Nicaragua (Tier 2)
Nicaragua is principally a source and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Nicaraguan women and children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country as well as in neighboring countries, most often to Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and the United States. Trafficking victims are recruited in rural areas for work in urban centers, particularly Managua, Granada, and San Juan del Sur, and subsequently coerced into prostitution. To a lesser extent, adults and children are subjected to conditions of forced labor in agriculture and domestic servitude within the country and in Costa Rica, Panama, and other countries in the region. Nicaragua is a destination country for a limited number of women and children recruited from neighboring countries for sex trafficking. Managua, Granada, Esteli, and San Juan del Sur are destinations for foreign child sex tourists from the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, and some travel agencies are reportedly complicit in promoting child sex tourism. Nicaragua is a transit country for migrants from Africa and East Asia migrating to the United States; some may fall victim to human trafficking.
The Government of Nicaragua does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Over the last year the government increased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, specifically through increased prosecutions, five convictions of trafficking offenders, and the establishment of dedicated anti-trafficking police units. The anti-trafficking coalition increased its training and prevention efforts and began to establish working groups at the regional level. While officials identified a location for a future shelter for trafficking victims, the Government of Nicaragua provided no specialized victim services and relied on civil society organizations to provide most victim care.
Recommendations for Nicaragua: Continue to investigate and prosecute all forms of human trafficking, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; institute clear, formal, and proactive procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations such as women and children in prostitution; increase training and resources for government officials in order to identify and provide services to victims of forced prostitution and forced labor; dedicate resources to specialized services for trafficking victims, including a shelter; provide increased services for adult trafficking victims; provide foreign victims with legal alternatives to deportation; strengthen mechanisms at the regional level to raise awareness and to identify and respond to trafficking cases; and continue to raise awareness of all forms of human trafficking.
The Government of Nicaragua increased its law enforcement efforts against human trafficking during the reporting period. Nicaragua criminalizes all forms of human trafficking through Article 182 of its penal code, which prohibits trafficking in persons for the purposes of slavery, sexual exploitation, and adoption, prescribing penalties of seven to 10 years' imprisonment. A separate statute, Article 315, prohibits the submission, maintenance, or forced recruitment of another person into slavery, forced labor, servitude, or participation in an armed conflict; this offense carries penalties of five to eight years' imprisonment. These prescribed punishments are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In September 2010, the Government of Nicaragua passed an organized crime law typifying human trafficking as a form of organized crime, allowing officials to employ enhanced investigation methods such as undercover agents, preventive detention, and the right to seize property and funds used or earned in trafficking crimes. Officials reported using these methods for all trafficking investigations conducted after the law went into effect. In October 2010, authorities announced the creation of anti-trafficking units within the intelligence and judicial police forces, as well as a trafficking department within the Women's Police Commission.
During the reporting period, the government investigated 19 potential cases of sex trafficking and initiated five prosecutions, compared with nine investigations and three prosecutions initiated during the previous reporting period. The government achieved five convictions during the reporting period, with sentences ranging from seven to 37 years: this represents an increase from the two convictions secured during the previous reporting period. Nicaraguan authorities collaborated with the governments of neighboring countries and the United States to jointly investigate trafficking cases and repatriate returning trafficking victims from abroad. Authorities provided specialized training on trafficking to over 500 officials, including law enforcement officials, diplomats, and immigration agents along the border, often in partnership with NGOs. In 2010, the National Police Academy included a human trafficking component in their permanent curriculum. The government investigated three police officials in Granada for possible complicity in human trafficking, but the case was dismissed due to lack of sufficient evidence.
The Nicaraguan government made limited efforts to protect trafficking victims during the last year, and NGOs and international organizations continued to be the principal providers of victim services. There was no formal system for identifying trafficking victims among high-risk populations, such as adults and children in prostitution. Police reported identifying 18 trafficking victims in 2010, all but three of whom were children; an NGO reported working with 16 trafficking victims, five of whom were referred by government officials. The government could provide basic shelter and services to some child trafficking victims through its one temporary shelter for children who are victims of domestic or sexual abuse, although it was unclear if any trafficking victims were assisted at the shelter during the reporting period. There were no government-operated shelters for trafficking victims, though NGOs operated shelters for children subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and for female adult victims of domestic abuse, and officials referred trafficking victims to these shelters. Adult trafficking victims were largely unable to access any government-sponsored victim services, although the government provided limited legal, medical, and psychological services to some victims. During the reporting period the Government of Nicaragua identified a location to serve as a future shelter for victims of trafficking. The government encouraged victims to participate in trafficking investigations and prosecutions, though many were reluctant to do so due to social stigma and fear of retribution from traffickers. The new anti-organized crime law contained provisions establishing protection services for those who testify against traffickers, but procedures to implement this law were still under development. While the rights of trafficking victims are generally upheld, some victims may not have been identified as victims of human trafficking by authorities. Although there is no legal alternative to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution, authorities and NGOs reported that victims were allowed to remain in the country temporarily before voluntary repatriation.
The Nicaraguan government significantly increased its efforts to prevent trafficking during the last year. The government-run anti-trafficking coalition, which is composed of government and civil society actors, was responsible for coordinating anti-trafficking efforts, and conducted various awareness-raising events and launched a strategic plan for 2010-2012 during the reporting period. In 2010 the coalition began to organize regional working groups to address trafficking at the local level. The understaffed government hotline on child welfare, which takes calls on human trafficking, received 6,000 calls in 2010, 31 of which related to potential trafficking cases and were referred to the police. Transparency in the government's anti-trafficking measures was limited; it did not publicly report on the effectiveness of its own efforts during the year, although it assessed its efforts internally. The government did, however, partner with civil society organizations on several prevention efforts, including an initiative to map which regions of the country are most vulnerable to trafficking. In collaboration with NGOs, the National Police estimated that its brochures, posters, and videos educated over 50,000 people about trafficking. Teachers who had been trained on trafficking by the Ministry of Education in 2009 trained other teachers during 2010. In conjunction with an NGO, the Government of Nicaragua began printing information about trafficking on the back of all entry and exit forms used by immigration at land borders. There were no reported investigations of child sex tourists during the reporting period. The government made limited efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts by working with an NGO to educate high school students in Managua. The government undertook no other initiatives to reduce demand for commercial sexual acts, and it did not report any efforts to reduce demand for forced labor.