US-Brazil Partnership Captures Human Smugglers

A collaboration between law enforcement from the United States and Brazil resulted in the arrests of alleged human smugglers who ran a significant international trafficking operation, stated the United States Department of Justice in a press release Tuesday.

Coat of arms of the Brazilian Federal Police.svgCoat of Arms of the Brazilian Federal Police (Photo: Guilherme Paula)Backed by the Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force program - a partnership between divisions of the US Justice Department and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement - the Brazil Federal Police detained three men suspected of shipping human trafficking victims to South America from overseas.   

According to the release, Abdifatah Ahmed, Abdessalem Martani, and Mohsen Manesh - all of whom are based in Brazil but hail from Somalia, Algeria and Iran, respectively -have “transported scores of individuals from East Africa and the Middle East, into Brazil, and ultimately to the United States.”  

“We commend today’s efforts by our Brazilian counterparts to take decisive action under their recently enacted human smuggling laws against criminal networks that threaten the national security of Brazil, the United States and other nations,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the US Justice Department.

This capture marks a small success for a country plagued by human trafficking. According to the US Department of State’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, “traffickers exploit Brazilian women and children, in sex trafficking within the country,” and “Traffickers exploit Brazilian men, notably Afro-Brazilian, and to a lesser extent women and children, in situations that could amount to labor trafficking, in rural areas...and cities,” among a host of other trafficking-related problems. 

The report also mentions that “The Government of Brazil does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.”  

In 2019, Brazilian agencies had identified 98 potential human trafficking victims, and 1,113 possible victims of trabalho escravo, or forced labor. The Brazilian government treats human trafficking and forced labor as distinct categories.

However, considering there are an estimated 40.3 million modern slaves in the world, according to statistics released by the International Labour Organization, and an estimated 369,000 slaves in Brazil, according to a 2016 report from the Global Slavery Index, the identification of a little over a thousand potential victims, and the detention of three smugglers, represents only a tiny step towards resolving an immense global problem.