April 29th, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com) Costa Rica’s child welfare agency, PANI, has placed a 12-year-old performer with the Mother Africa circus into protective custody as authorities investigate whether the child may be the victim of human trafficking and child labor exploitation.
The circus began on April 25th and continues until May 4th at the National Gymnasium in La Sabana. “Mother Africa” travels with a cast of what it describes as “40 of Africa’s finest” acrobats, aerial artists, jugglers, stilt dancers, contortionists, musicians and more.
According to a report by Diario Extra, the 12-year-old performer’s travel documents were not certified by authorities in the boy’s home country of Ethiopia.
According to preliminary reports, the child has lived with the traveling circus since the age of five. Reports indicate the boy earns about $120 per month that is deposited into an account managed by his tutor, who is also a performer in the show.
A representative of the production company behind the circus told Diario Extra that the boy travels with the circus with the permission of his parents, and periodically returns to Ethiopia to meet his school obligations.
Apparently, Costa Rican officials refused to extend a special artists and performers visa to the boy that allows foreign artists to temporarily work in the country as part of their performance, on the basis that the act would be “life threatening” to the boy and that such visas are only issued to adults.
Authorities apparently issued the boy a tourist visa instead, which would not allow him to perform in the show.
However, the boy apparently performed in the show anyway, leading PANI and several judicial police officers to take the boy into protective custody.
Authorities are investigating if the boy is the victim of child trafficking or labor exploitation. The boy remains in a shelter while authorities seek a temporary foster home.