The government maintained protection efforts, but identified fewer victims for the second consecutive year. The government reported identifying 667 trafficking victims in 2017—429 for sex trafficking, 103 for forced labor or services, eight for forced begging, eight for forced criminality, four for other purposes, and 115 unspecified—compared to 740 victims in 2016 and 1,814 in 2015. Of the 667 trafficking victims identified, approximately 15 percent were male, 66 percent were female, and 19 percent did not have their gender specified. The federal government identified 140 victims, compared to 194 in 2016 and 876 in 2015. The state governments identified 527 victims, compared to 691 in 2016 and 938 in 2015. The Ministry of Foreign Relations identified and provided support to 196 Mexican forced labor victims abroad, including 180 in the United States and 16 in other countries, compared to 20 in 2016. Government officials used several procedures or protocols to proactively identify victims: immigration officials used the “Process for Detection, Identification, and Attention to Foreign Trafficking Victims;” federal officials used the “Protocol for the Use of Processes and Resources for the Rescue, Assistance, Attention and Protection of Trafficking Victims;” and Mexican consular officials abroad operated special windows in consulates in the U.S. to identify situations of vulnerability among migrant children, women, and indigenous persons. The government collaborated with an international organization, which had developed specific state-level protocols in 17 of 31 states for victim identification and assistance, to train government officials. NGOs and the media 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 vary, in general, federal and state agencies offered victims emergency services, such as medical care, food, and housing in temporary or transitional homes; and long-term victim services, such as medical, psychological, and legal services. The Special Prosecutor’s Office for Violence Against Women and Trafficking in Persons (FEVIMTRA) continued to operate a high-security shelter in Mexico City and provided shelter to 52 trafficking victims. Women were allowed to have their children with them at the shelter. Women were not allowed to leave the shelter alone; NGOs expressed concern that this arrangement re-traumatized some victims, but officials maintained it was critical for ensuring their safety. An NGO in the State of Puebla continued to operate the country’s only public-private shelter. The State of Mexico opened three trafficking-specific shelters 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. NGOs reported some shelters relied on the prosecutor’s office to identify victims and received funding based on the number of victims housed, which some observers suggested could create an incentive to hold victims pending the conclusion of a case and potentially compromise the shelter’s independence and sustainability of operations.
In 2017, the Executive Committee for Victim Assistance (CEAV) signed an agreement for the creation of an emergency fund of approximately 3 million pesos ($152,250) to support trafficking victims mandated by the 2012 anti-trafficking law, which began to provide funding in April 2017. The National Institute of Social Development (INDESOL) provided 598,500 pesos ($30,370) to two NGOs to provide victim services to 76 trafficking victims. The Attorney General’s Office (PGR) provided victim services to 98 trafficking victims who were participating in the legal process against their exploiters. The National Children and Family Services System (DIF) provided assistance to 78 victims. The National Security System (CNS) provided assistance to 126 victims. The National Institute of Migration (INM) provided assistance to 31 potential foreign trafficking victims and issued temporary immigration relief in the form of humanitarian visas to 25 victims in 2017, compared to four victims in 2016. Humanitarian visas enabled foreign trafficking victims to remain in the country up to 60 working days or 90 calendar days, and may be extended. Some government officials and NGOs expressed concern humanitarian visas were not granted as often as they should be due to a failure to identify eligible foreign trafficking victims and the waiting time for processing requests for immigration relief. NGOs, many with foreign donor or private funding, also provided specialized shelters and assistance. Despite these efforts, services for male, adolescent, and forced labor victims and victims in rural areas remained inadequate. 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 and began incorporating additional data with the goal of full implementation in 2018.
The law provided victims with protection from punishment for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, but NGOs reported that in practice some officials unlawfully detained victims. Some officials transferred victims to 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.