Costa Rica Falls Short of US Human Trafficking Standards

June 25, 2010

The U.S. State Department listed Costa Rica as a “Tier 2” country in its annual report on human trafficking released this month.

The ranking, the second that uses the report’s three-tier system, grades countries based on their compliance with the United States’ Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. As a Tier 2 country, Costa Rica “does not fully comply with the act’s minimum standards, but is making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.”

Third tier countries are the worst offenders.

Since the report’s inception in 2001, Costa Rica has consistently been listed as a Tier 2 country, with the exception of 2008, when the country fell to the Tier 2 watch list, signaling a decrease in compliance and a significant increase in the number of victims.

Female sex slaves, some of whom are under 18 years old, account for the majority of human trafficking victims in Costa Rica, according to the report. Women and girls from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Colombia and Panama have been subject to forced prostitution in Costa Rica. The report calls child sex tourism here “a serious problem.”

Men, women and children are also victims of forced labor in the agriculture, construction and fishing sectors, according to the report.

The report commended Costa Rica for ensuring basic assistance to trafficking victims, but determined that the country has implemented “no proactive efforts to search for trafficking victims.”

The report recommends that Costa Rica “vigorously implement anti-trafficking statutes” and “intensify efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses.”

Costa Rica’s neighbors, Nicaragua and Panama, both received a Tier 2 watch list ranking in this year’s report. Colombia, having complied with all of the U.N.’s minimum requirements to fight trafficking, is the only Latin American country that was ranked as a Tier 1 country this year.

–Mike McDonald

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