Authorities in Ecuador estimate 3,000 people are victims of human trafficking in the country every year, a number that underscores the country's serious problem with migrant smuggling and exploitation facilitated in part by lax immigration laws.
Police in Ecuador estimate that around 60 percent of the 3,000 yearly human trafficking victims in the country are women, reported La Hora.
Authorities have identified human trafficking as one of the five most serious problems linked to violence in the northern border region, where the crime is reportedly more pronounced than in other areas of the country.
In response, the government is working to develop mechanisms to combat human trafficking in ports, airports, and border patrol stations, and particularly in the provinces of Sucumbios, Carchi and Esmeraldas, which border Colombia.
The government has also put highly trained civilians in charge of the national migration agency. Security Ministry sources consulted by La Hora said these officials had been taught how to identify the falsified documents that human traffickers use to bring victims into the country.
InSight Crime Analysis
Ecuador's loose immigration controls have helped facilitate the country's emergence as a human smuggling hub for migrants, and these same lax visa requirements undoubtedly facilitate the trafficking of humans for sexual and labor exploitation as well.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Ecuador
Until September 2010, Ecuador had a "universal citizenship" policy, which allowed foreigners to enter the country without visas. Although Ecuador has since placed some restrictions on the entry of citizens from certain African and Asian nations, the country continues to have some of the most relaxed migration policies in the region.
In some cases, human trafficking and human smuggling are also intertwined in Ecuador, with undocumented migrants highly vulnerable to exploitation. In one recent case, authorities discovered an international trafficking network that exploited migrants by forcing them into prostitution to pay off their debts.
Without changing government migration policies, improved border controls and better-trained government staff may not be enough to stem human smuggling or human trafficking in Ecuador.