U.S. Department of State 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report - Costa Rica

Costa Rica (Tier 2)

Costa Rica is a country of source, transit, and destination for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of labor and sexual exploitation. Women and children from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, China, Colombia, Nicaragua, Peru, Russia, Romania, the Philippines, Ecuador, and Guatemala are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Costa Rica also serves as a transit point for individuals trafficked to the United States, Mexico, Canada, Japan, and Europe for sexual exploitation. Women and children are trafficked within the country for sexual exploitation. Men, women, and children are trafficked internally for forced labor as domestics, agriculture workers, and workers in the fishing industry. Child sex tourism is a major problem in the country.

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 continues to lack a comprehensive law enforcement strategy, thereby limiting its ability to effectively investigate, arrest, prosecute, and convict traffickers. Costa Rica needs to amend its laws to address trafficking offenses, increase efforts to protect victims, and work regionally to detect trafficking that is occurring as part of transnational illegal migration. Costa Rica also needs to appoint a single coordinating authority on trafficking and task it with drafting a national plan.


Despite the continued absence of a cogent law enforcement strategy, the government was able to make modest law enforcement gains over the last year. The Judicial Investigative Police (OIJ) created a new investigative unit dedicated solely to trafficking and smuggling. Costa Rica lacks an anti-trafficking law, which greatly inhibits its ability to prosecute and convict traffickers. Scattered criminal statutes may be used against traffickers, and prosecutors use these sporadically. The government secured ten convictions among the different prosecutors' offices for trafficking-related offenses over the last year. Although hundreds of investigations into the commercial sexual exploitation of children have been initiated, few have resulted in successful prosecution because of the government's inefficiency and inability to protect victims. There are several offices in Costa Rica responsible for trafficking offenses, but little coordination among them frustrates law enforcement efforts. There have also been reports of corruption along the borders among immigration officials.


The government's efforts to protect trafficking victims remained inadequate over the last year, partly as a result of resource constraints. The government's victim protection policy is ad hoc and unevenly applied; it provides some assistance to Costa Rican victims, but shelter space is very limited and does not accommodate the large number of victims in the country. The government does allow foreign victims to stay in the country to testify against traffickers, but this does not happen often due to the lack of government assistance for victims. Instead, foreign victims (excluding children) are often deported.


Recognizing that trafficking is a serious problem, senior government officials spoke out on the dangers of trafficking and the need to do more. The government, in collaboration with international organizations, conducted a large-scale information campaign designed to warn tourists of the penalties for sexually exploiting children. The campaign included inserts in immigration documents and posted billboards. The government is in the process of printing a booklet for foreign diplomats that explains trafficking and how to assist trafficking victims. Additionally, there are a number of other prevention efforts under way, including a 911-system to report sexual exploitation of minors. However, border monitoring remains poor and there are reports of complicity of immigration officials who are facilitating the cross-border movement of people, including trafficking victims.


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