In addition to sexual exploitation and slave labor, human trafficking in Brazil is being carried out for begging, domestic servitude, exploitation in soccer clubs and drug mules.
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - In an effort to escape extreme poverty, Safira, a 27-year-old native of the state of Par&;, made a radical decision.
As an unemployed single mother, she accepted a friend’s invitation to work as a prostitute at a nightclub in Suriname, which borders Par&;. When Safira arrived, the nightclub’s owner confiscated her passport, saying she could leave only after paying her trip expenses.
"I was forced to turn several tricks a day and left only for medical examinations, accompanied by a security guard," Safira said. "From what I earned, they would discount money for food, accommodations and travel costs."
After four months, Safira got pregnant. The baby’s father paid part of the debt for her release. But their relationship didn’t work out and, when her son was 11 months old, Safira returned to Brazil.
In Par&;, she participated in a project introduced by the Par&; NGO Sodireitos, which specializes in prevention, care and research in the areas of the rights of migrants and the sexually exploited.
The stories of Safira and 10 other female human-trafficking victims were documented in the 2011 book Mulheres em Movimento: Migra&;&;o, Trabalho e G&;nero em Bel&;m do Par&; (Women on the Move: Migration, Work and Gender in Bel&;m, Par&;). The project was financed by the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.
"Each woman in the book was given the name of a precious stone," said Safira (Sapphire, in Portuguese), who did not want to use her real name to discuss her experiences. "Now, we’re looking for funding to give talks in schools and inform people about human trafficking."
Human trafficking for sexual exploitation, which was what happened to Safira, is the most common form of human trafficking in the “Diagnosis of Human Trafficking in Brazil’s Border Regions” report by the Ministry of Justice’s National Secretariat of Justice (SNJ).
It’s followed by human trafficking for slave labor.
The real surprise is what comes next.
"During the course of the research, we discovered new forms of exploitation, such as the use of people to engage in begging, indigenous exploitation and even victims who were used as drug mules," said fernanda lima Alves dos Anjos, director of the SNJ’s Department of Justice, Classifications, Titles and Qualifications.
In cases involving begging, children and adolescents are taken far from their homes and forced to ask for money or sell products on the streets. At the end of the day, they have to turn over part or all of the money to their exploiters.
In cases involving indigenous exploitation, indigenous Brazilians are recruited for a variety of purposes, from sexual exploitation to drug trafficking. Given that many of them live in isolated villages and don’t possess official identification, authorities are unaware of these crimes.
The Diagnosis, which was released in October, also identified the exploitation of children and young people for domestic slavery under the pretext of adoption, as well as for exploitation at soccer clubs.
In the latter, male adolescents are taken far from their homes to play soccer, with the promise of high wages, according to SNJ. Once they arrive, their documents are confiscated and they begin to be exploited, without the promised wages.
The Diagnosis cites specific examples, such as a Haitian who was taken to the state of Amap&; and children from the state of Acre who played for teams from youth divisions based in S&;o Paulo.
In the 11 Brazilian states that share borders with other countries, analysis was carried out on official figures, such as those from the social assistance network, law enforcement agencies and the courts, as well as sources outside government, such as NGOs that work to fight human trafficking.
Par&;, Amap&;, Roraima, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul are the states with the highest incidence of human trafficking for sexual exploitation. Slave labor is common in the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Paran&;, Par&;, Amazonas, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul.
The profile of individuals vulnerable to trafficking includes children, adolescents and adults due to socioeconomic conditions or family conflicts.
The criminals all act in essentially the same manner. The victims are lured and convinced that they can have a better life. When they arrive, they discover they have acquired debts for transportation, food and accommodations, which are paid through violence and exploitation. They also receive threats of reprisals if they try to escape or file a complaint.
Brazilian legislation covers human trafficking only in cases involving sexual exploitation. For other purposes, prosecutors must find correspondence with other types of crimes covered by law.
The Diagnosis is part of the Federal Government’s Strategic Border Plan. The collection of information for the Diagnosis is the first of three actions under the SNJ’s responsibility.
The second action is training agents to work at the Outposts for Humanized Migrant Care, which will serve Brazilians who have been denied entry to, or deported from, neighboring countries.
"The Diagnosis also will indicate the municipalities in border areas where the new outposts should be set up," Anjos said.
Currently, of the 11 border Brazilian states, only Amazonas and Par&; have outposts.
The third SNJ action is the promotion of international legal cooperation.
"We maintain international partnerships for combating human trafficking, as well as prevention and care, with Mercosul countries, and we have created a strategy with the Unasul [Union of South American Nations] countries,” Anjos added.
For Ang&;lica Lima Gon&;alves, a social worker with the NGO Sodireitos, human trafficking must be combated on three fronts: dismantling gangs, punishing perpetrators and caring for victims.
"It’s also important to raise awareness among the population and provide access to public policies that really might guarantee a better life for everyone," Gon&;alves said. "What we most often hear is that people accepted these invitations because they wanted a better life."
Financed by the SNJ, the Diagnosis was carried out in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Center for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), an international organization headquartered in Vienna, Austria.