Experts say the trafficking of migrants to Chile for forced labor is facilitated by their invisibility and the lack of investigation by authorities, while the economic prosperity in one of the region's less crime-plagued countries makes it an attractive destination for potential victims.
"The trafficking of persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation has been more documented and pursued. In contrast, the trafficking of persons for the purpose of labor exploitation continues to be an unaddressed theme," said Sonia Lahoz, a representative of the inter-governmental organization the International Organization for Migration in Chile, reported Diario Uchile.
According to Lahoz, there is currently a lack of investigation into the structures of human trafficking networks and routes they use to get illegal workers into Chile.
Carolina Rudnick, a lawyer for the Interior Ministry's Department of Organized Crime, said issues such as "poverty, illiteracy, gender discrimination, race, and nationality," are important factors driving the trade. Economics is another factor, said Rudnick -- Chile’s economic success relative to other countries in the region attracts migrants to what she referred to as the "sueño chileno" (Chilean dream).
Since passing an anti-trafficking law in 2011, Chile has issued just one sentence for the crime, reported diarioUchile.
InSight Crime Analysis
The US State Department's 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report (pdf) describes Chile as a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. The report cites Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay, Colombia, and Ecuador as the primary source countries for migrants identified as forced labor victims in Chile’s mining, agricultural, hospitality, and domestic service sectors. A Venezuela to Chile child trafficking network was also uncovered last year.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Trafficking
While Chile's human trafficking problem appears to be growing -- with northern Chile a main point of entry -- other countries such as Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina have traditionally been more significant destinations for human trafficking and forced labor. All of these countries have also documented rising trafficking in the past year.
Nonetheless, as noted by Rudnick, Chile's flourishing economy makes it attractive to vulnerable populations dreaming of a better life, meaning it could become an ever-more popular destination for traffickers if the government does not begin to more seriously investigate the issue.