Corruption Fuels China-Brazil Human Trafficking

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An investigation into the trafficking of Chinese workers to Brazil has uncovered evidence that Brazilian immigration authorities were involved, highlighting the key role that official corruption plays in enabling such trafficking networks. 

Judicial documents obtained by Estadao reportedly state that prosecutors believe corrupt immigration officials helped facilitate a human trafficking network between China and Brazil. 

The documents reportedly say that immigration officials at Rio de Janeiro’s international airport charged approximately $12,000 for every person they allowed to go through immigration and pass into the hands of the traffickers. The airport officials covered their tracks by confiscating the migrants’ passports, or removing the passport page with the entry stamp — which could be used to identify the immigration offiicials on duty that day.

Once they passed through immigration, the Chinese migrants worked in debt bondage in several bakeries, supposedly to pay off the costs of bringing them into the country. 

Other similar schemes have been exposed in recent months. Prosecutors have freed a number of workers from bakeries who had been lured to Brazil with promises of a $570 monthly salary and free room and board, reported Noticias UOL. Instead, when they arrived, the workers’ passports were confiscated and they were told they had to work off their debt in what prosecutors described as “slave-like conditions.”

InSight Crime Analysis

Brazil has become notorious for human trafficking and forced labor, with debt bondage schemes used to entrap foreign and national workers alike. According to recent estimates, as many as 40,000 people work in slave-like conditions in sectors such as factories, mining, agriculture and logging.

SEE ALSO: Bangladesh

Authorities have uncovered evidence of various countries providing this slave labor, ranging from neighbors such as Peru to more distant countries such as Bangladesh. It should come as no surprise that Chinese human trafficking networks are also present in Brazil, as past cases have shown they already operate in neighboring countries Uruguay and Argentina.

As seen in Brazil, official corruption is a major enabler of human trafficking networks. Notably, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has identified corruption as one of the principal obstacles to effectively implementing anti-human trafficking policies.

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