The government decreased victim protection efforts. The government identified 21 trafficking victims (six women, one boy, and 14 girls), compared with 50 in 2020 and 35 in 2019. Traffickers exploited eight of these victims in sex trafficking and three in labor trafficking; the government did not specify the form of trafficking of the remaining 10 victims. Of the 21 identified victims, 14 were Costa Rican nationals, three were Nicaraguan, and four held unspecified foreign nationalities. The government reported NGOs separately identified eight additional victims (five sex trafficking victims and three labor trafficking victims). Government officials expressed concern that increased poverty and unemployment during the pandemic contributed to heightened vulnerability to trafficking.
Through the Immediate Response Team (ERI), a specialized inter- institutional body within the National Coalition against Illicit Smuggling and Trafficking of Migrants (CONATT), the government provided initial services to all 21 reported victims and one victim’s dependent. The Office of Attention and Protection of Crime Victims, which served victims of all crimes, reported providing services to 41 trafficking victims, including several victims identified in previous years, compared with serving 75 victims in 2020 and 48 victims in 2019. The National Women’s Institute (INAMU) provided services to 20 female victims of trafficking in 2021, compared with providing care to 47 victims in 2020 and 31 in 2019. The national child welfare institution (PANI) provided services and placed the boy victim in an NGO shelter. Some victims may have received services from more than one provider. Specialized law enforcement units and national immigration authorities used written procedures for identifying victims among vulnerable groups, such as migrants and individuals in commercial sex, and referred identified victims to CONATT to coordinate service provision. Public officials used the “Institutional Protocol for the Care of Minors and Survivors of Trafficking in Persons” and the “Interagency Manual of Attention of Minors in Sexual Trafficking, Child Labor, and Dangerous Work,” which established the steps officials must take when identifying a possible case of trafficking. The Ministry of Public Security updated its “Protocol for Detection and Referral of Possible Trafficking Cases” in September, with support from an international organization, and distributed pocket references of the new protocol to law enforcement officials. The government reported it identified victims through its routine screenings of vulnerable populations, including individuals in commercial sex and women heads of households below the poverty line, for trafficking indicators but did not report how many victims it identified through these efforts.
The government could provide victims with access to health care providers, psychological services, legal counsel, financial aid, law enforcement liaisons, and other services, including detoxification treatment, for up to three years. CONATT coordinated emergency, short-term, and long-term assistance for victims. ERI arranged short- term services for newly identified victims, including shelter, food, and medical care. There was one trafficking-specific shelter in the country, an NGO-run emergency facility capable of housing victims for up to 30 days. The government reported it could refer victims to the emergency shelter; however, authorities infrequently referred victims to NGO facilities. CONATT favored housing victims in a network of government safe houses, but it also placed victims in a civil society-operated safe house or a longer-term shelter for women and children. The government did not have shelter options for male or LGBTQI+ victims; authorities housed male and LGBTQI+ trafficking victims in hotels on a case-by- case basis. The government assisted child victims through PANI, which had a network of shelters for children and could place girl victims at an NGO facility able to provide long-term shelter. CONATT designated one of its constituent agencies to oversee victims’ service provision on a rotating basis. The designated agency had the discretion to refer victims to services based on individual needs; not all victims received the same level of protection. Civil society organizations reported authorities did not always implement referral mechanisms in an effective or timely manner and recommended the government provide transportation for victims to institutions providing assistance; civil society observed slower provision of victim services in rural areas. The National Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants Fund (FONATT) disbursed 71.6 million colones ($112,180) to provide services for identified victims, an increase relative to the 7.41 million colones ($11,610) disbursed in 2020, but notably less than the 172 million colones ($269,480) disbursed for victim services in 2019. DGME allocated an additional 35.4 million colones ($55,460) in one-time funding for victim services to offset decreased FONATT funding. The government did not report making a separate allocation to cover emergency services and initial care for potential victims; in 2020, it allocated 7.42 million colones ($11,630) in additional funding for this purpose. FONATT funding was tied to a tourism tax; the government attributed its reduced expenditure on anti-trafficking efforts to decreased tourism and government-wide financial austerity measures linked to the pandemic. PANI continued to provide direct funding and a per-victim subsidy for identified victims to an NGO-run shelter for child victims. The government allocated 1.25 million colones ($1,960) to two NGOs providing services to trafficking victims, compared with 171.5 million colones ($268,700) in 2019; data for 2020 was not available. Observers reported that failure to disburse all of the allocated resources hindered the country’s ability to address its trafficking problem, despite dedicated government resources to anti-trafficking efforts, including victim services.
Costa Rican law allowed victims to obtain temporary residency status and work permits, leave the country, file civil suits against traffickers, and provide testimony outside of court proceedings. The government issued 58 new or renewed temporary residence permits to trafficking victims in 2021; by comparison, it issued 11 new and an unknown number of renewed permits in 2020. Officials reported one foreign national trafficking survivor became a Costa Rican citizen in 2021. Victims could testify outside of court proceedings; the government did not report any victims utilizing this provision in 2021, compared with two in 2020. Officials coordinated with Panamanian law enforcement to facilitate transit for a Costa Rican victim testifying in the Panamanian trial against a trafficker. The government coordinated with an NGO to facilitate the repatriation of one foreign national trafficking victim in 2021, compared with no repatriations in 2020 and two in 2019. The government reported offering two virtual training opportunities, open to officials in a range of agencies, on identifying trafficking victims; an international organization provided educational materials or otherwise supported one of these trainings.