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News > Latin America

Social Inequality Increases Human Trafficking in Costa Rica

  • Walter Espinoza, the director of the Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ) of Costa Rica.

    Walter Espinoza, the director of the Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ) of Costa Rica. | Photo: EFE

Published 25 September 2018

Espinoza reported that poor people often fall prey to criminal networks luring them with jobs and earning potential, and then sell them into forced sex or slavery at high profits for themselves.

Walter Espinoza, Costa Rica’s director of the Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ) said on Tuesday that the increase in social inequality is giving a rise to sexual exploitation in the country, especially of women.


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“Costa Rica is a country of destination and not so much of origin, but as inequality is increasing in some areas, we have to be very vigilant because crimes like sexual exploitation also increase," Espinoza said

According to information by the Quick Response Team of the Technical Secretariat of the National Coalition against Illicit Immigrant Traffic and Human Trafficking (CONATT), between 2010 and September 2018 there have been a total of 211 victims in Costa Rica.

The OIJ is investigating 41 complaints about human trafficking in 2018 which has increased from the previous year when there were 34 complaints. Most trafficking complaints are linked with sexual violence. Most victims are from the lower class backgrounds as per the information provided by Espinoza.

OIJ also reported that among the victims registered in Costa Rica, the most predominant nationalities are: Costa Ricans, Nicaraguans, Dominicans, Colombians, Salvadorans, Chinese and Hondurans; but there are also victims from other countries such as Haiti, South Africa, Ghana, Congo, Venezuela, Panama, Albania, and Guatemala.


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“In Costa Rica, we depend on citizens reporting as an indispensable resource to detect possible cases, however, thanks to the efforts carried out by all institutions involved we have been able to detect a larger number of cases. For instance, in 2017, we processed 34 reports of human trafficking; 2 of them involving irregular adoption processes; 3 related to labor exploitation; and 29 relating to sexual commercial exploitation; and so far in 2017 we have received 41 reports,” explained Freddy Chacon of the physical integrity, human trafficking and human smuggling crimes unit of the Judiciary Investigative Police (OIJ).

The method of contacting victims has varied over the years and the government is keeping an eye on the changing methods. In the last few years, networks have started using social media as a way to contact possible victims.

“We do not have established profiles because we all can be victims of human trafficking and any person can be tricked or trafficked; however, we can identify groups that are more vulnerable, and this includes woman, or people that live in conditions of poverty,” stated Eugenia Salazar, from the District Attorney's Office for Specialized in Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking of the Public Ministry.

The victims and survivors who have been rescued by the OIJ are intimidated and do not help the authorities in the judicial process. Hence, there have been much fewer complaints.

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