Mining operations such as quarries can easily operate out of sight. That was the case in a string of quarries in a coastal region of Brazil. The isolated nature of work sites like these made it easy to hide horrific and inhumane working conditions that officials called “similar to slavery.”
The barracks where they lived were not sheltered from the rain or cold. They had no toilets, showers, or even safe drinking water. Worse, in some cases, the gunpowder used to break apart rocks in the quarry was stored in the same shacks where the laborers slept. The risk of a deadly explosion posed a constant threat.
On the job site, workers were forced to work excessively long shifts with starkly dangerous practices. They had to break rock using a makeshift blasting device, without the ability to be an adequate distance from the explosion. They had little to no protective equipment.
Despite these massive risks, none of the men had a contract. None were adequately compensated. And two of them were actually teenagers, not even 18 years old.
These were the conditions that law enforcement officials found when they investigated the quarry sites, along with a nearby straw harvesting operation with similar working conditions. Officials had been trained by The Exodus Road’s TraffickWatch, so they immediately recognized the red flags of labor trafficking.
They’d also been supplied with cyber investigations tools through a partnership between The Exodus Road and Cellebrite. That technology allowed them to quickly build a case that proved beyond a reasonable doubt that what was happening on these job sites was labor trafficking.
Between all of the working sites investigated, a total of 94 Brazillians were set free, including the two teenage boys. Further investigation, including determining criminal charges for the owners of the work sites, is in progress.
A case like this represents a landmark moment in the fight against human trafficking. Officials know what to look for and where to find it, and they’re passionate about pursuing justice. Cases like this communicate to other unethical labor supervisors in Brazil that even if their operations are out of sight, abuse won’t stay hidden forever.
Brazilian law enforcement sent a note specifically to The Exodus Road’s leadership, saying, “I emphasize the need to maintain the partnership between the Federal Police and The Exodus Road in order to improve the repression of human trafficking and sexual exploitation and child abuse.”
As a supporter of The Exodus Road, you’re making these milestone moments in Brazil possible. Thank you!
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