December 4, 2017 / 7:43 PM / in 13 days

Mexico's indigenous migrant workers risk enslavement on farms: rights commission

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Mexico must step up efforts to protect vulnerable indigenous migrant workers who are at risk of becoming trapped in forced labor and enslaved in farms, the government’s human rights commission said.

Poverty and a lack of jobs force entire families from rural tribal communities, many coming from the country’s poorest southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, where they risk falling into the hands of traffickers, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) said.

“They end up getting trapped and subject to forced labor on farms where they find themselves under the power of people, who knowing they won’t get punished, keep them under promises of payment in vile and unhealthy conditions,” the CNDH said in a statement released at the weekend.

Nearly 387,000 people are victims of slavery in Mexico, a catch-all term to describe human trafficking, forced labor and prostitution, debt bondage, and forced marriage, according to according to rights group, the Walk Free Foundation.

Mexico’s tomato, cucumber and chili pepper farms and maize and potato harvesting are known as hotspots of forced labor in Latin America’s second largest economy.

Government raids in recent years have exposed forced labor, including child labor used in agriculture.

In 2015, for example, 49 laborers including 13 children from the Mixtec indigenous tribe, were rescued from a cucumber farm in the Pacific state of Colima where they were found to be working long hours with little pay, with no food and drinking water, and no protection against pesticides.

The CNDH said government labor inspector teams should carry out more raids on farms to rescue victims of forced labor.

Little money and resources were allocated at state and federal level to tackle trafficking and provide care and shelters to rescued victims, the commission said.

Nearly 1,300 victims of human trafficking in Mexico were reported from 2009 to 2015, mostly women and girls forced into sex work, according to latest government figures, the CNDH said.

The CNDH highlighted that according to the 2016 U.S. State Department report on human trafficking, “official complicity” with the crime continues to be a serious problem.

Reporting by Anastasia Moloney @anastasiabogota, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org

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