Hundreds of suspected victims of human trafficking have been rescued by police in 13 countries throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.
The international police organisation Interpol said on Monday nearly 350 victims – who may have been subjected to sexual exploitation and forced labour – had been saved as part of a project to combat human trafficking in the region.
Police arrested 22 individuals during Operation Libertad raids, carried out between April 3-9, which marked the culmination of the Canadian government-funded two-and-a-half-year effort, Interpol said.
Tim Morris, Interpol’s executive director of police services, said in a statement on Monday the operation had shown the “power of Interpol [in] providing a platform for the 13 participating countries”, which included Brazil, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela among others.
“But what sits behind these numbers is the human story,” Morris said.
Children and adults found working in nightclubs, farms, mines, factories and open-air markets were among those rescued, having been lured across borders by traffickers targeting vulnerable people with promises of better lives, Interpol said.
40 million victims
Cem Kolcu, a coordinator for Interpol’s Trafficking in Human Beings unit, said the victims had been misled by those exploiting them.
“What traffickers don’t advertise are the working conditions their victims will be subject to once their final destination is reached,” Kolcu said.
“During this operation, we identified women being forced to work out of spaces no bigger than coffins, for example.”
More than 40 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, according to the United Nations International Labour Organisation, 75 percent of whom are female.