The government maintained protection efforts, identifying more victims; however, it did not provide adequate services to victims. The government reported identifying 673 victims in 2020, compared with 658 victims in 2019 and 706 victims in 2018. An NGO that operated the national trafficking hotline reported receiving 1,931 trafficking-related calls—originating from throughout the country—and identifying 245 victims from these calls; 45 investigations resulted from calls to the hotline. These victims included 196 women and girls, 39 men and boys, and 10 with gender unspecified; and 140 Mexican citizens, 49 foreigners, and 56 with nationality unspecified. The NGO reported identifying more male victims than the previous year, the majority of whom were exploited in forced labor. Hotline staff referred 181 victims to government and NGO service providers for medical, psychological, and legal assistance and 64 for psychological and legal counseling. This organization trained 600 police officers in Mexico City to respond to referrals from the hotline. The government identified and assisted 313 Mexican victims of human trafficking exploited abroad during the first half of 2020, including 301 in the United States, and 12 in other countries. Among these victims were 33 men, 39 women, 155 boys, and 86 girls. The government did not provide data on victims identified abroad during the second half of 2020. In comparison, authorities identified and assisted 933 victims abroad in 2019 and 860 in 2018.
Immigration officials implemented a formal screening, identification, and care protocol to identify and refer potential trafficking victims during initial immigration verification and regularization. In January 2021, 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; authorities did not complete these revisions by the close of the reporting period. 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 standardized procedures 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.
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, and legal services, 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. 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. As of October 2020, 82 adult and child victims resided in specialized government and NGO trafficking shelters across the country. The Special Prosecutor for Violence Against Women and Trafficking in Persons (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 11 trafficking victims during the year. NGOs expressed concerns that 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 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 centers for crime victims provided some trafficking victims with emergency services, as did state-level prosecutorial, social service, and human rights offices. Many NGOs altered or limited their operations in response to severe funding cuts from donors during the pandemic. Some newly identified child victims were placed into facilities already operating at capacity due to organizations’ lack of funds. The National Institute of Social Development launched a program to provide funding to women’s shelters; in 2020, three NGOs operating trafficking shelters submitted requests for funding and received approximately 11.3 million pesos (565,000) through this program.
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 government did not report providing temporary immigration relief through humanitarian visas to any victims in 2020; in comparison, the government provided visas to 60 victims of human trafficking in 2019. 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 victims’ 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.
The law provided victims with protection from punishment for unlawful acts their traffickers compelled them to commit. However, due to a lack of formal identification procedures, including among children apprehended for gang-related criminal activity or migrants in detention facilities, authorities may have detained or jailed some unidentified victims for crimes their traffickers compelled them to commit. 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. In January 2021, CNDH issued a recommendation to the government to provide compensation to a sex trafficking victim following its determination that authorities violated the victim’s human rights by detaining her in a migrant detention center in 2018 and failing to properly provide assistance.
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. NGOs reported officials often re-traumatized victims through a 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. 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. A public university conducted training on providing assistance to trafficking victims for 35 employees in this unit. 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 and required the government to create a fund to cover restitution payments perpetrators could not pay. However, the government did not create this fund, and no victims received restitution despite judges ordering these payments in all cases that resulted in convictions at both state and federal levels. 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.