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Leading the Fight against Human Trafficking in Brazil

Poster from the Campaign to Raise Awareness on Trafficking in Human Beings

"Are you unhappy here? Why don't you try your luck abroad? It's so simple."
- Example of a typical question posed by recruiters to people for underpaid and unprotected jobs in Europe, related by members of the Guarulhos (São Paulo) Airport outpost team during an interview for the ICMPD publication Transatlantic Journeys: An exploratory Research on human trafficking from Brazil to Italy and Portugal (2011).

For Brazilians in positions of vulnerability, whether due to their economic circumstances, social position, gender, sexual orientation or a combination of these factors and others, the prospect of moving to the European Union to better their situation can be enticing. However, due to the cost of the move, the pressing need to earn money and immigration restrictions applied to Brazilian citizens, this migratory movement can lead to some migrants becoming victims of human trafficking. Brazilians who move from one federal state to another can also be exploited in their state of destination and fall victim to internal trafficking. Furthermore, as Brazil develops as an emerging economic power, it is attracting more migrants from neighbouring countries in South America and further afield, who may also be deceived or coerced into situations of exploitation within Brazil.

Trafficking in human beings is, therefore, currently high on the Brazilian government's agenda, particularly in the policies and activities of the Anti-Trafficking Coordination (Ministry of Justice) and the National Immigration Council (Ministry of Labour and Employment). This commitment has led to the development of the first National Action Plan on Combating Trafficking in Persons (2008-2011). The proposal for the 2nd National Plan has already been subject to public consultation and the main priorities were approved at the 2nd International Meeting of the Network for Combating Trafficking in Persons, held in November 2011in Recife, Brazil, in which ICMPD participated. As Brazil is made up of federal states, these national policies have also been adapted to the state level in federal states, such as Pernambuco, São Paulo and Bahia. Anti-trafficking centres have also been set up in 15 federal states, and 12 migrant centres are located at airports, ports and road intersections.

ICMPD's Anti-Trafficking Programme has been cooperating with the Brazilian federal government since 2009, implementing projects to combat trafficking in human beings and migrant exploitation through research, capacity building, publications and prevention and protection campaigns. The fundamental basis of the method of working with Brazil on these issues is that actions should be evidence-based, and, therefore, research is essential to the effectiveness of policies. The publication Transatlantic Journeys mentioned above was a result of an ICMPD-led project financed by the European Commission, with Brazilian, Portuguese and Italian partners: "Promoting Transnational Partnerships: Prevention and Response to Trafficking in Human Beings from Brazil to EU Member States".

"It is generally women from North East Brazil, who are always poor (...). So they perform an activity, prostitution. (...) The only thing is, they are also being conditioned and exploited, they have their passports withheld, they are forced to pay umpteen times, pay for travel, and they get into a vicious circle (...). As soon as they want to get out, they are stopped, they are attacked."
 - Representative of the Portuguese Judiciary Police, in an interview for Transatlantic Journeys.

A prevention campaign targeting Brazilian passport applicants was organised, as well as training modules for police and staff of anti-trafficking centres. Both Brazilian and EU government representatives engaged in study visits to increase their knowledge of countries of origin and destination and to promote bilateral agreements for victim identification and return. The research informed the formulation of common recommendations to enhance the protection of the rights of Brazilian migrants and (potential) victims of trafficking in human beings.

On the basis of these recommendations, ICMPD is now implementing a follow-up project also funded by the European Commission, in partnership with organisations from Brazil, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland. With this current project, the focus is on the exploitation of Brazilian migrants in general, including through trafficking, as well as research on Portuguese and Spanish migrants in Brazil. Research has also been undertaken on the functioning of the recently-established network of anti-trafficking centres and migrant centres. Training sessions with key Brazilian actors, such as the staff of anti-trafficking and migrant centres and labour inspectorates, have been held and will continue throughout the project, designed based on the research results. This will be followed by a further ICMPD-led project funded by the European Commission, supporting the Brazilian government in managing new migration flows, beginning in 2013.

Brazil is a country with continental dimensions, encompassing 27 federal states. It has an immense land border, measuring 15,719 km, with crossing points to ten of the other twelve South American nations. It is along this border that ICMPD has been requested by the Brazilian National Secretariat of Justice to coordinate an assessment of trafficking in human beings, by conducting research in the eleven Brazilian border states, as part of the government's Strategic Plan on Borders. Therefore, ICMPD's successful activities with Brazil are set to continue well into the future.

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Published by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development

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