Spain, January 18, 2022 - Women's Link Worldwide, on behalf of Fundació Ámbit Prevenció, GENERA and Janet Elizabeth Mérida, spokesperson for the Asociación Putes Indignades, has sued the Barcelona City Guard, the Mossos d'Esquadra, the National Police Corps and the Barcelona Provincial Prosecutor's Office for failing to protect Lili, a woman of Moldovan origin captured by a trafficking network for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Lili arrived in Barcelona in 2011 and died in 2019 due to untreated leukemia, aggravated by years of extreme violence and police harassment, which had deteriorated her physical and mental health.
The organizations claim that, since 2011, the authorities were aware of the situation in which Lili found herself and knew who the traffickers were. However, the police did not officially identify her as a victim of trafficking because she did not want to report the trafficking network and for years they denied her the protection she was entitled to in order to pressure her to denounce. Lili was afraid of reprisals from the network against her or her children, held by the traffickers in Romania, if she reported them.
In the years that followed, Barcelona’s City Council documented the deterioration of Lili's physical and mental health and repeatedly informed the Prosecutor's Office and the police about their suspicions that she was a victim of trafficking, as well as the situation of extreme violence and the worsening of her health. However, no action was ever taken to protect Lili or her children.
On the contrary, Lili was the victim of a constant campaign of police and administrative harassment through fines for violating a Barcelona City Council's ordinance, which classifies "offering sexual services in the public thoroughfare" as an administrative infraction. The organizations denounce that this police and administrative harassment increased her situation of vulnerability and her distrust of the police forces.
"A victim of trafficking must be protected from the first moment, even if she does not want to report her traffickers. Require that victims report their situation as a condition to access protection is a bad practice and it’s contrary to international and European regulations on human trafficking. It also puts victim’s safety and lives at risk. It is unacceptable that Lili asked for help and was not protected," explains Gema Fernández, Managing Attorney at Women's Link Worldwide.
A widespread problem in Spain
The organizations explain that Lili's case perfectly illustrates the failures of the protection system that trafficking victims face throughout Spain.
Currently, the fight against human trafficking is approached from the Criminal Code, with a focus on prosecuting traffickers, and from the Law on Foreigners, with a focus on the fight against irregular migration. The organizations demand a change of approach and a Law on Protection Measures against Trafficking that includes all types of trafficking and all victims, and that prioritizes the protection of victims’ human rights over police or administrative interests.
They also claim that victims of trafficking should be offered protection as soon as indications of exploitation are detected, regardless of whether they report the crime or whether criminal proceedings or investigations are opened. They also suggest that victims identification should never rely exclusively on police forces, and that an interdisciplinary mechanism should be created where organizations specialized in the defense of human rights can participate.
- Summary of Lili's case: https://bit.ly/3sGEw0j
- Photo: Tribute to Lili after her death in March 2019 (c) Putes Indignades: https://bit.ly/3msY301
Laura Martínez Valero
+34 699 984 800