Torture by Authorities in  [Costa Rica]  [other countries]
Human Trafficking in  [Costa Rica]  [other countries]

Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                     

Republic of Costa Rica

Costa Rica's basically stable economy depends on tourism, agriculture, and electronics exports.

Poverty has remained around 20% for nearly 20 years, and the strong social safety net that had been put into place by the government has eroded due to increased financial constraints on government expenditures. Immigration from Nicaragua has increasingly become a concern for the government. The estimated 300,000-500,000 Nicaraguans in Costa Rica legally and illegally are an important source of - mostly unskilled - labor, but also place heavy demands on the social welfare system.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Description: CostaRica

Costa Rica is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. To a lesser but increasing extent, Costa Rica is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked into forced labor, particularly in agriculture, construction, restaurant work, the fishing industry, and as domestic servants.   - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009   Check out the more recent 2020 country report here and possibly a later, full TIP Report here



CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Costa Rica.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page to see which aspect(s) of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.

HELP for Victims

Judicial Investigation Organization
222 1365
Country code: 506-



Child smuggling is good business - official

South African Press Association SAPA & Agence France-Presse AFP, Guatemala City, September 24 2003

[accessed 30 January 2011]

Guatemala City - A recently-busted child smuggling ring charged handsomely for children sent to prospective United States and Japanese parents, say investigating prosecutors.  Ringleaders charged US couples up to $80 000 (about R568 000) for a child, and Japanese couples around $40 000 (about R284 000), say the government prosecutors who are looking into 85 cases from the past two years.  On Sunday, Costa Rican investigators in San Jose rescued nine Guatemalan infants assumed to have been for sale to foreigners.


*** ARCHIVES ***

2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 20 April 2018

[accessed 20 March 2019]

[accessed 25 June 2019]


The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor in cases that involve movement of the victim. The law establishes criminal penalties for trafficking in persons crimes, including forced labor--when they involve movement--with sentences of between six and 10 years in prison. The penalty is increased to between eight and 16 years if the crime involves aggravating circumstances. The Trafficking in Persons Prosecutor’s Unit reported four investigations of trafficking in persons during the first six months of the year, including two persons forced into domestic service. Two cases from previous years were still open; the third case, which involved two minor victims, was ready for indictment; and the fourth case, which involved five victims, one a minor, was still under investigation. Penalties were generally sufficient to deter violations.


Child labor occurred primarily in the informal economy, especially in the agricultural, commercial, and industrial sectors. The worst forms of child labor occurred in agriculture on small third-party farms in the formal sector and on family farms in the informal sector. The government’s 2016 National Household Survey identified 30,369 working minors, representing 3.1 percent of the child population between the ages 5-17. Forced child labor reportedly occurred in some service sectors, such as construction, fishing, street vending, and domestic service, and some children were subject to commercial sexual exploitation.

Freedom House Country Report - Political Rights: 1   Civil Liberties: 1   Status: Free

2018 Edition

[accessed 26 April 2020]


Despite legal protections, domestic workers, particularly migrant workers, are subject to exploitation and forced labor. Employers often ignore minimum wage and social security laws, and the resulting fines for violations are insignificant. Child labor is a problem in the informal economy. According to a 2016 government report, over three percent of minors were employed.

Sex trafficking and child sex tourism are also serious problems. A law that took effect in 2013 established penalties for human trafficking and organ trafficking, as well as a fund for victims and prevention efforts. The U.S. State Department’s 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report found that government antitrafficking efforts were improving, noting that antitrafficking funds were being disbursed for the first time and more trafficking victims were identified. However, there was only one trafficking conviction during the reporting period and the government did not provide adequate victim care services.

2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Dept of Labor, 2018

[accessed 17 April 2019]

[accessed 26 April 2020]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

[page 325]

Children in Costa Rica engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking. Children also perform dangerous tasks in agriculture. (1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6) During the reporting period, the government published an analysis of the 2016 child labor survey indicating that the number of working children below Costa Rica’s minimum age for employment (age 15) fell nearly 43 percent between 2011 and 2016. The survey also noted that the highest percentages of working children in Costa Rica are concentrated in the following activities: cultivating vegetables, raising cattle for the production of milk, constructing buildings, repairing motor vehicles, selling fruits and vegetables, working in grocery stores, restaurants, and beauty salons, and performing domestic work. (7; 8)

Children in Costa Rica, including migrant children, are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking, particularly in tourist destinations and border areas. (4; 5; 6).

