Colombian Sex Traffickers Operating in Regional Markets: Report

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Colombian sex traffickers are moving away from the lucrative markets in Asia and Europe and turning towards destinations within Latin America, according to a new report, which suggests traffickers are favoring lower risks over higher profits.

Academics from the University of La Sabana in Bogota, analyzed court records from all sex trafficking cases in Colombia between 2005 and 2011, and discovered the main destination of victims between 2003 and 2005 were Japan and Spain but between 2007 and 2009 this changed to Hong Kong and Singapore.

However, the study revealed that in recent years, traffickers have begun to favor destinations within Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly Panama and Argentina, but also Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago.

According to the report, traffickers look to identify “market niches” with three specific characteristics: Low risk of judicial investigations; high demand and capacity to pay – with places known as “recreation areas” for drug traffickers especially preferred; and low logistical and transport costs.

Although there are often high risks and logistical costs involved, destinations outside of the region remain popular due to the high profits on offer. In Japan, a sex worker would be expected to bring in up to ten times what they could earn in Colombia, while in Singapore, they can earn traffickers between $400 and $1,500 a day, according to the report.

InSight Crime Analysis

Colombia is one of the Latin American countries most affected by human trafficking, and the situation is getting worse, according to the UN.

The report’s findings that trafficking is increasingly within Latin America is supported by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which found that 87.9 percent of South American trafficking victims were moved to destinations within South America, while 64.3 percent of victims from North America, Central America and the Caribbean were also trafficked within their region.

This supports the report’s conclusion that traffickers are not just seeking out the most lucrative markets but instead are looking for destinations that are easier to access and less risky to operate in.

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