The government increased protection efforts. The National Institute for Women (Inmujeres), under MIDES, was the principal provider of services for female victims of abuse. Inmujeres reported assisting 172 victims of trafficking (71 new cases, 101 initiated during previous reporting periods), an increase from 131 in 2016. More than half of those assisted were foreign victims; it was not reported how many were victims of commercial sexual exploitation as compared to victims of forced labor. An NGO partially funded by the government separately reported they provided services to more than 200 female trafficking victims, of which approximately 150 were Dominican. The National Institute for Children and Adolescent Affairs reported assisting more than 500 cases of sexual exploitation of minors in 2017, an increase from 333 in 2016; it was unclear how many were victims of trafficking. The Ministry of Labor reported identifying potential trafficking victims during a routine inspection of a private construction site in Montevideo; the case was still pending further investigation. Inmujeres continued outreach to the interior of the country through a 14-member mobile unit with psychologists, social workers, and lawyers who provided psychological support, social services, and legal guidance.
Border officials did not have standard procedures to identify trafficking cases. The MOI and other law enforcement officers closer to the capital used a standardized protocol to investigate, respond to, and assist trafficking victims. The government continued distribution of this protocol to law enforcement officials, labor inspectors, prosecutors, judges, and social workers. An NGO noted there were limited avenues available for the public to contact authorities with suspected cases of trafficking. While a formal victim referral process existed between the government agencies and NGOs, numerous NGOs reported that they were not aware of this process or that the process was unclear.
The government provided 7.7 million pesos ($267,730), an increase from 4.6 million pesos ($159,940) in 2016, to Inmujeres to assist adult female sex trafficking victims and women in prostitution with psychological, medical, and other services and to an NGO to provide assistance for female trafficking victims. MIDES was the principal provider of services for trafficking victims. Services specialized exclusively for trafficking victims did not exist in Uruguay; the government provided trafficking victims services used for other vulnerable populations, such as the homeless, refugees, and citizens on welfare. There were no shelters designated for trafficking victims, so temporary and long-term housing solutions, funded by the government, were determined on a case-by-case basis. There were no specialized services for male victims. According to an international organization, the government provided services for victims for 30 days, after which victims received general support similar to that provided to homeless people. Foreign victims had the same access to care as domestic trafficking victims, including children.
The government provided protective measures, through formal victim protection protocols, to encourage victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. According to an international organization, the government did not, in practice, provide several of the protective measures, such as victim relocation, changes of identity, and economic assistance. There were no reports victims were penalized for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. While the government did not offer trafficking-specific legal alternatives to victims’ removal to countries where they faced retribution or hardship, general asylum and work permits were available for foreign trafficking victims.