COSTA RICA – October 1st, 2012 – It begins with a promise of a better life. Money, travelling to a beautiful country, becoming an international model, maybe a well-paying job. These are some of the promises made to those who fall victim to human trafficking, in which sexual and labor exploitation help offenders in the organized crime make thousands of dollars.
According to the International Labor Organization, human trafficking is the 3rd most profitable illegal business in the world, with annual revenues of over $44 billion. In the world, one out of every five victims are children, and two-thirds of the victims are women.
In Costa Rica, 76 victims have been rescued from human trafficking operations in the past 2 years. However, the real number of victims in the country is unknown. According to Costa Rican immigration authorities, for every person rescued, there are at least 20 invisible cases which go unreported. The majority of victims never come to the authorities because they have been threatened, or simply are afraid to do so. Given this, estimates of the total number of human trafficking victims in Costa Rica in the past two years exceed 1,500 people.
Although Costa Rican authorities have tried to improve the situation, their efforts so far have had little effect.
In 2009, the Law Against Organized Crime passed into law, and in 2010, the Law for Protection of Victims and Witnesses came into force.
However, both immigration as well as the District Attorney’s office agree that what has been done is insufficient, as only two human trafficking trials have ended in a firm sentence.
Now, Costa Rican lawmakers appear to want to do something about it. This past Thursday, the Legislative Assembly approved unanimously, in first debate, the Law Against Human Trafficking, which would elevate the maximum sentence to 16 years in jail for anyone who exploits or who participates in human trafficking in any way.
The new law would also provide more possibilities of financial aid for trafficking enforcement and its victims. The new law must now pass in second debate.