The government maintained protection efforts, identifying more victims; however, it did not provide adequate services to victims. The government reported identifying 744 victims in 2021, compared with 673 victims in 2020, and 658 victims in 2019. The government provided only partial disaggregated data on the identified victims: in the first eight months of 2021, identified victims included 392 individuals subjected to sex trafficking, 56 subjected to forced labor, and 66 not specified and at least 15 victims were from other countries. An NGO that operated a national hotline dedicated to human trafficking reports received 1,864 trafficking-related calls—originating from throughout the country—and identified more than 196 victims from these calls; 43 investigations resulted from calls to the hotline. In 2021, Mexican consular officials identified and assisted 1,352 Mexican nationals who were in vulnerable situations or victims of crimes including human trafficking in other countries; 86 were victims of forced labor. In comparison, authorities abroad identified and assisted 313 Mexican victims of human trafficking in the first six months of 2020.
Immigration officials implemented a formal screening, identification, and care protocol to identify and refer potential trafficking victims during initial immigration verification, and immigration officials identified 15 trafficking victims during the year. In the previous reporting period, authorities agreed to modify this protocol to require screening among migrants in detention centers and requested assistance from an international organization in drafting updated guidance; however, authorities did not complete these revisions during the year. Consular officials followed a protocol for identifying and providing assistance to Mexican victims abroad, and some other agencies followed informal victim referral procedures. Labor inspectors had a protocol for identifying suspected forced labor victims during routine inspections of formally- registered businesses and farms, but local observers reported a lack of coordination with other secretariats to facilitate criminal investigations and victim assistance. Across the government, victim referral from first responders was largely ad hoc and procedures varied from state to state, with most shelters relying on prosecutors to identify and refer victims. Most government officials lacked SOPs to proactively identify potential victims of trafficking within vulnerable groups and systematically refer them to service providers. NGOs reported authorities at all levels of government lacked sufficient understanding of trafficking laws and failed to effectively identify and refer potential victims. In Puebla, a state the government identified as among those with the highest prevalence of trafficking, state authorities referred only three victims to the state’s only trafficking victim shelter in 2021. The government provided training on identifying and assisting trafficking victims to officials from several agencies including 800 staff from state attorneys general offices; 487 Department for Family Development (DIF) officers; 2,100 immigration officials; and 1,465 additional government officials.
Federal and state agencies generally offered victims emergency assistance such as medical care, food, and housing in temporary or transitional homes, and other services such as psychological care, legal assistance, and access to education or employment opportunities, often in partnership with NGOs. However, victim services varied throughout the country; were unavailable in some regions; and were particularly inadequate for male victims, forced labor victims, and victims in rural areas. NGOs reported the government provided insufficient funding for critical victim services and victims in most states did not receive sufficient government assistance. Medical and psychological support often did not extend beyond cursory evaluations; shelters at both the state and local levels typically housed victims only for the duration of a criminal trial; and long-term reintegration services were very limited, leaving victims highly vulnerable to re-exploitation.
The government did not provide complete data for victims receiving services. FEVIMTRA continued to operate a high-security shelter in Mexico City that could accommodate 50 female victims and their children for up to three months while victims participated in legal processes; the shelter served 79 trafficking victims during the year. NGOs expressed concerns the high security measures, including victims’ inability to leave the shelter unaccompanied, may have re-traumatized some victims. The states of Mexico, Chiapas, and Mexico City continued operating six government-funded trafficking shelters. In total, seven states had specialized government or NGO shelters for trafficking victims, and four states had agreements in place that allowed them to refer trafficking victims to shelters in another state. The government and NGOs operated additional shelters that served other vulnerable populations and could accept trafficking victims but did not provide specialized services. There were no government or NGO trafficking shelters available for male victims older than 13, and 12 states lacked any shelters that accepted trafficking victims. NGOs operated the majority of shelters that served trafficking victims. Most shelters offered medical, psychological, and legal assistance for victims, but the level of care and quality of services varied widely. Government officials provided services such as security or transportation to some NGO shelters. Government centers for crime victims provided some trafficking victims with emergency services, as did state-level prosecutorial, social service, and human rights offices. Many NGOs continued to alter or limit their operations in response to pandemic-related funding cuts from donors or necessary isolation measures. Shelters reported assisting fewer victims due to limited staffing and to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The National Institute of Social Development provides funding to women’s shelters, including shelters that accept victims of trafficking; in 2021, three NGOs operating trafficking shelters submitted requests for funding and received approximately 11 million pesos ($535,780) through this program.
The government reported providing temporary immigration relief through humanitarian visas to 13 trafficking victims in 2021. Humanitarian visas enabled foreign trafficking victims to legally remain and work in the country up to one year, and could be extended; this benefit was not dependent on a victim’s willingness to participate in a criminal trial. Government officials and NGOs acknowledged barriers to victims receiving humanitarian visas, including authorities’ failure to identify eligible foreign trafficking victims, insufficient efforts to make victims aware of the process for obtaining such relief, and the lengthy wait times for processing requests. FEVIMTRA coordinated with local embassies to provide legal, administrative, and consular assistance to victims from Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Paraguay, and Venezuela and repatriated six victims to their home countries.
The law provided victims with protection from punishment for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. However, the government lacked formal procedures to identify victims among vulnerable groups, including children apprehended for alleged gang-related criminal activity and migrants in detention facilities. NGOs reported authorities sometimes unlawfully detained victims on trafficking charges and some officials utilized shelters as detention facilities for victims until their cases were completed. Trafficking victims among migrants and asylum-seekers were often fearful of reporting abuses due to a mistrust of authorities and fears of punishment or other repercussions. Authorities initially charged a child sex trafficking victim in Queretaro with sex trafficking crimes, but later withdrew the charges and filed a new case naming her as a victim; in October 2021, courts convicted the sex trafficker who exploited her and several other victims. The government did not report whether it complied with a CNDH recommendation, issued in January 2021, to provide compensation to a sex trafficking victim whose human rights authorities violated by detaining her in a migrant detention center in 2018.
The anti-trafficking law stipulated authorities must apply the principle of “maximum protection” to victims and witnesses, including protecting individuals’ identities and providing name and residence changes to victims affected by organized crime. Nonetheless, identifying information sometimes became publicly available in high-profile cases and many victims feared identifying themselves or testifying against traffickers in court under the accusatorial system. Courts permitted victims to provide testimony via closed circuit television. NGOs reported officials often re- traumatized victims through a lack of sensitivity, victim shaming, and the lack of adequate protection for victims during criminal proceedings. Experts expressed concern prosecutors coerced some victims to testify during judicial proceedings. Authorities’ failure to employ victim-centered procedures, combined with an overall lack of specialized services and security, disincentivized victims from filing complaints or participating in investigations and prosecutions. Women, Indigenous persons, LGBTQI+ individuals, and migrants experienced discrimination within the judicial system that limited their access to justice.
The Secretariat of the Interior (SEGOB) had a unit responsible for supporting access to justice and compensation for victims of federal crimes, but the government did not provide it with sufficient funding and trained personnel, limiting its ability to provide this support to trafficking victims. The national-anti trafficking law required judges in criminal cases at both the state and federal levels to order traffickers to pay restitution to victims. One victim received 57,500 Mexican pesos (USD 2,800) in restitution. However, the majority of victims who were awarded restitution did not receive these funds, and the government did not create a legally-required fund to cover restitution payments perpetrators could not pay. The government anti-trafficking commission continued funding an international organization to develop a national information system to track the number of victims identified, referred, and assisted across the country, but the pandemic delayed the system’s implementation.