Last Updated: Monday, 30 May 2016, 14:07 GMT

Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Costa Rica

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 4 June 2008
Cite as United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Costa Rica, 4 June 2008, available at: [accessed 31 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 Watch List)

Costa Rica is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Women and girls from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Panama, Russia, Uzbekistan, and the Philippines are trafficked into the country for sexual exploitation. Costa Rica also serves as a transit point for victims trafficked to the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Europe. 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. Men, women, and children are trafficked within the country for forced labor in fishing and construction, and as domestic servants. Young men from Nicaragua, as well as Chinese nationals, are trafficked to Costa Rica for labor exploitation, mostly in agriculture and construction.

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. Costa Rica is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat human trafficking, particularly in terms of its failure to improve its inadequate assistance to victims. While Costa Rican officials recognize human trafficking as a serious problem, the lack of a stronger response by the government is of concern, especially due to the significant number of victims present in the country.

Recommendations for Costa Rica: Amend laws to prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons; intensify efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and ensure that offenders are convicted and sentenced appropriately; provide greater legal protections and assistance for victims; increase training for law enforcement; and improve data collection for trafficking crimes.


The Government of Costa Rica demonstrated some law enforcement efforts against traffickers. Costa Rica does not prohibit all forms of human trafficking, although Article 172 of its criminal code criminalizes transnational trafficking for the purposes of sexual or labor servitude, prescribing punishments of three to six years' imprisonment. Trafficking of children is prohibited by Article 376, and carries penalties of two to four years' imprisonment. Costa Rican law also prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children through Article 161 of its penal code, which carries penalties of up to 10 years in prison. While these penalties are sufficiently stringent, they are not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes such as rape. Moreover, Costa Rican law does not prohibit the trafficking of adults within the country. In March 2007, the government proposed legislative reforms to better define the offense of trafficking in persons and to provide more assistance to trafficking victims; the Costa Rican legislature should make every effort to pass such changes this year. In July 2007, the government enacted criminal-code reforms to strengthen legal protections for children. During 2006, the latest period for which official statistics are available, the government opened 11 trafficking-in-persons investigations, but secured no convictions or sentences against perpetrators. Although statistics from earlier years are difficult to compare due to the lack of trafficking-specific data, law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders appear to have remained static or have declined during the past three years. In 2007, the judicial police also opened six investigations into international trafficking organizations, and cooperated with neighboring countries, Interpol, and U.S. law enforcement counterparts. The government significantly increased anti-trafficking training for law enforcement, and collaborated with NGOs and international organizations on additional training. No prosecutions for trafficking-related corruption were opened in 2007, although one investigation was underway at year's end.


The Costa Rican government made inadequate efforts to provide protection for trafficking victims in 2007, and relies on NGOs and international organizations to provide the bulk of assistance. There are no specialized shelters or services for trafficking victims, although the government did fund an NGO working with victims of sexual exploitation. Overall, protective services remain lacking, although trafficking victims may be able to access services provided for adult and minor victims of violent crime. There is no formalized mechanism for referring trafficking victims to NGOs, and the government employed no formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as persons detained for prostitution or immigration violations. The government generally did not penalize victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. However, officials treated some foreign adults as illegal migrants and deported them without taking steps to determine if they were trafficking victims. The law does not provide temporary residency status for foreign trafficking victims, although foreign nationals may be able to apply for work permits or refugee status. Costa Rican authorities encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. There are no programs to assist trafficking victims repatriated from other countries, although the government collaborated with IOM on an ad hoc basis last year to provide psychological assistance for two victims who had been trafficked to Japan. The government published a manual for law enforcement on identifying trafficking cases involving children.


The government improved prevention efforts during the reporting year. The President condemned human trafficking in public statements, and the government acknowledges the serious nature of the problem. The government also prosecuted 77 cases relating to the commercial sexual exploitation of minors, which reflected solid government efforts to reduce consumer demand for sexual acts with children. The government achieved six convictions against offenders, with sentences ranging from two to 50 years in prison. Public campaigns against child sex tourism continued, in addition to widespread media and billboard notices designed to warn young women of the dangers of commercial sexual exploitation. The government continued to support a national hotline project publicized through a nationwide media campaign featuring U.S. pop singer Ricky Martin. The government improved coordination with NGOs and international organizations on prevention activities, and sponsored campaigns to reduce demand for commercial sex acts with minors by warning potential exploiters that they will be prosecuted in Costa Rica. Approximately 200 tour companies in Costa Rica in 2007 signed a conduct code as part of a global initiative against the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Costa Rica tier ranking by year

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