CRS in Brazil

Brazil is a land of extreme and often cruel contrasts, with a highly unequal distribution of wealth. The lack of economic opportunities for some gives rise to a scandalous violation of human rights: slave labor. The International Labor Organization estimates that 40,000 people work in virtual slavery, especially in Amazonia. Most victims are illiterate men attracted by promises of a better life. They are taken to remote plantations and charcoal kilns, where they work as debt laborers with little possibility of returning home.

Catholic Relief Services works closely with the Catholic Church and partners to combat slave labor and promote a culture of justice.  CRS is part of the mobilization and advocacy processes aimed at making significant changes related to slave labor. Over these past four years, CRS has supported the implementation of 13 projects in the fight against human trafficking and slave labor. We have been involved in flagship issues such as the creation of the National Front for the Eradication of Slave Labor and assisting in the monitoring of the 1st National Plan for the Eradication of Slave Labor among other strategic efforts.

CRS in Brazil has supported programs or advocacy initiatives in 11 states of the country.


People Served: 86,007

Population: 204,259,812 (July 2015 est.)

Size: 3,287,612 sq. mi.; slightly smaller than the United States of America

Programming Areas

CRS' History in Brazil

The work of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) on the theme of slave labor in Brazil began in 2004 with the Freedom Trails project, funded by the USDOL between 2004 and 2008.

The goal of the project was to strengthen the fight against slavery in the country, specifically in the Amazon and the Northeast, where the largest number of cases is concentrated. Program implementation has been carried out by a network: CRS; Caritas Brasileira and its regional offices in the states of Piauí, Maranhão and Pará; Reporter Brasil; the Center for the Defense of Life and Human Rights Açailândia, in Maranhão; and the Center for Human Rights of Araguaína in Tocantins.

After the initial work on the issue of slave labor began, the focus in Brazil turned to developing and strengthening key initiatives of other civil society actors and the Church working on slave labor issues.

Through this strategic area, CRS hopes to contribute to influencing changes in policies and structures that generate this type of human dignity violation and ensure social justice.