November 29, 2018 / 7:57 PM / 15 days ago

Poverty-stricken state in Brazil plans to map slavery hot spots

RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Plans are underway to get ahead of human traffickers in one of Brazil’s poorest states by mapping slavery hot spots, local authorities said.

The mapping, is part of a push to fight slavery that will take place over the next six years, and will help authorities in Maranhão know where to target their efforts, said Francisco Gonçalves da Conceição, secretary for human rights and popular participation in the state.

Previously, Maranhão acted without a clear methodology behind where it provided assistance.

“Up to now we have been doing emergency work,” said Conceição, who will lead the state’s effort to create the map.

Data compiled by the state government shows that from 2003 to 2017, roughly a fifth of the more than 40,000 trafficking victims rescued throughout Brazil were born in Maranhão.

Maranhão is home to just over 7 million of Brazil’s 209 million people.

The region has the lowest median household income in the country: 597 reals ($154.66) per month, below the minimum wage, according to government data from 2017.

The governmment’s aim is to create an “atlas” showing exactly where people are falling into slavery, so they know which regions they should target with social programs.

One of the programs in early development is intended to facilitate access to land ownership in areas where trafficking is more likely to happen, said Conceição.

Specialists point to the lack of land for family farms in the state as one of the systemic causes of slavery in Maranhão.

“Poor rural workers in Maranhão don’t have deeds of their lands, and are being pushed out by large corporations,” said Josoaldo Rêgo, the coordinator from the Geography Center of Maranhão’s federal university.

“When a worker has no land, he loses his autonomy and becomes cheap labor. Slavery will never end if the government doesn’t address the root causes of it.”

($1 = 3.8602 reals)

Reporting by Fabio Teixeira; Editing by Jason Fields. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.trust.org

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