Forced labour in Argentina
Marina Sala | General Director and Georgina Introini, Public Relations Coordinator, Fundación para la Democracia Internacional
Slavery is abolished in most countries of the world but has not ceased to exist. At the moment, it is presented in more complex forms, more elusive to a superficial look, but equally cruel and degrading. That is why we seek to give greater visibility to this scourge, since although it happens around us, it seems to be invisible.
According to Forced Labour Convention No. 29, Article 2, of the International Labour Organization (ILO), “the term forced or compulsory labour shall mean all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily”. Argentina ratified this Convention in 1950 and in 2016 ratified the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention.
Previously, in 2008 the National Congress approved Law 26,364 on Prevention and Punishment of Trafficking in Persons and Assistance to its Victims and amended it in 2012, through Law 26,842. The updated text defines trafficking in persons as the offer, recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons for the purpose of exploitation, either within the national territory, from or to other countries. Furthermore, the law also defines exploitation and it includes forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, different forms of sexual exploitation, forced marriage, and removal of organs.
According to the National Rescue Programme for Victims of Human Trafficking, since the enactment of Law 26,364 until December 31st, 2017, 11,853 victims were rescued and assisted. Fifty-four percent of the victims had been subjected to labour exploitation.
In addition, 53 percent of the victims were foreigners and nine percent were minors.1 It is important to highlight that there is no disaggregated information about the forms of labour exploitation these people were subjected to, nor on the companies responsible for it.
The report “Telephone reports about trafficking in persons. Analysis of the cases received through Line 145”2, of 2016, indicates that 19 percent of the cases received from July 2015 to January 2016 corresponds to situations of trafficking for labour exploitation purposes and 45 percent refers to sexual exploitation purposes. Of that nineteen percent of complaints, 43 percent are connected to textile sweatshops, 31 percent to commercial establishments, and 17 percent to situations of exploitation in rural areas. However, there is no disaggregated information about the responsible companies or the type of establishment where people were subjected to exploitation. Nevertheless, s the report “Child labour, forced labour and quality youth employment in Argentina: contributions from the United Nations System 2000-2017”3 shows, there is a clear difference between the number of complaints made in the urban and in the rural area. It does not mean that labour exploitation has greater occurrence and incidence in one space than in another, but simply that exploitation in urban areas is reported more regularly.
The 2017 report entitled “Trafficking in persons for the purpose of labour exploitation. Strategies for the detection and investigation of the crime”4, quoted the report made by the same Office in 2014.5 This report shows there are not any people connected to large textile or agricultural companies among people accused of labour trafficking.
Finally, it is important to observe the lack of information on forced labour in Argentina. Because of that, it is necessary to mention the work done by the Ombudsman of the City of Buenos Aires regarding the situation of textile sweatshops,6 where forced labour and trafficking in persons for the purpose of labour exploitation are present in the production process of the clothing industry. Besides, Fundación para la Democracia Internacional has begun to analyse the situation of tobacco workers in the North of Argentina in order to determine if there is forced labour or not in this sector of the economy.