Human Trafficking Remains a Major Problem in Mexico

By Navarro, Carlos | SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico, August 24, 2016 | Go to article overview

Human Trafficking Remains a Major Problem in Mexico


Navarro, Carlos, SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico


Human trafficking, as the modern version of slavery is known, is growing rapidly in Mexico, although authorities and experts do not have exact numbers and can only provide estimates. According to one expert, Mario Luis Fuentes Alcala at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), tens of thousands of Mexicans have become victims of trafficking (SourceMex, Aug. 5, 2015).

"There is no overall figure of the potential number of victims of trafficking," said Fuentes Alcala, coordinator of the Catedra Extraordinaria Trata de Personas (Chair on Human Trafficking) at UNAM. "The estimates range from 20,000 to 300,000 in the Mexican case, and globally, the UN estimates into the millions." A large percentage of the victims are women and girls, who are forced into prostitution.

Studies from UNAM, the Mexican government, and the UN suggest that human trafficking is a very lucrative economic activity for criminal organizations in Mexico and overseas, providing the third largest source of their income after the sale of drugs and the sale of weapons. At the global level, human trafficking represents an annual US $32 billion to US$36 billion business, according to the Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking. There are no reliable statistics on the value of the illegal activity in Mexico, but one estimate puts the earnings from human traffickers at US$2 billion annually.

One-third of victims are minors

Mexico's semi-autonomous statistics institute (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Geografia, INEGI) recently estimated that almost one-third of the victims of human trafficking in Mexico are between the ages of 5 and 17 and as many as 70% of the victims are migrants and people of indigenous origin who are exploited to conduct jobs that threaten their safety, health or dignity.

"In the universe of potential victims of human trafficking, the groups and individuals with the highest risk are those who suffer exclusion and discrimination, and who live in conditions of systematic socioeconomic vulnerability," said the online news site La Silla Rota, citing a UN report entitled Diagnostico Nacional sobre la Situacion de Trata de Personas en Mexico (National Diagnosis for the Human Trafficking Situation in Mexico). "A special cause of concern is the case of indigenous girls and women through the country, but particularly in the southeast, where opportunities for employment and access to education are scarce. This, in fact is a problem for the entire female population in our country."

Another major source of concern are cultural practices that promote the sale and exploitation of women, since this contributes to their vulnerability and the growth of human trafficking, according to the UN report.

While women and girls are the primary victims of sexual exploitation, the study noted that boys are also vulnerable to human-trafficking activity for sexual purposes. However, boys and young men who are victims of human trafficking are more often used for forced labor, said the UN study.

The recruitment of potential victims of trafficking has moved to the internet. A recent report from international agencies noted that Mexico now ranks second in the world in the number of victims who are recruited via social media.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Mexican agency that works with UNESCO (Comision Mexicana de Cooperacion con la UNESCO) are working to develop an outreach program to help reduce the vulnerability of children and youth to human trafficking. "This something we have to eradicate, working together with the children," said Jose Luis Alcantara, an official who works with those programs. He added that the program takes a practical approach, putting into effect programs that already exist on paper in Mexico but are never implemented.

Another problem for authorities is that many crimes related to human trafficking go unreported. …

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