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

U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - Costa Rica

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 14 June 2004
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - Costa Rica, 14 June 2004, available at: [accessed 28 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 mainly a destination and transit country for women and children trafficked for sexual exploitation. Victims are internally trafficked from San Jose to coastal and border communities in the provinces of Limon, Puntarenas, and Guanacaste. Victims are trafficked to Costa Rica from Nicaragua, Colombia, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, the Philippines, Russia, and Eastern Europe. Although most foreign victims remain in Costa Rica, traffickers also attempt to transport them onward to the U.S. and Canada. Costa Ricans migrate illegally to the U.S. and Canada; authorities believe some may be trafficked. In 2003, authorities discovered two Costa Rican women in Japan who had been trafficked there.

The Government of Costa Rica does not fully comply with minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Costa Rica needs to create institutional links between its increasingly effective law enforcement efforts against traffickers and social services to victims. As a regional leader, Costa Rica is positioned to play a strong role in developing mechanisms to gather and share intelligence on trafficking in Central America and the Caribbean.


Costa Rica's law enforcement strategy is based on interagency collaboration between special units of the Public Ministry, Ministry of Public Security and Judicial Investigative Police. While these units were augmented in 2003, their important work remains hampered by resource constraints. According to government data, in 2003, authorities made 14 trafficking-related arrests. All of those arrested were detained on charges of child sexual exploitation. Of the 14, authorities placed six offenders in pretrial custody, prosecutors charged seven defendants, and the courts sentenced one defendant. Costa Rica is considering new legislation to improve its anti-trafficking laws. These improvements should address all forms of trafficking, including internal trafficking.


The government has a victim protection policy, but it may be unevenly applied. Officials assist Costa Rican victims, but shelter space is too limited to accommodate all the victims. Authorities claim that foreign victims are recognized and may be given legal status to help prosecute their traffickers; otherwise, they are repatriated home. Some observers claim that foreign victims are deported as illegal migrants.


The Costa Rican Government recognizes that trafficking is a serious problem. Its national plan on commercial sexual exploitation was updated in 2003, but more aggressive government action is needed. Limited by resources, current government prevention measures are scattered and consist mainly of occasional public statements, radio programming, and social programs that target vulnerable groups. Borders remain porous and are a subject of continuing concern.

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