Congress takes first step to further punish trafficking cases stemming from Ukraine war

The Congress of Deputies has approved this Thursday, with the vote in favor of PSOE, United We Can, PP, Vox, Citizens, PNV and PDeCAT -although these last three groups qualified their support during the debate-, the taking into consideration of a Proposition of law registered by the socialists to aggravate the penalties in cases of trafficking in which Ukrainian refugees who have fled the war in their country are affected. The initiative –approved with 308 votes in favor, 18 against and 10 abstentions– has not had the support of the Executive’s usual parliamentary allies such as ERC or EH Bildu who on Tuesday, during the debate on the measure, considered that the proposal of the PSOE is “discriminatory” for Spanish victims of trafficking or from other countries, an idea that United We Can also defended, although it has finally supported it.

50 people arrested for being part of a network of trafficking in women in Bilbao

50 people arrested for being part of a network of trafficking in women in Bilbao

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The new text that will now begin its parliamentary processing provides that, “when the victim is a person whose situation of vulnerability has been caused or aggravated by the armed conflict motivated by the invasion of Ukrainian territory”, the sentence higher in degree than the provided for in section 1 of article 177 bis. of the Penal Code: from five to eight years in prison for trafficking in human beings. It would be, in principle, a temporary measure, limited to the next 18 months.

The PSOE defends the measure in the “exceptional” situation experienced by the Ukrainian population. “Protecting the victims of Ukraine in a specific way is necessary, especially for a matter of context: the mass of refugees is unprecedented,” explained the socialist deputy Andrea Fernández on Tuesday, during the defense of the bill registered by her group.

“It is not about discriminating, but about urgently attending to an unprecedented reality due to its abundance and its risk. The data speaks for itself. Ukrainian women already faced a very high risk of being trafficked prior to the invasion. This has recently been recognized by the European Parliament resolution on the impact of the war against Ukraine on women”, she added.

United We Can: “It is a crime that happens all over the world”

The harshest criticism against the socialist proposal came from its coalition partner, United We Can, although it ultimately supported taking it into consideration. The deputy of United We Can, Sofía Castañón, considered that the proposed law “generates unacceptable discrimination.” “Is the right to life, liberty, security and dignity of a person worth less depending on what conflict they are fleeing from?” She asked herself during the plenary session on Tuesday.

In his opinion, “the value of people’s life, dignity and freedom does not depend on the economic or media impact of a war or on whether it is a war like the one that is now devastating the Ukrainian people due to Putin’s action. nor whether it is because they are fleeing fierce hunger or the effects of the climate crisis, fear, despair, poverty or any other war in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Yemen or in any other country in the world.

She argued that “it is the trafficking networks that are taking advantage of that vulnerability and the effect it has on these people is exactly the same.” “The well-protected can only be the life of the people who suffer the violence of trafficking. Trafficking in persons, as defined in article 3 a) of the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, is a crime that takes place in all regions of the world and affects all people of the world regardless of their origin. The dignity, security and freedom of any life subjected to human trafficking cannot be superior to another depending on the origin of the causality”.

From EH Bildu, deputy Bel Pozueta recalled that the “flagrant violation” of “basic rights” in terms of trafficking and forced prostitution “affects all refugees, whether they are Ukrainian or of any other nationality.” “The attack on the integrity of the rights and freedoms of all of them is such that we do not understand how it can be proposed to differentiate between them,” she lamented.

A “racist” and “segregationist” measure

“Ukrainian refugee women must be able to count on all the protection and security that this state can offer them, of course they do, and those who exploit them must be harshly judged and punished, but exactly the same right should be given to Syrian, Afghan and , Nigerian or of any other origin. Therefore, we cannot guarantee that there are first-class and second-class refugees; we cannot vouch for a difference between refugees fleeing the horror of the war in Ukraine and those fleeing the horror of any other war; We cannot guarantee that it is legislated for some and not for others, because all of them, whether they are Ukrainian refugees or not, suffer the same vulnerability to trafficking and exploitation”, he concluded.

In the same line they spoke from ERC. “Why haven’t they modified the Criminal Code with the armed conflict in Yemen or Syria or any other armed conflict in the Mediterranean or in the world?” Republican deputy Carolina Telechea asked the members of the Government. “Perhaps the fact that the Spanish State obtains millionaire profits from the sale of weapons in these conflicts has something to do with it,” she suggested.

For her, the PSOE bill “has a segregationist and even racist bias, not to mention discriminatory.” “The law must protect all victims of trafficking, all of them, those from all countries in conflict, not just those from Ukraine. In addition, it must be complemented with effective measures”, she concluded, denouncing that the proposal “lacks all legal rigor, because it cannot be legislated to this The criminal code”.

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