The government decreased protection efforts, identifying fewer victims and providing inadequate services. The government reported identifying 440 victims in 2022, although not all states provided data. This was a significant decrease from 744 victims identified in 2021 and 673 victims identified in 2020. At the federal level, FEVIMTRA and National Institute of Migration (INM) officers identified 31 sex trafficking victims and nine forced labor victims. State officials identified 231 sex trafficking victims in 17 states, 112 forced labor victims in nine states, and 57 victims of unspecified forms of trafficking in four states. The government provided only partial disaggregated data on the identified victims: sex trafficking victims included at least 16 girls, 75 women, and three men; and forced labor victims included at least seven girls, three women, and five men. The government identified at least 20 victims from other countries, including one LGBTQI+ individual. Eleven sex trafficking victims INM identified were from Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, and Venezuela, and four forced labor victims were from Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Officials in Baja California identified five additional foreign national victims. An international organization identified 21 additional victims, all foreign nationals. The government did not report the number of Mexican victims of trafficking authorities identified or assisted in other countries. In comparison, Mexican consular officials abroad identified and assisted 86 victims of forced labor in 2021.
Most government officials lacked SOPs to proactively identify potential victims of trafficking within vulnerable groups and systematically refer them to service providers, and the government lacked a National Referral Mechanism (NRM) to provide a consistent standard of referral to victims. In December 2022, with support from an international organization and a foreign donor the government completed updates to its formal SOPs for immigration officials to screen for, identify, and assist potential trafficking victims during initial immigration verification.
Authorities did not screen Cuban nationals working in Mexico, including as medical professionals, for indicators of force, fraud, or coercion, despite evidence the Cuban government may have forced some of them to work. 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 and could respond to complaints alleging forced labor, 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 adult victims and Department of Family Development (DIF) officers to refer children. NGOs reported authorities at all levels of government lacked sufficient understanding of trafficking laws and failed to effectively identify and refer potential victims. The government trained employees at bus stations to identify possible trafficking victims and, with donor support, the government trained immigration officials in a certificate program on the identification of possible trafficking victims. During unannounced monitoring visits to institutions serving migrants and crime victims, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) provided training to staff on identifying and assisting trafficking victims within these vulnerable populations.
The government did not provide complete data on victim services. Federal and state officials reported 79 victims, including 60 exploited in sex trafficking and 19 in labor trafficking, received government or government-supported services. Authorities reported referring at least 50 victims, including 34 exploited in sex trafficking and 16 in labor trafficking, to service providers. The government did not clarify the extent to which these figures overlapped or provide detail on the type and duration of services provided. Not all states reported data. An international organization reported referring 25 victims to services; these victims included five women exploited in sex trafficking, seven women and 10 men exploited in labor trafficking, and one woman and two men in unspecified forms of trafficking. Federal and state agencies generally offered victims short-term, emergency assistance such as medical care, food, and housing in temporary or transitional spaces. The government provided some victims additional 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 many regions; and were particularly inadequate for male victims, forced labor victims, and victims in rural areas. NGOs provided the majority of longer-term support for victims. 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.
Victims had uneven access to shelters across the country. An international organization reported there were 29 shelters in Mexico that could assist trafficking victims, including 13 specialized trafficking shelters, 11 for victims of gender-based violence, and five that each served a specialized population such as Indigenous women, children and adolescents, or migrants. NGOs operated the majority of shelters that served trafficking victims. The government provided services such as security, transportation, and medical assistance to victims in some NGO shelters. 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. 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, five states had specialized government or NGO shelters for trafficking victims. In August 2022, the Government of Tlaxcala entered into an agreement with an NGO shelter in a neighboring state, allowing officials to refer victims to that shelter. Four other states had similar agreements in place with out of state trafficking shelters, but state governments did not always provide funding or other support as part of these arrangements. There were no government or NGO trafficking shelters that accepted men or boys older than 13, limiting access to specialized services for both male victims and victims with teenage sons in their care. With support from an international organization, the government developed and began implementing an operational manual for standards of care in government and NGO shelters that serve trafficking victims.
The law provided victims with protection from punishment for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. 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 wrongfully 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, deportation, or other repercussions. The government did not report whether it complied with a CNDH recommendation, issued in December 2020, to provide compensation to a sex trafficking victim whose human rights were violated when authorities detained her in a migrant detention center in 2018. The government provided five humanitarian visas to victims of trafficking in 2022. In comparison, it provided 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.
The anti-trafficking law stipulated authorities must apply the principle of “maximum protection” to guarantee the safety, wellbeing, and privacy of victims and witnesses, including protecting individuals’ identities and providing name and residence changes to victims affected by organized crime. Courts permitted some victims to provide testimony via closed circuit television. Nonetheless, identifying information sometimes became publicly available in high-profile cases, and NGOs reported officials often re-traumatized victims through a lack of sensitivity, victim shaming, and inadequate protections 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 structural discrimination that led to inequality in assistance and 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. The law also held the government responsible to cover payments traffickers were unable to pay. The government did not provide information on the amounts judges ordered convicted traffickers to pay or the number of victims who received restitution payments. Civil society organizations reported victims in Mexico City and in the states of Mexico, Nuevo Leon, Puebla, and Veracruz received restitution. However, the majority of victims 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.