The government maintained protection efforts; however, there were issues with the identification of forced labor victims and many victims did not receive adequate shelter or specialized services. The government reported identifying 658 trafficking victims in 2019—compared to 706 victims in 2018, 667 victims in 2017, 740 victims in 2016, and 1,814 victims in 2015. Of the 658 trafficking victims identified, approximately 18 percent were male, 58 percent were female, and 24 percent with their gender unspecified, compared to 21 percent male, 54 percent female, and 25 percent gender unspecified in 2018. The federal government identified 113 compared to 146 in 2018, 140 in 2017, 194 in 2016, and 876 in 2015. The state governments identified 545 of the total victims, compared to 560 in 2018, 527 in 2017, 691 in 2016, and 938 in 2015. The government identified and provided support to an additional 933 Mexican trafficking victims abroad, including 912 in the United States and 21 in other countries, compared to 860 Mexican victims abroad in 2018, 196 Mexican forced labor victims abroad in 2017, and 20 in 2016.
Immigration and other federal officials each had formal protocols for the identification of victims. INM, in collaboration with an international organization, developed a protocol to detect and refer trafficking victims to services; in 2019, the government developed and trained personnel on this protocol. The process for referral of Mexican victims to shelters, however, was ad hoc and varied from state to state. Experts called for the government to increase its resources and training to accurately identify and refer trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as migrant workers and individuals in commercial sex. While victim services varied and were unavailable in some parts of the country, federal and state agencies generally offered victims emergency services, such as medical care, food, and housing in temporary or transitional homes, and longer-term victim services, such as medical, psychological, and legal services, often in partnership with NGOs. Specialized and integrated care for trafficking victims was inadequate, particularly for male, adolescent, rural, and forced labor victims, and victims in rural areas remained inadequate. Observers noted a lack of government funding for victim services, highlighting that child labor trafficking victims were left often without appropriate social services. NGOs, many with foreign donor or private funding, provided specialized shelters and assistance to some victims who were at times referred by officials. Some NGOs reported increased collaboration with the government on victim care. The government began efforts to centralize its assistance services to improve victim care; however, financial and human resources were not yet allocated to this strategy. The National Institute of Social Development provided 4.39 million pesos ($232,370) in 2019 for victim services, compared to 3.02 million pesos ($159,860) in 2018. In 2019, the System for the Protection of Girls, Boys, and Adolescents created the Commission for the Comprehensive Protection of Migrant Girls, Boys, and Adolescents, which includes the prevention, protection, and care of girls, boys, and adolescents who were human trafficking victims. In 2019, the Executive Commission for Victim Assistance created a prevention and gender issues-focused unit in coordination with the inter-secretarial commission against trafficking in persons. The Mexican government adopted austerity measures in response to a contracting economy and the prioritization of development initiatives, which impacted programs in every secretariat and institution, including those addressing trafficking in persons. Federal programmatic funding was further impacted by additional austerity measures adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Experts noted an overall lack of shelter and housing for victims. FEVIMTRA continued to operate a high-security shelter in Mexico City, and reported it spent 49 percent of its total 2019 budget, 263,960 pesos ($13,970), on the shelter and related victim care expenses for 34 victims (32 female, two males; 20 adults, 13 minors, and one unspecified; 17 Mexican, 11 Colombian, four Venezuelans, one Guatemalan, and one Nicaraguan). The shelter allowed women to have their children with them. Women were not allowed to leave the shelter alone as a security precaution; NGOs expressed concern this arrangement re-traumatized some victims. The states of Mexico, Chiapas, and Mexico City continued operating six government-funded trafficking shelters; however, the shelters at both federal and state levels typically housed victims of trafficking only during a criminal prosecution. An NGO in the State of Puebla continued to operate the country’s only public-private shelter, which provided comprehensive services to 100 victims in 2019, compared to 77 victims in 2018. In addition to these shelters, there were two publicly funded Women Justice Centers in the states of Hidalgo and Guanajuato that worked jointly with the Specialized State District Attorneys for Trafficking in Persons to provide a temporary shelter for trafficking victims. There were not shelters for males above the age of 13. Government centers for crime victims provided some trafficking victims with emergency services, as did state-level prosecutorial, social service, and human rights offices. During 2019, the government signed six new memorandums of understanding involving the Mexican consular network in the United States and U.S. local entities specializing in human trafficking to provide care to Mexican victims in the United States. Mexican consular officials abroad operated special windows in the United States to identify situations of risk for trafficking among migrant children, women, and indigenous persons.
In 2019, the INM provided temporary immigration relief in the form of humanitarian visas to 60 victims of human trafficking or illicit smuggling and did not report the number of repatriated victims of human trafficking or illicit smuggling; this compared to 241 humanitarian visas and 399 victims repatriated in 2018. Humanitarian visas enabled foreign trafficking victims to remain in the country up to one year, and could be extended. Some government officials and NGOs expressed concern authorities did not grant humanitarian visas as often as they should due to a failure to identify eligible foreign trafficking victims, victims’ lack of awareness of the process for obtaining such relief, victims’ desire to return to their country of origin, length of legal proceedings, and the waiting time for processing requests for immigration relief. The inter-secretarial anti-trafficking commission provided funding to an international organization to develop a national information system to track the number of victims identified, referred, and assisted across the country; the government completed the first phase of installation in 2017, incorporated additional data in 2018, and planned to implement the system in 2020. The law provided victims with protection from punishment for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit; however, NGOs reported the government sometimes mistakenly detained trafficking victims on these charges. Some officials transferred victims to shelters to serve as detention facilities until the cases were completed. Many victims reported they were afraid to identify themselves as trafficking victims or, if identified, to testify against their traffickers in court under the accusatorial system. Few victims filed complaints or assisted in investigations and prosecutions due to their fear of retribution from traffickers, the lack of specialized services and security, or distrust of authorities. NGOs also reported officials often re-traumatized trafficking victims due to lack of sensitivity and the lack of adequate protection for victims during criminal proceedings. Experts expressed concern that prosecutors coerced some victims to testify during judicial proceedings. Observers noted that indigenous victims experienced discrimination within the judicial system. The national anti-trafficking law provided for restitution from a victims’ fund that was unfunded and no victims received restitution; this compared with two victims receiving restitution in 2018.