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5 cases of human trafficking under investigation in Costa Rica this year, says Immigration Administration director

Sexual and labor exploitation are the top two drivers of human trafficking in Costa Rica this year, but organ trafficking continues to concern authorities, according to Immigration Administration Director Kathya Rodriguez.

The director said officials have opened investigations into five cases of human trafficking in Costa Rica so far this year. Rodriguez’s comments came during the opening event of a two-day conference on human trafficking in Central America hosted in San José on Tuesday.

The immigration official would not name the nationalities of the five victims in the human trafficking cases under investigation. She did offer that a typical profile of a human trafficking victim in Costa Rica likely would be a young woman from the Dominican Republic who traveled to Costa Rica via Nicaragua. Rodríguez said human trafficking victims often travel to their destination under a false premise, expecting a job in domestic service and ending up forced into sex work, for example.

Tourist developments on the coasts and entertainment venues can serve as locus points for women trafficked for sex work.

“Behind tourism centers in all of these countries there are cases of [sexual exploitation] taking place,” observed Gerardo Bravo, consultant for the Institute of Strategic Studies and Public Policies, a Nicaraguan NGO, who presented a report on the state of human trafficking jurisprudence in the isthmus.

Bravo said that sexual exploitation has historically been law enforcement’s greatest concern when it comes to human trafficking, but more attention should be paid to forced labor. While many trafficking victims for sex work are from Nicaragua or the Dominan Republic, migrants forced into labor tend to be from Asia.

The consultant said progress has been made across Central America in passing laws to punish human traffickers, but he added that a lack of financial resources in many Central American countries complicates the ability to handle trafficking victims and provide them needed consular and social services.

Rodríguez told The Tico Times that organ trafficking remains a concern for Costa Rica law enforcement. In 2013, Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) arrested Dr. Francisco Mora, a prominent nephrologist, for allegedly operating an international kidney trafficking ring in Costa Rica for patients from Israel and elsewhere. Victims were paid roughly $20,000 for their organs as part of the operation, The Tico Times previously reported.

“The same conditions for vulnerability are still out there,” Rodríguez said. The director added that more needs to be done to raise awareness about the laws regulating organ donation for tourists, improve controls at health clinics where the surgeries could take place and communication across borders between law enforcement agencies.

“We’re just touching the tip of the iceberg with this subject,” Rodriquez said.

An October 2013 report from the OIJ and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime listed 28 human trafficking victims in Costa Rica, including 13 involving organ trafficking.

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