MEXICO CITY, March 26 (IPS) – In March 2014, Noemi N. committed suicide in a refugee camp in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, where there are currently no special accommodations for victims of human trafficking.
Noemi N hung a shower curtain around her neck after being rescued by a migrant smuggler who sold her to the United States without personal documents. She was only 8 years old.
The death of Rosi OrozcoHer sparked a wave of news about victim shelters in Mexico with the most conservative figures pointing to 120,000 new victims of human exploitation each year, mostly girls and women.
The Mexican criminals who lead this blackmail are as diverse as they are dangerous. They are made up of 47 groups, from entire families devoted to sexual exploitation to the most powerful cartel in the world, Jalisco Nueva Generación, considered the main tourist destination promoting sex tourism.
The criminals are causing a surge in casualties while the country suffers from a lack of safe places where victims can be protected, seek justice and start new lives. Only four Mexican states have a state-specialized animal shelter.
These government buildings often operate on a budget and reduced staff who work extra hours to look after 1% of the victims who manage to escape from their kidnappers and survive to tell their story.
The rest of the Mexican shelters – about 10 – are managed by non-governmental organizations who are making tremendous efforts to keep them open and staffed through donations and lotteries.
Comisión Unidos Vs Trata and Fundación Camino a Casa are pioneering civil organizations in creating these safe spaces. More than 300 survivors have been housed in their shelters since 2007 and are not dependent on government funding.
In Mexico, the last three federal administrations were held by three different political parties: the conservative Acción Nacional, the centrist Revolucionario Institucional and the left Morena.
Because of these political changes, an economic model that demands money from the government would make shelters dependent on any election campaign.
Only the independence of political power guarantees that these safe rooms will remain open every day of every year, regardless of events including elections.
However, this freedom comes at a cost. Sometimes very high costs. For example, human rights defenders who run emergency shelters never know exactly how much they can raise each year and whether that money will be enough to meet basic needs.
Each survivor will need an investment of approximately $ 900 per month for groceries, clothing, legal advice, medical and psychological fees, school support, and some recreation or fun.
Other costs also vary depending on the victim: Comisión Unidos Vs. Trata and the NGO Alas Abiertas arranged free reconstructive surgeries for Zunduri who were tortured in a dry cleaner. the purchase of two vehicles so that Erika and Estrella, who are forced into prostitution, can earn an income by driving a taxi; or the salary for one of the best activists in the world, Karla, who has survived more than 43,000 rapes since she was 12.
And of course there is the security problem. A shelter is the final barrier between a victim and a perpetrator. Here a victim recovers, becomes healthy, empowered, speaks up and decides to initiate a judicial investigation against her perpetrator.
That is why emergency shelters are affected by organized crime. Criminals locate the houses, watch over them, stalk those who go in and out, hunt down the courts and send death threats in the expectation that the walls protecting their victims will be demolished or demolished.
The risk extends to the legal realm of those who manage the shelters. These are places where users have a high chance of committing suicide, physically assaulting the staff who care for them … even sexually assaulting other survivors.
These are complex, but also wonderful spaces. Without the shelters, it would be impossible to impose more than a thousand penalties on human traffickers, particularly in Mexico City and the state of Mexico, where, despite the difficulties and repeated violence, the authorities have done an exceptional job of keeping the shelters open.
This month, the Mexican government’s interior minister, Olga Sánchez Cordero, made a historic announcement: The current government will seek closer ties with civil society shelters to advance the defense of human rights.
The frequent visits by the government to monitor the day-to-day operations of these shelters give hope and open a new chapter in cooperation between authorities and activists.
It is for this reason that millions of us dream of opening an animal shelter in every unit of the country, as it is invaluable to a country that longs for peace and justice.
The author is a human rights activist who opened the first animal shelter for girls and teenagers saved from sexual commercial exploitation in Mexico. She has published five books on preventing human trafficking. She is the elected representative of the GSN Global Sustainability Network in Latin America.
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