Brazil

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Tier 2

BRAZIL: Tier 2

The Government of Brazil does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Brazil remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by increasing the overall number of investigations and convictions, improving data collection, and initiating restitution proceedings for victims in the Fazenda Brasil Verde case. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Investigation and prosecution efforts in sex trafficking cases remained weak, reports of official complicity and corruption were largely unaddressed, foreign victims were penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, and assistance to victims remained weak and inconsistent.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BRAZIL

Amend the 2016 anti-trafficking law to criminalize child sex trafficking without elements of force, fraud, or coercion in accordance with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking cases including those involving sex trafficking or complicit officials; ensure trafficking victims are not penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; prosecute labor traffickers in criminal courts; increase funding for specialized services, including housing for victims of sex trafficking and forced labor; improve federal and state law enforcement cooperation and communication on trafficking cases; train federal, state, and municipal law enforcement officials on proactive identification of victims; update referral mechanism guidance to reflect the provisions covered under the new law; increase specialized services for child trafficking victims, including case management assistance and oversight of local guardianship councils; and finalize and begin implementing the third national action plan for the elimination of trafficking.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained prosecution efforts. Article 149a of law 13.344 criminalized all forms of labor trafficking and some forms of sex trafficking and prescribed penalties of four to eight years imprisonment and a fine, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with international law, Article 149a required force, fraud, or coercion for child sex trafficking cases, and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. However, 244A of the child and adolescent statute criminalized inducing a child to engage in sexual exploitation, without the need to prove the use of force, fraud, or coercion and prescribed penalties of four to 10 years imprisonment and a fine, which were sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 149 of law 13.344 prohibited trabalho escravo, or reducing a person to a condition analogous to slavery, defining forced labor to include degrading work conditions and exhausting work hours, going beyond situations in which people are held in service through force, fraud, or coercion.

Contrary to previous years when law enforcement data occasionally included state and federal efforts, the 2017 investigation and prosecution data included information solely under federal jurisdiction. In 2017, authorities reported 190 investigations (171 investigations under article 149 and 19 investigations under article 149a), compared with 147 investigations in 2016 (103 new and ongoing investigations under the old penal code, 22 new and 20 ongoing investigations under article 149, and 22 investigations under article 149a). The government reported 57 prosecutions (55 under article 149 and two under article 149a), compared with 147 prosecutions in 2016 (135 under the old penal code, three under article 149, and three under article 149a in 2016). Authorities reported 81 total convictions in 2017 (four under article 149a in the superior court, 20 under article 149 in the superior court, two under article 149a in lower courts, and 55 convictions under article 149 by lower courts), compared with a total of 23 convictions in 2016 (22 in lower courts and one final conviction in the superior court). Most sex and labor traffickers convicted by lower courts appealed their convictions; there were 78 appeals related to trafficking cases in the federal court system in 2017 (compared with 29 in 2016). The prolonged appeals process lasted years and hampered Brazil’s overall law enforcement efforts. Authorities estimated 79.7 million cases were pending review in the Brazilian court system in 2017 and rulings in eight of every 10 cases were not enforced due to recurring appeals. The government did not report the length of sentences given for all cases, but media reported sentences for select cases ranged from two to seven years imprisonment. However, most convicted traffickers served sentences under house arrest or by spending only nights in prison while being free during the day.

The government treated forced labor as a distinct crime from sex trafficking. The Ministry of Labor’s (MTE) inspectors handled administrative cases of trabalho escravo while cases with evidence of serious violations were referred to the labor court and public ministry for criminal prosecution. This resulted in uneven interagency coordination of anti-trafficking efforts. Labor inspectors and labor prosecutors could apply only civil penalties. The MTE conducted 7,491 inspections in 2017, an increase from 1,902 inspections in 2016 in part due to the resolution of 2016 strikes by labor inspectors.

