Costa Rica‘s lawmakers have cast their eyes on a new bill against human trafficking. The legislation – the bill against human trafficking and related crimes – entered the Legislative Assembly’s commissions for analysis last week.
On Monday, Luis Fernando Centeno, a penal lawyer and specialist in human trafficking, urged legislators to move on the initiative. “This is an ambitious bill that addresses the most important aspects of the fight against human trafficking,” he told a roomful of Costa Rican legislators.
Costa Rica‘s penal code, its immigration legislation, as well as the country’s Victim and Witness Protection Law prohibit human trafficking and impose penalties for those found guilty of the crime. The country has also signed international treaties, pledging to help prevent human trafficking.
But Costa Rica lacks a centralized law that specifically targets the issue.
“If our rules are dispersed, with one regulation here and another one there, we are not going to (effectively) combat trafficking,” Centeno said. “This bill generates stability and integrates guidelines and institutions for fighting trafficking.”
Included in the law’s new language is the creation of a new agency and a national information system to battle human trafficking, as well as a national fund to assist victims of the crime. The bill would also create a special squad of police agents to investigate human trafficking.
The proposed bill includes several options to pay for these initiatives, including tacking on an extra dollar to the country’s airport exit tax, now set at $26.
The bill would mandate a five-year prison term for “proprietors or owners of establishments that benefit from human trafficking or connected activities,” and would sentence those who enslave persons for “exploitative labor” to six to10 years in prison.
The number of detected victims of human trafficking in Costa Rica has nearly doubled over the past year. During the first half of 2009, the Ministry of Public Security reported 30 cases of trafficking in humans, while so far in 2010 50 cases have been reported.
However, Centeno believes that most instances of human trafficking in Costa Rica remain undiscovered by authorities.
The United Nations High Commission on Refugees and the International Organization for Migration have announced their support for the new bill.