The United Nations estimates that more than 250,000 people from Latin America are trapped in forced labor as a result of human trafficking at any given time.
Though the extent of trafficking in Costa Rica is not known, the country has been recognized as both a feeder country and a destination for forced labor. A March 2009 report issued by the United States government says Costa Rica fell short of the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
Girls from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Colombia, Russia and Eastern Europe have been identified in Costa Rica as victims of forced prostitution.
Officials are also aware of trafficking originating in Costa Rica. According to the U.S. government, Costa Rica needs to intensify efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and improve data collection regarding trafficking, among other actions.
To help Costa Rica meet minimum benchmarks, the United States government announced Monday that it will back two initiatives with a total grant of $350,000.
“Make no mistake, human trafficking is a real example of modern-day slavery,” said U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica Anne Andrew. “That is why the United States government is intent on supporting the fight against human trafficking.”
Part of the grant will go to Fundación Rahab to promote prevention, as well as for the protection of adults and adolescents who are victims of trafficking. The rest will go to the country’s Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) to improve investigation and response to forced labor.
“Trafficking of persons is a phenomenon that has no place in the 21st century – not in Costa Rica, not in the U.S. and not in our world,” Andrew continued. “It is our duty as human beings to fight against this evil.”
According to Andrew, Costa Rica has taken steps to address the problem by changing some of its laws and improving the tools used to fight trafficking. She said that traffickers frequently recruit people through fraudulent advertisements, promising legitimate jobs as models or hostesses or work in the agricultural industry.
When they accept, they find themselves trapped in jobs in a foreign country, she said. Costa Rican Public Security Minister Janina Del Vecchio said one way to confront the issue of trafficking is by “putting police where we have people” so that cases of forced labor are better detected.