The Brazilian Federal Police (DPF) had a unit in every state and was involved in the investigation of most trafficking crimes. In some states, the DPF worked efficiently with state and municipal law enforcement entities; however, law enforcement cooperation and communication among the DPF and state and municipal entities was generally insufficient. Law enforcement units at all levels had insufficient funding, expertise, and staff to investigate trafficking. NGOs indicated that, of Brazil’s three police forces, the DPF was the most competent in handling trafficking cases; however, specialized training for all law enforcement entities on trafficking indicators was lacking. In coordination with international organizations and foreign donors, the government trained law enforcement officials, prosecutors, immigration, and border officials on trafficking. In 2016, the National Justice Council (CNJ) launched FONTET—a national forum tasked with increasing judicial efficiency in the handling of trafficking cases and ensuring victims were not penalized for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking. Due to personnel changes, FONTET was active only in the first part of 2017. In December 2016, the Inter-American Court for Human Rights ruled against Brazil in a historic case (Fazenda Brasil Verde vs. Brazil) where for the first time it fined a country for failing to prevent slavery within its borders; it ordered the government to pay $5 million to 128 farm workers who were enslaved from 1988 to 2000 and to reopen the investigation. In January 2018, the attorney general announced the creation of a task force to re-open the investigation. The government did not report updates to cases of official complicity opened in past years, including the investigation of an elected official, who in October 2016 was removed from his position in Parana state after allegations of involvement in a child sex trafficking ring. Similarly, there were no updates on the prosecution’s appeal of an inadequate sentence given to a civil police investigator in 2016 for his involvement in a sex trafficking ring involving children. During the reporting period, an NGO reported that more than one in 10 high-ranking politicians received campaign donations from companies linked to conditions analogous to slavery.

PROTECTION

The government maintained protection efforts. Authorities continued to use guidance provided by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security (MJSP) for all federal, state, and local governments on victim identification and assistance, but the government did not report updating the guidance to reflect provisions of the 2016 legislation. The MJSP maintained 12 posts at airports and bus stations known as transit points for victims to identify likely traffickers and potential victims. Law 13.344 mandated the government provide victims with temporary shelter, legal, social, and health assistance, and protection against re-victimization. Seventeen of 27 state governments operated state-level anti-trafficking offices (NETPs) that referred victims to social assistance centers for victims of trafficking, sexual abuse, exploitation, and domestic violence. Specialized MTE divisions provided victims of forced labor with job training services, three months of unemployment pay, and limited counseling services. Observers indicated some NETPs had effective assistance and coordination teams that comprised police officers, prosecutors, and mental health professionals, whereas other state offices were not as well equipped to assist victims. Various agencies reported identifying victims and potential victims of trafficking, totaling 1,117 victims in 2017 (13 sex trafficking victims and 1,104 labor trafficking victims), compared with 1,268 in 2016. Seven of the 27 NETPs reported assisting 10 sex trafficking victims and 101 forced labor victims during the first half of 2017. The Rio de Janeiro state government reported identifying three sex trafficking victims and two labor trafficking victims in 2017. MTE reported identifying 1,008 children working in violation of minimum working age laws, some of whom may be trafficking victims. Officials did not report the number of victims of domestic servitude or commercial sexual exploitation of children identified in 2017.

The federal government did not fund specialized or long-term shelters for trafficking victims; instead, it often placed them in shelters for victims of domestic violence or centers for migrant assistance. There were no specialized services for male or transgender sex trafficking victims. Specialized shelters for child sex trafficking victims were lacking, and guardianship councils often did not have the expertise or resources to identify child victims correctly and refer them to services. General victim services and shelters varied in quality from state to state. The state of Sao Paulo maintained a shelter where female victims and their children could receive health benefits, education, food, and housing for three to six months. Another shelter in Sao Paulo provided temporary assistance for refugees and trafficking victims, but the government did not report how many victims stayed at the shelter. In 2017, there were 2,521 specialized social assistance centers across the country where psychologists and social workers assisted vulnerable people (compared with 2,521 centers in 2016). In 2017, many centers remained underfunded; however, 378 centers were certified to assist trafficking victims compared to 988 centers in 2016. The government did not report how many victims authorities assisted through the centers in 2017.

Victims of trabalho escravo remained vulnerable to re-trafficking due to inconsistent access to assistance and employment options; however, the government sought to address this issue by offering vocational training. The state government in Mato Grosso continued to offer vocational training to victims of trabalho escravo. The MTE and Ministry of Social Development continued to provide trabalho escravo victims access to public services by including the victims in the registry for social programs, granting them priority access to a cash transfer program, unemployment insurance, subsidized housing, a discount on energy bills, and technical assistance—all implemented at municipal-level centers for social assistance.

