As the El Pais report highlights, cases of human smuggling -- in which migrants pay to be willingly smuggled into another country -- can easily morph into human trafficking cases, in which victims are forced into labor or sexual exploitation. One of the challenges facing the Southern Cone nations is how to fully dismantle these smuggling networks, given that the migrants being transported through Uruguay often do not become victims of trafficking until they are forced into situations of exploitation in Argentina.

Argentina has made some moves towards confronting the problem, passing the country's first anti-trafficking legislation in April 2008. Since the law's passage, more than 3,465 trafficking victims have been rescued. But with Uruguay serving as a transit nation for potential human trafficking victims bound for Argentina, the problem is a transnational one.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

As Guatemala's Congress gears up to select new Supreme Court Justices and appellate court judges, InSight Crime is investigating how organized crime influences the selection process. This story details the interests of one particular political bloc vying for control over the courts and what's at stake: millions of ...

The Victory of the Urabeños - The New Face of Colombian Organized Crime

The Victory of the Urabeños - The New Face of Colombian Organized Crime

The mad scramble for criminal power in the aftermath of the demobilization of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) is over. The Urabeños, or as they prefer to call themselves, the "Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia," have won.

50 years of the FARC: War, Drugs and Revolution

50 years of the FARC: War, Drugs and Revolution

The possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is in sight. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, for themselves and especially for their children, the enemies of the peace negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the ...

Mexico’s Security Dilemma: Michoacan’s Militias

 Mexico’s Security Dilemma: Michoacan’s Militias

Well-armed vigilantes in Mexico's Michoacan state have helped authorities dismantle a powerful criminal organization, but now the government may have a more difficult task: keeping Michoacan safe from the vigilantes and rival criminal groups.

Uruguay, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

Uruguay, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

After the lower house passed the controversial marijuana bill July 31, Uruguay is poised to become the first country on the planet to regulate the production, sale, and distribution of the drug, and provide a model for countries looking for alternatives to the world’s dominant drug policy paradigm. ...

The Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

The Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

After the capture of Zetas boss "Z40," Nuevo Laredo is bracing itself for the worst. This investigation breaks down what makes the city such an important trafficking corridor, and what it will take for the Zetas to maintain their grip on the city.

El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives And Negatives

El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives And Negatives

Whether it is sustainable or not, the truce -- which the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the Barrio 18 put into place March 2012 -- has changed the conventional thinking about who the gangs are and what is the best way to handle the most difficult law and order ...

FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

The possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is in sight. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, for themselves and especially for their children, the enemies of the peace negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the ...

Corruption in El Salvador: Politicians, Police and Transportistas

Corruption in El Salvador: Politicians, Police and Transportistas

Since the end of El Salvador's civil war, the country's police has become a key player in the underworld. This series of five articles explore the dark ties between criminal organizations and the government's foremost crime fighting institution.

Juarez after the War

Juarez after the War

As a bitter war between rival cartels grinds to an end, Ciudad Juarez has lost the title of world murder capital, and is moving towards something more like normality. InSight Crime looks at the role politicians, police, and for-hire street gangs played in the fighting -- asking who ...