Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Costa Rica

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 12 June 2007
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Costa Rica, 12 June 2007, available at: [accessed 29 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Costa Rica (Tier 2)

Costa Rica is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Women and girls from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Panama, Russia, Bulgaria, and the Philippines are trafficked into the country for sexual exploitation. Young men from Nicaragua are trafficked to Costa Rica for labor exploitation. Costa Rican women and children are trafficked internally and to El Salvador, Guatemala, Japan, and the United States for sexual exploitation. The government identifies child sex tourism as a serious problem. Costa Rica serves as a transit point for victims trafficked to the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Europe. Men, women, and children also are trafficked within the country for forced labor in agriculture and fishing, and as domestic servants. Chinese nationals have been trafficked to Costa Rica for forced labor.

The Government of Costa Rica does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. In 2006, the government took important steps to confront public complicity with human trafficking in a high-profile case, and increased trafficking prevention efforts nationwide. In the coming year, the government should intensify its efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and to convict and sentence trafficking offenders. The government also should work with the legislature to pass necessary amendments to prohibit all forms of trafficking, and provide greater protection for victims.


The Government of Costa Rica showed limited success in enforcement efforts against traffickers during the reporting year. Costa Rica does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, although Article 172 of its criminal code criminalizes transnational trafficking and prescribes a punishment of three to six years' imprisonment for this offense. Trafficking in minors is prohibited by Article 376, and carries penalties of two to four years' imprisonment. However, Costa Rican law does not adequately address the internal trafficking of adults, and while current penalties are sufficiently stringent, they are not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, the government has proposed legislative reforms to its anti-trafficking laws; the Costa Rican legislature should make every effort to pass such changes this year. During the reporting period, a variety of criminal statutes were used against traffickers, but data on trafficking convictions will not be available until later this year. However, since August 2006, the judicial police opened five investigations into international trafficking organizations, and continued a number of earlier investigations. In January 2007, authorities arrested eight people in connection with a Chinese organization suspected of trafficking people to Costa Rica for labor exploitation; importantly, immigration officials rebuffed attempts by this ring to bribe them, instead cooperating with police in an undercover sting operation to arrest the traffickers. Authorities cooperated with neighboring countries, Interpol, and U. S. counterparts on international trafficking investigations. No complaints of trafficking-related corruption were filed during the reporting period.


The Costa Rican government's efforts to protect trafficking victims remained limited during the reporting year. There are no specialized shelters for trafficking victims, although the government did fund an NGO working with victims of sexual exploitation. Protective services overall are severely lacking, and there are no formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as persons detained for prostitution or immigration violations. The government did not penalize victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. However officials treated some adult victims as illegal migrants and deported them without taking steps to determine if they were victims. Foreign nationals identified as trafficking victims could be repatriated, or apply for work permits or refugee status. Costa Rican authorities encourage victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers.


The government made additional progress on prevention activities during the reporting year. President Arias condemned human trafficking in public statements, and the government acknowledges the serious nature of the problem. Campaigns against child sex tourism continued, in addition to television, radio, and billboard notices designed to warn young women of the dangers of commercial sexual exploitation. With international assistance, the government launched a national hotline in February 2007 for potential victims to receive information about trafficking. The hotline project is accompanied by a widespread TV and radio campaign featuring Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin.

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