During the reporting period, the MJSP reported the judicial system continued incorporating live video testimony into trials to encourage victims of crimes to testify against their perpetrators and do so from the location of their choice. Authorities did not report whether video testimony had been used in a trafficking trial yet. Trafficking victims serving as witnesses were eligible for a short-term protection program, although authorities did not report how many victims received protection in 2016 or 2017. Foreign trafficking victims were entitled to permanent visa status, but authorities did not report how many victims received it in 2016 or 2017. The government provided repatriation assistance for Brazilian nationals subjected to trafficking abroad, as well as for foreign nationals who were subjected to trafficking in Brazil who wished to return to their country of origin. NGOs and international organizations reported 24 victims received repatriation assistance in coordination with the government during the reporting period. During the reporting period, the government initiated administrative proceedings to pay 49 identified victims in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ ruling in the Fazenda Brasil Verde case. There were reports of victims penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. Authorities imprisoned two Ukrainian trafficking victims for drug smuggling prior to releasing them and allowing their return to Ukraine. In a separate case, authorities imprisoned five Kazakh trafficking victims for drug smuggling prior to releasing them and allowing their return to Kazakhstan.

PREVENTION

The government maintained prevention efforts. The 2013-2016 second national action plan for the elimination of trafficking expired in December 2016. The anti-trafficking inter-ministerial group was in the third of six stages of planning the 2018-2022 third national action plan at the end of the reporting period. Coordination among agencies at the national and state level was uneven and varied in efficacy. State and federal authorities reported reduced budgets and other priorities limited their implementation. The government continued to participate in the Blue Heart campaign focused on raising awareness on the plight of victims and gaining political support for the prosecution of traffickers. Municipal and state governments hosted workshops, trainings, art installations, performances, and roundtable discussions to commemorate World Day against Trafficking. In Sao Paulo, the state NETP conducted three anti-trafficking symposiums and monthly educational outreach trips engaging with representatives from education, industry, city governments, and regional offices. The government established the National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons to coordinate activities between NGOs, public, and private sectors and to advise the MJSP on trafficking-related public policies. The MJSP, with assistance from an international organization, completed a report assessing government efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking crimes and efforts to identify and assist victims in 2014-2016, which will be publicly released later in 2018. The government operated a human rights hotline that received 13 calls reporting adult sex trafficking cases, 39 cases of child sex trafficking, 61 cases of adult forced labor, and seven cases of child forced labor. The government did not report whether it identified any victims or initiated investigations as a result of calls to the hotline. The MTE published a new version of the lista suja, or dirty list, following an October 2017 federal labor court ruling. The list identified individuals and businesses responsible for trabalho escravo and listed businesses could not access credit by public and private financial institutions. Authorities continued efforts against child sex tourism by enhancing law enforcement cooperation and information sharing with foreign governments; however, the government did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of child sex tourists in 2017. Troops received anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, Brazil is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Brazilian women and children are exploited in sex trafficking within the country. Brazilian women are subjected to sex trafficking abroad, especially in Western Europe and China. Women and girls from other South American countries, especially Paraguay, are exploited in sex trafficking in Brazil. The estimated 75,000 Venezuelan migrants who have crossed the border into Brazil are vulnerable to trafficking. Transgender Brazilians are forced into prostitution in Brazil. Brazilian men and transgender Brazilians have been exploited in sex trafficking in Spain and Italy. Child sex tourism remains a problem, particularly in resort and coastal areas; many child sex tourists are from Europe and the United States. Brazilian men, and to a lesser extent women and children, are subjected to trabalho escravo and debt bondage in rural areas (including in ranching, agriculture, charcoal production, logging, and mining) and cities (construction, factories, restaurants and hospitality). Brazilian women and children, as well as girls from other countries in the region, are exploited in domestic servitude. Some Brazilian trafficking victims are forced to engage in criminal activity, including drug trafficking, in Brazil and neighboring countries. Brazilian forced labor victims have been identified in other countries, including in Europe. Men, women, and children from other countries—including Bolivia, Paraguay, Haiti, and China—are subjected to forced labor and debt bondage in many sectors, including construction, the textile industry (particularly in Sao Paulo), and small businesses. NGOs and officials report some police officers ignore the exploitation of children in sex trafficking, patronize brothels, and rob and assault women in prostitution, impeding identification of sex trafficking victims. Government officials and former officials have been investigated and prosecuted for trabalho escravo.