Human Trafficking: Kidnapped Woman Reunited With Family After 30 Years

A woman held captive by people traffickers for 30 years has been freed by police in Bolivia and reunited with her family in Argentina.

Argentinian police said on Tuesday that a 45-year-old woman and her nine-year-old son had been released from a house in the southern Bolivian city of Bermejo earlier this month, BBC News reported.

The woman had vanished 32 years ago. Earlier in 2018, police received information that the woman was being held in Bermejo, to the south of the Tariquía Flora and Fauna National Reserve.

Thanks to a collaboration between Argentine and Bolivian officials, the woman was able to see her family for the first time in three decades. She and her son are now at their family home in the Argentinian resort city of Mar del Plata, over 2,000 kilometers from where they were held captive.

The police statement did not reveal the names of the mother and son, according to BBC News, and did not detail who their captors were or their motivations.

The case offers a glimmer of hope in the otherwise overwhelmingly bleak landscape of human trafficking.

So too did an Interpol-coordinated operation which in April saved almost 350 victims of forced labor and sexual exploitation in 13 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America. Victims were found working in places as varied as night clubs to mines and open-air markets.

At the time, Interpol Executive Director of Police Services, Tim Morris, praised the international cooperation of police forces, but said “what sits behind these numbers is the human story. Whether it is someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter, there is an intensely personal story that is usually—unfortunatel—accompanied by a lot of suffering,” he said.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking amounts to modern-day slavery, where an individual is forced or coerced into performing labor. Millions of people, including children, are victims of human trafficking.

Only drug trafficking is a more profitable illegal industry globally. Forced labor can take a variety of forms, from farming work and domestic servitude, to care work, construction, beauty, and sex work.

“The trauma caused by the traffickers can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings,” according to Homeland Security. It can therefore be hard to identify a victims.

The San Francisco Human Rights Commission states a person may be a victim if their movements appear to be controlled, they have false identity or travel documents, or they don’t know their home address. Other signs include not having access to their own money, and working excessive hours for prolonged periods of time. Limited social interactions with other individuals, including their friends and family, can also be symptomatic of trafficking.

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