[Editor’s note: This is Part II of a two-part post. See Part I here.]
In the first case, Hope, a young Nigerian woman, was accused by the Spanish authorities of committing a crime because she was trafficked into Spain accompanied by a child who was not her biological son, despite the fact that the authorities knew, or should have known, that this is a common transportation strategy employed by traffickers. Hope, a strong and independent woman, did not fit in the stereotype of a “victim.” However, the abuses Hope suffered perfectly encapsulate the definition of trafficking found in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (known as the Palermo Protocol). She was born in Sub-Saharan Africa into a family with few economic resources, only having the opportunity to attend school for a few years before having to drop out to work with her mother selling vegetables. The state of poverty she saw her family in convinced her to trust a man who promised her a job in Europe. Although the journey started well, as they it continued the man and his travel companions changed, and Hope became the target of insults, assaults, poor treatment, harassment and sexual abuse.
These men forced her to enter Spain through the maritime route in a small “patera” boat and forced her to care for a child, who was actually the son of another of the women who travelled with her on the same vessel, as we mentioned above.
A short time later she was arrested and put into preventive custody. Police identified the other woman, the mother of the children, as a victim of trafficking and granted her protection (known as the reflection period). She told the police that her other biological son was with another woman. Without considering that Hope might also be a victim of trafficking, they filed criminal proceedings against Hope.
She underwent nearly a year of preventive detention and was finally convicted of threats and coercion, in violation of the principle of non-punishment. Due only to the pressure of different civil organizations, and while at the foreign detention centre, awaiting deportation, Hope was eventually identified as a victim of sex trafficking by the police, a status that entitled her to legal protections including of a recovery and reflection period. Since she did not have enough information that would help the police prosecute her traffickers, however, they did not renew the reflection period after two months. In addition, the judicial authorities did not acknowledge identification or overturn her condemnation. She remains in Spain with a criminal record, unable to move forward with her life.