Hundreds of suspected victims of human trafficking have been rescued in Interpol raids across 13 Latin American countries, including Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Guyana, Jamaica and Venezuela.
The raids rescued an estimated 350 people who were victims of sex trafficking and forced labor. Twenty-two people have been arrested so far.
Interpol said that victims were found working in nightclubs, farms, mines, factories and open-air markets, with traffickers targeting those desperate for a better life.
“What traffickers don’t advertise are the working conditions their victims will be subject to once their final destination is reached,” said Cem Kolcu of Interpol.
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
“During this operation, we identified women being forced to work out of spaces no bigger than coffins, for example,” added Kolcu, the coordinator of its trafficking in human beings unit.
In Guyana, young women were found selling sex next to remote gold mines from which they could not escape, while in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Asians at a factory had been stripped of their passports and freedom, according to Interpol.
“The magnitude of this operation, it also shows .. the magnitude of how organized crime networks are operating, particularly in Latin America,” said Carlos Perez, a project coordinator at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Colombia, which works on human trafficking.
The international raids took 30 months of preparation, and now social service agencies have been brought in to provide support for the victims. Rehabilitation is often a difficult process in Latin America, with human rights experts pointing to the lack of support for rebuilding their lives and low conviction rates for their traffickers.
Dorothy Rozga, head of ECPAT International, emphasized that “Most often once trafficked children are rescued … the daunting task remains of helping them to recover from their trauma and be reunited and reintegrated with their families and communities.”
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