Over a hundred people freed from slavery in Mexico

4 December 2009

Mexican police have rescued 107 indigenous people held in forced labour at a factory in Mexico City disguised as a drugs rehabilitation centre.

Twenty three suspects were arrested following a raid by police on Thursday 3 December. A further two more were arrested the following morning.

The victims, aged between 14 and 70, were locked in the building which had bars on the window and forced without pay to make handbags and clothes pins. Video footage of the inside of the building showed filthy and crowded living conditions.

Officials said the men and women were forced to work from 8 a.m. to midnight and were given only a half-hour break for lunch. They added that workers were not allowed to go to the bathroom and many had soiled themselves.

Miguel Angel Mancera, Mexico City’s Attorney General described their treatment as  “cruel and inhuman” and said all were suffering from dehydration and malnutrition and some had been tortured, beaten and sexually abused.

Mr Mancera said that many of the victims were kidnapped off the street. Others were brought by family members who thought that they would receive treatment for their addictions. Officials believe thousands of people could have been forced into slavery over the eight years that the ‘hospital’ was open.

Joanna Ewart-James, Anti-Slavery International’s Supply Chain Co-ordinator, said: “This case reveals the role discrimination can play in trapping people into slavery. Across the world, many of the people forced into slave labour are from minorities that are poor and vulnerable, with indigenous people, such as the victims in Mexico, a common target.”