The government increased victim protection efforts. The government identified and verified 17 trafficking victims in 2016 under the existing trafficking law (12 sex trafficking and five labor trafficking), compared to three sex trafficking victims in 2015 under the same law, and 23 victims (13 sex trafficking and ten labor trafficking) in 2014. However, the government provided shelter and health, legal, and psychological services to 53 potential victims during the reporting period, including 44 women, two men, six girls, and one boy. Potential victims received immediate services, but not all 53 were “verified” as trafficking victims under Costa Rican protocols. Law enforcement authorities used written procedures for identifying victims among vulnerable groups, such as migrants and individuals in prostitution, and referred identified victims to the government’s interagency anti-trafficking body, the National Coalition against Migrant Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons (CONATT) to coordinate service provision.
The 2013 law mandates CONATT to coordinate assistance to trafficking victims, which includes emergency, short-term, and long-term assistance. The government updated its protocol for officials on the immediate response team responsible for certifying victims and updated its protocol for coordinating among various agencies and NGOs to provide victim services, which could include food, lodging, and health, financial, and psychological support. Authorities had the discretion to refer victims to services on a case-by-case basis; not all victims received the same level of protection. Civil society organizations reported referral mechanisms were not always implemented in an effective or timely manner. The government acknowledged it was challenged in using the referral mechanism by large increases in migrants in the country in 2016. The government, through the National Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants Fund (FONATT), disbursed 122 million colons ($223,443) to fund trafficking victim services in 2016, the first time it had used the fund. Separately, through its child welfare agency, the government provided direct funding to an NGO-run shelter for child victims, a per-victim subsidy for victims it and the NGO identified, and directed 91 million colons ($166,667) in lottery funds to NGOs providing services to trafficking victims. Remaining services were funded and provided by NGOs. The government does not provide dedicated shelters or specialized services to male victims, although the emergency shelter and safe houses can be used for male or female victims. The government provided medical and psychological services, legal services, and support for victims assisting criminal proceedings.
The government granted temporary residency status, with permission to work or study, to 17 foreign victims in 2016. The government worked with two foreign governments to repatriate four Costa Rican trafficking victims in 2016. There were no reports that the government penalized trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.