Child Trafficking Network Arrested in Costa Rica

Claire Saylor, Costa Rica News, March 4th, 2008

[accessed 9 September 2014]

At 6am this morning the Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ) broke up another human trafficking ring, which was dedicated exclusively to the trafficking of minors less than 1 year of age. A total of 14 arrests were made, including a female Family Judge who had been working in Liberia for 15 years on cases including adoption of minors. Her computer and documents were confiscated from the OIJ in Liberia to undergo investigation in San Jose.

The judge was said to be facilitating the sale of the minors who were obtained either illegally or purchased from poor and indigenous families who did not want the children for around $50 each, for a portion of the profits. They then sold the children for an estimated $10,000. The group would contact pregnant women in free clinics who could not afford the children and then have them put up for adoption.

Authorities Probe Possible Child-Trafficking Network

Tim Rogers, The Tico Times Online, Daily Edition: San José, Costa Rica, September 23,  2003

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

Child Welfare Agency (PANI) and judicial authorities yesterday continued to investigate a possible international child-trafficking network operating out of Costa Rica, following a Sunday night police raid of an unlicensed adoption agency in La Uruca, San Jose where nine Guatemalan babies were found.

Costa Rica: Female Labour Migrants and Trafficking in Women and Children [PDF]

Ana Isabel García, Manuel Barahona, Carlos Castro & Enrique Gomáriz, GENPROM Working Paper No. 2, Series on Women and Migration, Gender Promotion Programme, International Labour Office Geneva, 12/6/2002

[accessed 30 January 2011]

[page 3]  FOREWORD - Changing labour markets with globalization have increased both opportunities and pressures for women to migrate. The migration process and employment in a country of which they are not nationals can enhance women’s earning opportunities, autonomy and empowerment, and thereby change gender roles and responsibilities and contribute to gender equality. But they also expose women to serious violation of their human rights. Whether in the recruitment stage, the journey or living and working in another country, women migrant workers, especially those in irregular situations, are vulnerable to harassment, intimidation or threats to themselves and their families, economic and sexual exploitation, racial discriminatio n and xenophobia, poor working conditions, increased health risks and other forms of abuse, including trafficking into forced labour, debt bondage, involuntary servitude and situations of captivity.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 3 June 2005

[accessed 30 January 2011]

[35] The Committee welcomes the proposed amendment of the Adoption Act as a follow up to its previous recommendation to review its legislation in order to bring it in full compliance with article 21 of the Convention and the 1993 Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption. But it remains concerned that this bill is still pending with the Legislative Assembly and that the practice of private or direct adoption which results in cases of trafficking is still not effectively prohibited.

Protection Project - Costa Rica [DOC]

The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University

[Last accessed 2009]

FORMS OF TRAFFICKING - Costa Rica is believed to have the region’s largest child prostitution problem.  One report claims that 3,000 underage girls are prostituted in Costa Rica, many of them trafficked from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua.  Many children are promised work in Costa Rica, only to be sexually exploited when they arrive. Costa Rican children are believed to be trafficked to other countries for sexual exploitation purposes as well.

Human Rights Overview by Human Rights Watch – Defending Human Rights Worldwide

[accessed 30 January 2011]


Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 7 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – Although the law prohibits the trafficking of women and minors for the purpose of prostitution or forced labor, there is no comprehensive legislation to address all forms of trafficking. The lack of a comprehensive anti-trafficking law inhibited the government's ability to prosecute and convict traffickers, and prosecutors relied on several criminal statutes to bring traffickers to justice. There were reports that persons were trafficked to, from, and within the country, most often for commercial sexual exploitation.

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 30 January 2011]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - The commercial sexual exploitation of children is a continuing problem in Costa Rica, and is often associated with the country’s sex tourism industry.  Costa Rica is a transit and destination point for children trafficked for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation, including prostitution.  Most trafficking victims originate from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Panama, as well as from Russia, the Philippines, Romania, Eastern Europe, and Ecuador. Although most foreign victims remain in Costa Rica, traffickers also attempt to transport them onward to the U.S. and Canada.

All material used herein reproduced under the fair use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.  PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS OF COMPONENT ARTICLES.  Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery – Costa Rica",, [link access verified <date>]



Torture by Authorities in  [Costa Rica]  [other countries]
Human Trafficking in  [Costa Rica]  [other countries]