Everyone knew her as Lili. Her case reached the media in 2019, after her death at the Hospital del Mar. Born in Moldova, the woman had been captured by a trafficking network for the purpose of sexual exploitation and in 2011 she reached the heart of Barcelona, the neighborhood del Raval, where she was subjected to years of violence and persecution that never ceased. Almost three years after her death, the organization Women’s Link Worldwide goes to court to demand that the State assume that the police forces involved in the case and the Barcelona Prosecutor’s Office “failed to protect her” and incurred “negligence and joint and continued inaction”.
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The organization denounces that the administrations “were aware of the situation in which Lili found herself”, but “she was not duly treated as a victim nor did she receive the protection or access to the rights that corresponded to her”. On the contrary, the institutions “focused exclusively on getting him to file a complaint without offering him any of the protection measures” beyond collaborating in the police investigation of his traffickers, they say. Lili, however, “was afraid of the reprisals that the traffickers could undertake against her or her children, held in Romania” by the same network, so she did not file a complaint.
Women’s Link has initiated a procedure to claim patrimonial responsibility on behalf of several entities that accompanied Lilia Ochisor: the Ámbit Prevenció Foundation, GENERA and Janet Elizabeth Mérida, spokesperson for the Putes Indignades association. And it has done so by filing four administrative appeals against the dismissal of the claim by the Ministry of the Interior, due to the intervention of the National Police, and Justice, by that of the Barcelona Prosecutor’s Office. The actions are also directed against the actions of the Mossos d’Esquadra and the Barcelona Urban Guard.
“Loss of confidence in the authorities”
The lawsuit makes an exhaustive account of the events and puts on the table dozens of reports and documents in which the authorities involved acknowledge that there are indications that pointed to the situation in which the woman was. Throughout the period, different Barcelona City Council attention services documented the case and warned of its seriousness: Lili was forced to work as a prostitute for hours that lasted up to 18 hours, she had little money, her physical and emotional situation, that was getting worse over time, was “deplorable” and was subjected “at all times” to control and physical violence by a group of people who were seen to give them money.
The police forces, for their part, explained at the time that they had tried multiple times to get Lili to file a complaint, but she refused to collaborate. This newspaper has contacted the four departments without, for the moment, having received a response.
As detailed in the lawsuit, Lili came into contact with law enforcement at different times. The first in 2011, when she admits that she is being sexually exploited and that she feared for the lives of her children. She was taken to the police station and was about to file a complaint, but finally she did not do so “without having time to reflect or being offered any protection resource,” the text reads. The authorities tried on several more occasions to report him, without success. They even started an investigation after the statements of several witnesses and arrested some members of the network, but Lili “was very afraid”, she continued to be exploited and controlled and refused to testify.
The lawsuit emphasizes “the loss of trust in the authorities” that the woman manifested over time. Months after self-identifying as a victim of exploitation, she was detained on two occasions and taken to the police station for being in an irregular administrative situation and received an expulsion order “evidencing the purely immigration control approach of the competent police body,” the organizations believe. In one of those arrests, in 2012, Lili contacted the Barcelona City Council and the protocol for attention to victims of trafficking was activated.
25 sanctions in a year
For the plaintiffs, the authorities “chose to focus their action on pressuring them to denounce their traffickers […] without carrying out other procedures that would allow the collection of evidence and testimonies against those responsible”. In addition, the arrests on public roads were added to more than 25 sanctions based on the “coexistence ordinance” of Barcelona, which classifies as an administrative offense ” the offer of sexual services on public roads.” According to the lawsuit, between September 6, 2012 and August 5, 2014, 25 fines were imposed. Most were not processed and others were annulled “in the context of collaboration between municipal services”, but “this harassment generated a feeling of lack of protection and continuous fear” in women.
During 2013 the authorities continued to insist that Lili file a complaint, but they arrested her again on two more occasions. In one of them, the Provincial Immigration Brigade of Barcelona came to ask the court for their precautionary internment in a Center for the Internment of Foreigners (CIE) for their subsequent expulsion. At the end of 2014, the municipal attention service for prostitutes (the Barcelona Agency for the Comprehensive Approach to Sex Work) issued a report in which it reiterated the situation to which the woman was subjected and assessed that the actions carried out to date, “Focused on achieving” his declaration as a victim, “they have not given the expected result and have even contributed” to “worsening his mental and personal situation and, therefore, to his re-victimization”.
Over time, Lili’s situation worsened and several reports from the care services stressed that there was “an urgent escalation of episodes of violence” against women by their traffickers. They revealed that there was “an extreme risk to his life and physical integrity”, for which they request measures. Among other things, they demand the granting of exceptional temporary residence that allows them to access financial aid to improve their situation. The Barcelona Prosecutor’s Office even opened an investigation of the case, but filed it “on the exclusive basis of the refusal” of the woman “to denounce”, the lawsuit puts forward, “without the existence of orders, requirements or actions that reveal a desire to get involved in clarifying the facts.
A “paradigmatic” case
Lili died at the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona on March 30, 2019 due to untreated leukemia. A few days before, he had received a brutal beating from his trafficker because he had not been able to give him the daily amount of money that he demanded. “Her health condition was so serious that her roommates tried to convince her to go to the doctor. However, Lili distrusted the health services because she feared that, due to her irregular situation, they could identify her and expel her from the country,” she explains. the organization Women’s Link.
Only as a result of her hospitalization and death were several procedures initiated that were joined in preliminary proceedings for the investigation of the crimes of human trafficking, forced prostitution, criminal organization and injuries perpetrated against Lili since her arrival in Spain. The procedure was filed by the court in 2020, but has been appealed by popular accusations and the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
For Women’s Link, Lili’s case is “paradigmatic” and shows “the failures of the protection system faced by victims of trafficking throughout Spain,” says the organization, which focuses on “the fight against Trafficking is addressed from the Penal Code, with a focus on persecution of networks, and from the Immigration Law, with a focus on fighting irregular migration” instead of “protecting the human rights of victims”. For this reason, it requests the approval of an Organic Law of Comprehensive Protection against Trafficking that contemplates all types of trafficking and focuses on the victims.
“A victim of trafficking must be protected from the first moment, even if they do not want to report to the network. Requiring reporting as a condition to access protection is a bad practice, contrary to international and European regulations on human trafficking, that puts the safety and lives of the victims at risk. It is terrible to know that Lili asked for help and was not protected,” explains Gema Fernández, a lawyer at the legal department of Women’s Link Worldwide.