Most of them were employed in the textile and agricultural sectors, with over half working in the Sao Paulo state.
Over the past decade, Brazilian authorities have rescued 965 immigrants, 923 of whom are from Latin America, from situations of forced labor.
Among the total foreigners liberated during labor inspection operations between 2013 and September 2023, the largest nationality was Bolivian, with 331 individuals.
Following them were Paraguayans with 270, Haitians with 146, Venezuelans with 97, and Peruvians with 65. Additionally, 37 Chinese workers were also freed.
The majority of those rescued were employed in the textile and agricultural sectors, with over half working in Sao Paulo (506), the country’s most populous state.
The text reads, “According to an article published in Confectionery News, the U.S.-based company Cargill was sentenced to pay R$600,000 for supporting cocoa suppliers who practiced forced and child labor in Brazil. The company denies it and claims to be aligned with the causes of decent work.”
Brazil’s Penal Code defines forced labor, punishable by sentences ranging from two to eight years of imprisonment, as including “exhausting” work hours, “degrading” conditions, and restrictions on mobility.
Working 17-hour days without a contract or days off, coupled with confiscated identification documents, constitute part of the precarious conditions faced by many immigrants.
“They are in a vulnerable situation due to their migratory status, lack of knowledge of the legislation, and lack of documentation. For this reason, they are willing to accept unacceptable conditions,” explains Matheus Viana, head of the Labor Ministry division responsible for combating this practice.
In the last decade, authorities rescued just over 15,000 people, mostly of Brazilian citizenship, although there is a downward trend. From the peak in 2007 when over 6,000 people were liberated, the number has decreased to 2,481 in 2022.
“Just as labor inspection has professionalized, so has forced labor, and now it is less visible than before. We have to actively seek out victims and not wait for complaints,” says Viana.
The number of inspectors auditing companies has dropped to the lowest level in almost three decades, with half of the positions vacant, according to the industry union. The last hiring round was ten years ago.
Viana acknowledges that this situation is “very serious” and has affected inspectors’ capacity to conduct audits. Still, he points to the intention of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s government to hire new inspectors for the coming year.