Breaking down some of the myths surrounding human trafficking

Derribando algunos de los mitos alrededor de la trata de personas

On July 30, we commemorate the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, a crime which has caught more than 40 million people worldwide in exploitation situations.

Despite being a recognized crime around the world, there are many myths that surround its reality. To better understand what human trafficking is, we will share some of the most common claims about this crime, and review one by one whether they are true or not.

- Victims of human trafficking are always physically bound, chained or locked up.
FALSE: It is more common for trafficked persons to be trapped by psychological coercion and other forms of control than by physical ties, and these circumstances are orchestrated by traffickers. The confiscation of identity documents, the latent or explicit threat of hurting their loved ones, and lack of knowledge about another language and culture are some of the many situations that make it difficult for a trafficked person to escape or seek help.
- The most common purpose of human trafficking is sexual exploitation.
FALSE: Specialists estimate that more people are trafficked for labor exploitation than for sexual exploitation, and that the former affects almost all industries in some aspect. This includes the areas of manufacturing, fishing, agriculture, construction, entertainment and domestic work.
- The youngest children are those who are most often forced to beg.
TRUE: Children forced to beg are often under 10 years old. Traffickers know that younger people gain more sympathy from passersby and that is why they exploit them. Sometimes babies and young infants are rented by their parents or guardians during the day.
- People in poverty are more vulnerable to human trafficking.
TRUE: Although trafficking in persons involves victims with different levels of income and education, ethnicity, nationality, sex, etc., poverty can make people more vulnerable to trafficking. Other situations that place people in situations of greater vulnerability are climate change, natural disasters, war, discrimination, corruption, being a minor and having disabilities.
- Human trafficking can occur both at a national and international level.
TRUE: The crime of trafficking in persons can occur both within a country and outside it, and in many cases there are known networks of trafficking in persons operating at both levels (national and international).
- If you pay someone to help you cross a border illegally, that is human trafficking.
FALSE: Paying someone to facilitate the illegal crossing of the border without going through official routes with a passport and other documents deemed necessary, or avoiding controls, is illegal smuggling of migrants. Since the smuggling of migrants implies the crossing of borders facilitated by a third party, it is an administrative crime against the State.

Smuggling may become trafficking in persons if the migrant is then forced into exploitation, but if the person is free once he or she reaches their destination, it is smuggling and not trafficking.

- Human trafficking is one of the most lucrative businesses.
TRUE: It is estimated that human trafficking generates profits of more than US $150 billion annually, making it one of the most lucrative criminal activities.

Human trafficking may seem like a distant situation over which we do not have much influence as individuals, but there are several actions we can do to increase knowledge about this crime: talk with family and friends about the issue, report local authorities if you suspect of a trafficking case, and supporting companies that ensure decent working conditions for their workers. All these actions allow an increase in citizen oversight on trafficking.

To make a report about trafficking in persons in the region, contact the following telephone numbers:

• Belize: 911

• Costa Rica: 911

• El Salvador: (+503) 2298 6804

• Guatemala: 110

• Honduras: 911

• Jamaica: 967-1389 / 922-3771

• Mexico: (+01) 800 832 4745

• Nicaragua: 133

• Panama: 311/104 / 507-3200

• Dominican Republic: 700

• Trinidad and Tobago: 800-4288 (4CTU)

How can Central American migrants become regularized in Mexico?

How can Central American migrants become regularized in Mexico?
Categoria: Immigration and Border Management
Autor: Guest Contributor

Thousands of migrants, asylum seekers and Central American refugees go north in search of better opportunities. Most of these people leave from Northern Central American countries (PNCA - Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador).

Some resort to irregular migration, exposing themselves to travel dangers and the restrictions that this implies if they manage to reach their country of destination. However, an IOM study in which more than 2,800 interviews were conducted showed that in NTCA 97% of migrants in transit make a great effort to obtain documents to regulate their stay in Mexico. In addition, between 59% and 70% of people would be willing to be involved in local education, employment or entrepreneurship opportunities, as an alternative to irregular migration.

Migrants who leave the NTCA when they reach the southern border of Mexico have 3 options to request their regular stay in this country:

1. Regional Visitor: allows a person to remain in Mexico for a period not exceeding 7 days in the States of Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo and Tabasco. The card is valid for 5 years, has no cost and does not allow paid activities.

2. Visitor Border Worker: for nationals of Belize and Guatemala, allows entry to the states of Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo and Tabasco. It is valid for one year and includes the right to perform remunerated activities. However, this option requires having a job offer in advance.

3. Visitor for Humanitarian Reasons: valid for one year with the possibility of renewal and is granted in the following situations:

  • Be a victim or witness a crime committed in Mexico.
  • Be an unaccompanied migrant child
  • Be an applicant for political asylum, recognition of refugee status or complementary protection of the Mexican State, as long as their migration status is unresolved.

The condition of a visitor's stay may also be authorized for humanitarian reasons when there is a humanitarian cause that necessitates its admission or regularization in the country. The requesting person has permission to perform paid activities.

For migrants who want to reach the northern border of Mexico, they can only continue their journey as irregular migrants. For them, the way to regularize their immigration status is through a Visitor Visa for Humanitarian Reasons, request a waiting number to be interviewed in the US and qualify for the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). They can also cross the border irregularly and present themselves to migration authorities in the United States, and be returned to Mexico, also under the MPP category.

Those who return to Mexico through the MPP can wait for their appointment and request asylum in the United States or in Mexico, or return to their countries of origin.

Mexico has the potential to offer job opportunities to migrants in programs like Sembrando Vida or projects such as the creation of the free zone in the border strip, the Mayan Train or the construction of the Dos Bocas refinery in the state of Tabasco. For this, the visa options and conditions of regular stay for NTCA migrants must be strengthened and refined.

It is also essential that governments and organizations continue to strive to address the structural causes that force people to migrate, offer alternatives and continue to seek and support mechanisms that promote an orderly and safe migration.


Resources for migrants:

*IOM has resources to help people find out about regular migration options. The website provides information on regular migration channels and opportunities for local learning, work and entrepreneurship development. On the other hand, the MigApp mobile application provides information on protection, migration procedures and services.