Brazil rescues more than 4,500 slaves

6 January 2009

Brazil’s anti-slavery taskforce rescued 4,634 slaves from remote ranches and plantations last year, according to government figures released this week.

The taskforce took part in a record 133 raids as well as visiting 255 different farms in 2008. The former slaves have been paid £2.4m in compensation.

Aidan McQuade, Director of Anti-Slavery International, said: “The Brazilian Government is to be commended for rescuing more than 4,500 people from the nightmare of slavery. Their commitment to step up their efforts in 2009 is even more heartening.”

Brazil was the last country in the western hemisphere to abolish slavery in 1888. Combating this contemporary form of slavery has been a high priority for the Government since 2004 when it admitted the problem still existed.

In Brazil, it is common for people from the impoverished north-eastern areas of the country to be approached by a middleman, commonly known as a ‘gato’, or cat, and tricked into slavery through promises of work and good wages.

Instead the workers find themselves trafficked to remote rural settlements where they are trapped, sometimes at gunpoint, and expected to cut sugar cane or clear tracts of the Amazon rainforest to pay off debts incurred through the cost of their food and housing.