Some 500 Brazilians have been the victims of people trafficking networks since 2005 and the main destinations of these criminal groups operating in the country are The Netherlands, Switzerland and Spain, according to a report released Tuesday by the Justice Ministry.

Of the total number of cases registered, 337 also involve sexual exploitation and most of those involve women, said the study, which authorities say only reflects those incidents about which complaints have been filed.

The ministry admitted that the real situation "could be even worse," since many of the victims of people trafficking networks do not report their situation to the authorities out of "fear," "shame" or simple ignorance about what can be done.

According to the figures collected by the ministry, Suriname is today the main exit point from Brazil for these criminal organizations, above all when the victims are being shipped to Holland, a country to which at least 133 Brazilians have been smuggled since 2005.

The report says that about 55 percent of the heads of these networks are women who deceive young females in impoverished areas around the country and take them to the abovementioned nations - and others - and then force them to engage in prostitution.

In preparing the study, the ministry received support and information supplied by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, or UNODC, which will cooperate with the Brazilian government to establish a plan to fight people trafficking networks.

"It's an issue that concerns everyone and, regrettably, in Brazil there is a very high incidence of that crime," said Brazilian Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardoso.

The minister said that the plan the government is preparing with the UNODC will be announced soon and will involve all the Brazilian security entities, as well as other departments in the social sphere, with the aim not only of suppressing this international crime but also of preventing it. EFE