Twenty-three children have been rescued by authorities in Mexico after they were abducted and forced to sell crafts.
The authorities rescued the children from a house in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, in the state of Chiapas on Monday, the state’s attorney’s office announced in a statement. The children were mainly between the ages of two to 15 years old, but some were as young as three months, according to the authorities.
They were taken from their families and forced to sell the crafts and trinkets to tourists, while threatened with “physical and psychological violence,” according to CNN.
The area in Southern Mexico is known for tourism, with markets selling trinkets and handmade crafts commonplace throughout the city.Three women were arrested as part of the rescue and are facing possible charges of human trafficking and forced labour.
In a statement released on Monday, Jorge Llaven, a Chiapas state prosecutor, said the children had to bring a certain amount of money back to the house each day to be allowed to eat at night.
“According to the children, many of them were forced to go out on the streets to sell things, and moreover they were forced to return with a certain minimum amount of money for the right to get food and a place to sleep at the house,” he said.
Additionally, many of the children were forced to sleep on cardboard and blankets on a cement floor, according to the Associated Press. The house was discovered after the authorities began a search for two-year-old Dylan Esaú Gómez Pérez, who went missing from his family while at a market in the city on 30 June.
Video surveillance footage showed the child being led away from his parents by a girl who appeared to be 13 years old, which has led authorities to believe that some of the children were being used to abduct kids, according to the AP.
However, despite the authorities rescuing the twenty-three children, the toddler has still not been found, according to his mother, Juana Pérez. Ms Pérez, who has asked Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador to help her locate her son, told reporters: “None of the children (rescued) is my son”