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NEW ISSUES IN REFUGEE RESEARCH
Research Paper No. 229
Human trafficking in Mexicoand neighbouring countries:a review of protection approaches
Lara Talsma
Advocacy Officer (Henigson Fellow)Amnesty InternationalMexicoE-mail: Lc_talsma@hotmail.comJanuary 2012
Policy Development and Evaluation Service
 
 
Policy Development and Evaluation ServiceUnited Nations High Commissioner for RefugeesP.O. Box 2500, 1211 Geneva 2SwitzerlandE-mail: hqpd00@unhcr.orgWeb Site: www.unhcr.org
These papers provide a means for UNHCR staff, consultants, interns and associates,as well as external researchers, to publish the preliminary results of their research onrefugee-related issues. The papers do not represent the official views of UNHCR.
They are also available online under ‗publications‘ at <www.unhcr.org>.
 ISSN 1020-7473
 
 
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Introduction
In the last two decades, both the trafficking of human beings and the attention given to thiscrime have increased tremendously. Human trafficking is now considered the second largestcriminal enterprise in the world, second only to drugs trafficking. Concerns about thisepidemic growth have led to an array of international, regional and national responses in thelast ten years. Several international and regional treaties have been adopted, nationallegislation has been put in place to implement these international agreements and practicaland operational mechanisms have been created to give effect to legislation.Under international law, human trafficking is both a human rights violation and a crime.Many anti-trafficking strategies, whether at the international or national level, have adoptedmethods that include preventing the crime of trafficking, protecting the trafficking victim and prosecuting the trafficker. However, in practice, most strategies have focused on combatingtrafficking through law enforcement, through prosecution of the offender and through thecrackdown of criminal networks that engage in trafficking.This paper concentrates on the struggle against human trafficking from a migration andasylum protection perspective. The overwhelming majority of trafficking victims, aside from being female, are migrants searching for an economically better, but also safer future.
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 Migrants and asylum seekers are considered to be most vulnerable to falling victim to humantraffickers and the socio-demographic characteristics of vulnerable migrants and asylumseekers show a strong resemblance to the people most vulnerable to becoming victims of human trafficking.The connection between migration and trafficking is strikingly present in Mexico and thesurrounding countries. The way through Mexico is one of the most used mixed migrationroutes in the world, with the United States-Mexico border being the most crossed border inthe world.Many irregular migrants pass through Mexico desperate to get to the United States and manyof them make use of smugglers to help them get there. These smuggling agreements have been known to evolve into a trafficking situation. In addition, migrants in Mexico run a greatrisk of being kidnapped and consequently being trafficked. In other situations, (irregular)migrants travel for jobs that turn out to be exploitative and/or of a different nature than whatwas first agreed.Migration in Mexico has thus become a highly lucrative enterprise for smugglers, traffickersand kidnappers of migrants. In the last decade the human trafficking business in this regionhas seen a disturbing growth and it continues to be a growing problem.
2
The migrants andasylum seekers who travel through Mexico and who are prone to being trafficked havenationalities from all over the world, but the vast majority come from Central America, particularly from the countries El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
1
Anti-Slavery International,
The migration-trafficking nexus: combating trafficking through the protection of 
migrants’ human rights
, The Printed Word UK: 2003, available at:http://www.antislavery.org/english/resources/reports/download_antislavery_publications/trafficking_reports.aspx [last accessed: 20 December 2011] (hereinafter:
 Anti-Slavery International 2003
), p. 1.
 
2
United States Congressional Research Service,
Trafficking in Persons in Latin America and the Caribbean
,RL33200, available at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4e96ba0f2.html [last accessed: 18 December 2011](hereinafter:
Congressional Research Service 2011
), p. 4.

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