Officials of the Labor and Employment Ministry found 17 Peruvians working in conditions of slavery at a sewing workshop in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo, officials told Efe on Saturday.
According to the consul general of Peru in Sao Paulo, Arturo Jarama, some of his compatriots had their documents confiscated and severe limitations imposed on going outdoors, particularly the ones who had been working there only a short time and had yet to win the trust of the owners, who are of Peruvian descent.
"I got the impression that some of the workers were kidnapped, above all those who have been there less time," Jarama said, adding that "some had freedom and others didn't."
The complaint was filed by the Peruvian Consulate before the Justice and Defense of Citizens Secretariat after one of the workers escaped from the sweatshop and spilled the whole story.
"He was in a state of shock," the consul said.
As told by some of the workers, their workdays could last up to 16 hours and they were paid 25 reais (about $10.64) a week, Jarama said, adding that all 17 Peruvians lived in overcrowded conditions in the same house.
The consul said, however, that other employees claimed they worked fewer hours and earned more.
The workers "are now in the care of Brazilian authorities and we in the consulate are ready to follow whatever measures the judge determines," Jarama said.
According to the world slavery index published last year by the Walk Free Foundation, Brazil leads the fight against slavery in Latin America, despite having some 200,000 people still enslaved here. EFE