Argentina continues to struggle with a human trafficking crisis as domestic and international criminal networks use a range of legal businesses to hide their activities and elude authorities.

In a recent case, Argentine authorities dismantled an international human trafficking network in early September, arresting three people accused of trafficking women to Turkey for the purpose of sexual exploitation, according to a government press release.

The three individuals were the manager and directors of a dance company that they had been using as a front for their trafficking operations. The organization offered young women airline tickets, accommodation, food, and a salary of around $700 per month to perform shows at a pub in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, reported newspaper Clarin.

After performing shows for six days a week, the women were required to spend time with clients, for which they would be paid extra. 

“The real purpose, however, was to force them into prostitution,” Argentina’s Attorney General’s Office stated.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Trafficking

Investigations showed that women were allegedly sent from Argentina to Ankara from 2021 onwards. One earlier victim complained to the Attorney General’s Office last July.

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This case is but the latest involving legitimate businesses masking activities connected to human trafficking, worsening fears that this criminal economy is thriving in Argentina.

In August, a large trafficking ring, allegedly involving 20 people and using a similar modus operandi, was broken up. A reported religious sect, known as Villa Crespo, used a yoga school in Buenos Aires, to lure women into “a situation of servitude and / or sexual exploitation,” according to a report from the Attorney General’s Office. Those arrested have been charged with money laundering, illicit association, and human trafficking after also allegedly laundering millions of dollars in Argentina and the United States.

SEE ALSO: Coverage on Gender and Crime

Other cases have involved domestic human trafficking. Earlier in September authorities in the Argentine city of Concordia arrested four members of a religious organization who allegedly trafficked people for labor exploitation. And in December last year, two people were arrested in the western city of Salta on charges of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

These events are consistent with the US Trafficking in Persons Report 2022, which stated that “Argentine adults and children are sexually and labor exploited in other countries.” 

In 2010, the UN had urged Argentina to improve its anti-trafficking processes, expressing concerns “that coordination of anti-trafficking activities between the national and provincial levels is weak,” and that the trafficking of children for labor and sexual exploitation was a particular worry. 

Argentina has taken steps to address these risks. The US State Department now considers Argentina a Tier 1 country, meaning that it “fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” and complies with a wide range of requirements. However, “official complicity remained a concern,” said the report, and criticized the country for not providing a dedicated budget for anti-trafficking measures. 

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