Consolidation of the psychological support service for victims of human trafficking

11/01/2023 - 17:04

Feminism and women. Some 40% of people attended to by the UTEH receive mental health treatment at the Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron.

The latest report on the collaboration between the Municipal Unit against Human Trafficking (UTEH) and the Psychiatric Service at the Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron shows that 40% of those attended to required mental health care.

Professionals from specialist teams work to restore the basic rights which have been violated in the case of survivors, as well as to guarantee that basic needs are covered and offer support for people’s overall health, rebuilding victims’ self-esteem, self-respect and ability to acquire their own skills.

They also offer temporary accommodation resources, which form part of the support operation against male violence towards women and which between 2020 and 2021 took in 169 people. The service has been boosted by another 30 places this year, specifically to accommodate victims of human trafficking.

Mental health as a key part in support

The violence, coercion and exploitation suffered by victims of human trafficking can result in physical and mental disorders and harm. Because of this, the Municipal Unit against Human Trafficking (UTEH) works in conjunction with the Psychiatric Service at the Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron, which offers mental health  support for the victims, with  a strong cross-cultural and gender perspective.

Establishing a bond of trust with the victim plays a key part in being able to start psychiatric treatment. The psychology service at the UTEH is responsible for referring and supporting victims requiring mental health care to the professionals at the Psychiatric Service at the Vall d’Hebron, within the Transcultural Psychiatry programme at the hospital.

In 2022, around 40% of people attended to by the UTEH required psychiatric treatment and the Transcultural Psychiatry programme conducted 30 initial visits to survivors.

Most victims are sexually exploited women

The predominant profile of those attended to is of a sexually exploited woman between the ages of 20 and 40, and more than half of these are of Nigerian nationality. Yet the last year has also seen a rise in the number of exploited women from Latin America, specifically Colombia and Venezuela, while there has also been an increase in care for elderly men forced into begging. In addition, between 10 and 14% are transsexual women, also sexually exploited.

The pandemic has meant a change in the dynamics and operating methods of human trafficking networks, which have diversified their spaces and adopted exploitation practices which are harder to detect, making it difficult to access possible victims.

How to contact the UTEH?

The UTEH operates a phone service on 677 445 190 to attend to people subjected to any sort of exploitation or to handle reports of possible cases of exploitation. The unit can also be contacted by email at