The government maintained protection efforts, but provided limited specialized services for trafficking victims, which were unavailable in most parts of the country. The government reported identifying 706 trafficking victims in 2018—387 for sex trafficking, 153 for potential forced labor or labor exploitation, and 166 unspecified—compared to 667 trafficking victims in 2017, 740 victims in 2016, and 1,814 victims in 2015. Of the 706 trafficking victims identified, approximately 21 percent were male, 54 percent were female, and 25 percent with their gender unspecified, compared to 15 percent male, 66 percent female, and 19 percent gender unspecified in 2017. The federal government identified 146 of the total victims, compared to 140 in 2017, 194 in 2016, and 876 in 2015. The state governments identified 560 of the total victims, compared to 527 in 2017, 691 in 2016, and 938 in 2015. The Ministry of Foreign Relations identified and provided support to an additional 860 Mexican trafficking victims abroad, including 843 in the United States and 17 in other countries, compared to 196 Mexican forced labor victims abroad in 2017, and 20 in 2016. The NGO-run hotline identified 584 victims—78 percent female and 19 percent male, and 9 percent with their gender unspecified—some of whom were subsequently referred to the government.
Immigration and other federal officials each had formal protocols for the proactive identification of victims. Mexican consular officials abroad operated special windows in U.S. consulates to identify situations of vulnerability among migrant children, women, and indigenous persons. The government collaborated with an international organization that had developed specific state-level protocols in 24 of 31 states for victim identification and assistance and provided training for government officials in its use. NGOs challenged the government to continue to improve its ability to accurately identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as migrant workers and individuals in prostitution. 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, and few filed complaints or assisted in investigations and prosecutions due to their fear of retribution from traffickers, the lack of specialized services, or distrust of authorities.
While victim services varied and were unavailable in some parts of the country, in general, federal and state agencies 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. The federal government supported a national network of shelters and emergency attention centers for female victims of violence, but few offered specialized care for trafficking victims. NGOs, many with foreign donor or private funding, provided specialized shelters and assistance to some victims who were sometimes referred by officials. Despite these efforts, services for male, adolescent, and forced labor victims, and victims in rural areas remained inadequate. The Special Prosecutor’s Office for Violence Against Women and Trafficking in Persons continued to operate a high-security shelter in Mexico City, but it did not report how many victims it provided with shelter in 2018. Women were allowed to have their children with them at the shelter. Women were not allowed to leave the shelter alone; NGOs expressed concern this arrangement re-traumatized some victims. An NGO in the State of Puebla continued to operate the country’s only public-private shelter, which provided comprehensive services to 77 victims in 2018, including education and vocational training to assist 45 survivors and their children to reintegrate into society. The State of Mexico continued to operate three trafficking-specific shelters opened in 2016, and the City of Mexico opened a trafficking-specific shelter, which provided medical, legal, psychological, and social services to victims during pending cases. In addition to these shelters, there are two publicly-funded Women Justice Centers in the states of Hidalgo and Guanajuato that work jointly with the Specialized State District Attorneys for Trafficking in Persons to provide a temporary shelter for trafficking victims.
The National Institute of Social Development (INDESOL) provided 3.02 million pesos ($153,660) to 11 NGOs to provide victim services to 110 trafficking victims. In 2018, the National Institute of Migration provided temporary immigration relief in the form of humanitarian visas to 241 victims of human trafficking or illicit smuggling and repatriated 399 victims of human trafficking or illicit smuggling. 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 his or her country of origin, 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 2019.
The law provided victims with protection from punishment for unlawful acts their traffickers coerced them to commit. Some officials transferred victims to the National Institute of Migration (INM) for detention and deportation due to their immigration status and lack of formal identification as trafficking victims. Individuals in prostitution in Mexico City alleged officials detained and forced them to sign declarations accusing detained individuals of trafficking, which raised serious concerns about law enforcement tactics to secure evidence. NGOs also reported officials often re-traumatized trafficking victims due to lack of sensitivity. The national anti-trafficking law provided for restitution to be paid from a victims’ fund, but the government did not report whether the courts awarded any trafficking victims restitution. The government did not report how many victims received restitution from their traffickers, but the media reported two victims received 293,000 pesos ($14,910) and 70,000 pesos ($3,560), respectively.