GLOBAL CONNECTION

Q&A: Mexican Prosecutor Talks Details Of Push to Fight Trafficking

Article Highlights

  • • More than 40 million people worldwide were living in modern slavery in 2016.
  • • An estimated or 0.3 percent of the Mexican population has been forced into modern slavery.
  • • More than 1,900 trafficked persons have been identified and rescued by the Mexican government in the past four years.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO — Globally, more than 40 million people were living in modern slavery in 2016, according to a report from the International Labour Organization and the Walk Free Foundation.

In Mexico, an estimated 376,800 people, or 0.3 percent of the population, are forced into modern slavery, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index. Many of these individuals have been trafficked, the index says.

Human trafficking is still common in the country, government sources confirm, even though local legislation prohibits all forms of trafficking. Women and girls with limited access to quality education and to employment opportunities are frequently recruited into trafficking networks and forced to work in venues such as bars or brothels, according to Polaris, a non-profit organization working to end modern slavery.

In Mexico, the government is taking steps to end the illicit practice and to combat modern slavery. Between 2013 and October 2017, more than 1,900 trafficked persons have been identified and rescued. Most of them faced sexual exploitation. Officials say that all offenders behind the crimes of these trafficked persons have been prosecuted by the Fiscalía Central de Investigación para la Atención del Delito de Trata de Personas, a prosecutor’s office that opened in 2013 and is dedicated to investigating trafficking.

Global Press Journal spoke with Juana Camila Bautista Rebollar, the lead prosecutor who heads the initiative, about the government’s efforts to end human trafficking in Mexico City. (This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)

Are a majority of the trafficked persons that your office has identified and rescued from Mexico?

[The majority are] Mexicans. Practically 15 percent of the total number of our victims, which is more than 1,900 rescued victims, are foreigners, and the rest are nationals from different states and Mexico City.

What other countries do trafficked persons in the capital come from?

Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador in Latin America – and also from Eastern Europe.

In Mexico, nightclubs are commonly used as a guise to hide trafficking activities. Do you know how many women were victims of human trafficking in nightclubs since 2014?

We know that for all these victims who work in this type of establishment, the majority of what they charge – whether it is for drinking, the private dances or sex services – they are left between 10 and 20 percent of the total amount they charge, and the rest is for what they call “la casa,” [“the house”] which is the establishment. And this is what makes it so the people in charge of these establishments begin to enrich themselves.

How do you determine which nightclubs are illegitimate? 

First is the anonymous tip. Once we receive an anonymous tip, the investigative police dedicate themselves to corroborating the data provided through the tip. If this information is found to be true, we start an investigation file, and we begin to work until the judge gives us permission for a search [of the site], or a blatant rescue. And from there, we begin the whole prosecution process. Then the justice system enters and works until a conviction is reached. But, unfortunately, the victims don’t come to report. Everything is investigation and field intelligence; we have to go to the places, we have to investigate why the majority of the victims don’t come to report.

How long does this process take?

We have had processes of up to two years of investigation.

What happens to the trafficked persons once you rescue them?

The operation is carried out on-site. From there, the victims are transported to this office. Here, the prosecutor has a deputy-prosecutor office to care for victims. They are the ones who are in charge of giving the victims comprehensive care, medical attention, psychological care from our medical experts and forensic psychologists.

Are these services free of charge?

They are completely free.

 

Rishi Khalsa, GPJ, translated this article from Spanish.

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