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Brazil rescues hundreds held in modern-day slave conditions

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian authorities rescued 532 workers held in modern-day slavery in August, in the country's largest joint operation of the kind, labor prosecutors announced on Tuesday as the government aims to stamp out human trafficking rackets.

In Brazil, slavery is legally defined as forced labor but also covers debt bondage, degrading work conditions and long hours that pose health risks.

In a statement, labor prosecutors said the cumulative rescues happened over just last month, in raids involving over 200 inspections in 22 states plus the capital Brasilia.

The operation freed 26 children and teenagers, and at least 74 people that had also been victims of human trafficking.

One inspection led to the rescue of 97 workers at a garlic farm in southeastern Minas Gerais state.

"At the work site there were not enough bathrooms, a place to heat food and chairs for employees to sit on. The workers did not have a formal work permit nor did they receive protective equipment," according to the statement.

The United Nations has concluded that contemporary forms of slavery often involve especially vulnerable populations who toil in the shadows of the law, including those who perform illicit work.

"The majority of those who suffer are the poorest, most vulnerable and marginalized social groups in society," according to a statement on the multinational body's website.

(Reporting by Ana Mano; Writing by Carolina Pulice; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Lincoln Feast)