U.S. Department of State 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report - Costa Rica

Costa Rica (Tier 2)

Costa Rica is principally a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Women and girls from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Cuba, Peru, China, Russia, and the Philippines are trafficked to the country for sexual exploitation; Costa Rican women and children are trafficked within the country for the same purpose. The government acknowledges that child sex tourism is 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 are also trafficked, usually within the country, for forced labor as domestic servants, agricultural workers, and workers in the fishing industry.

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. Authorities investigated numerous reports of minors trafficked for sexual exploitation, cooperated on international trafficking investigations, and initiated a new public awareness campaign that targeted girls and young women vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation. The government should work with the legislature to pass necessary anti-trafficking laws. It should also improve services for victims and increase investigations and prosecutions of traffickers. When complaints are filed against officials allegedly involved in trafficking, they should be vigorously investigated. The government should also develop a national plan of action and designate an official to lead inter-agency cooperation.


The Government of Costa Rica showed only limited success in enforcement efforts against traffickers during the reporting year, and laws remained inadequate to address all forms of trafficking. Costa Rica lacks an anti-trafficking law; consequently, crimes that involve trafficking are difficult to track. A variety of criminal statutes were used against traffickers but the slow judicial system and the lack of trafficking-specific statutes prevented officials from confirming how many cases involving trafficking resulted in convictions in 2005. In practice, law enforcement anti-trafficking efforts focused on commercial sexual exploitation of minors, for which officials reported 37 new investigations during the reporting period. Authorities cooperated with Nicaraguan and U.S. counterparts in trafficking investigations, but lack of Costa Rican internal government coordination generally hampered enforcement efforts. Although there were indications that some border officials have been involved in trafficking, no reported complaints of trafficking-related corruption were filed during the reporting period.


The Costa Rican Government's efforts to protect trafficking victims remained extremely limited during the reporting year, largely due to the lack of resources. The government continued to punish some victims for unlawful acts they committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. Identified trafficking victims did not face jail, but officials treated some adult victims as illegal migrants and deported them. Foreign nationals identified as trafficking victims could seek repatriation; alternatively, they could apply for work permits or refugee status. Most protective services were severely lacking. The government operated no shelters or health care facilities designated for trafficking victims and lacked the ability to provide even temporary shelter or services. Officials used no standard referral process to transfer trafficking victims to NGOs and the government lacked the capacity to fund NGOs that assisted trafficking victims.


The government made some progress on prevention during the year. An existing campaign against child sex tourism continued and a new campaign was launched using television, radio, and billboard notices to warn young women of the dangers of commercial sexual exploitation. The government relied heavily on third parties to raise awareness and provide anti-trafficking training.


This 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.