Human trafficking became a topic of global concern in the 1990s. However, governments, international organizations and nonprofits are continuing to research the issue and come up with new ways to prevent it. Less research exists on human trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean in comparison with Asia and Europe. However, the available information highlights a few key aspects of human trafficking in Nicaragua.
10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Nicaragua
- Nicaragua’s Location: Nicaragua is a country in Central America. It is between Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. This makes it a common transit country for migrants traveling between South America and North America. Migrants are one of the groups facing the highest risk of human trafficking and exploitation.
- Nicaraguan Migrants: Many of the Nicaraguan migrants who become trapped in human trafficking end up in Costa Rica. This corresponds with migration flows. Since 2018, more than 72,000 Nicaraguan migrants have fled to Costa Rica. Nicaraguan migrants are also victims of human trafficking in other Central American countries, Mexico, the United States and Spain.
- Women and Children: In addition to migrants, women and children face the highest risk of human trafficking in Nicaragua. In 2018, girls and women represented 79% of trafficking victims in Central America and the Caribbean. Traffickers utilize the majority of victims in Central America for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
- Human Trafficking Numbers: Walk Free’s Global Slavery Index estimated that 18,000 people in Nicaragua were living in modern slavery in 2018. Modern slavery encompasses a range of exploitative situations, including forced labor and debt bondage. It also includes human trafficking.
- Nicaragua’s Trafficking Status: In the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, the U.S. Department of State downgraded Nicaragua from a Tier 2 to a Tier 3 country. This means that Nicaragua does not meet the established standards for achieving the elimination of human trafficking. It also means that the Nicaraguan government is not making a significant effort to meet those standards.
- The Vulnerability of the Impoverished: Poverty increases the vulnerability of people to trafficking and exploitation. Human traffickers often target vulnerable individuals. Poverty can also drive family members to sell children to traffickers or become traffickers themselves. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 30% of Nicaraguans live in poverty and 8% live in extreme poverty.
- Illiteracy and Unemployment: In addition to poverty, illiteracy and unemployment also increase the risk of human trafficking in Nicaragua. In 2015, 83% of Nicaraguans ages 15 and above were literate. Illiteracy and unemployment increase individuals’ vulnerability and make it more difficult for trafficked persons to escape traffickers and avoid future dangerous situations.
- Anti-trafficking Treaties and Protocols: Nicaragua is a party to multiple international anti-trafficking treaties and protocols. Some examples include the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons and the International Labour Organization Convention 105 on the Abolition of Forced Labor. By being a party to these treaties and protocols, the Nicaraguan government recognizes human trafficking as illegal and states that it will work to prevent human trafficking.
- The U.S. Government: The U.S. government has paid increasing attention to preventing human trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2016, the government dedicated $11 million to anti-trafficking efforts in Latin America. The funds go toward a variety of anti-trafficking projects, including working with governments in Latin America to solve specific challenges in preventing human trafficking that those governments are facing.
- Casa Alianza Nicaragua: One of the many nonprofit organizations fighting human trafficking in Nicaragua is Casa Alianza Nicaragua. Casa Alianza, or Covenant House in English, provides housing and support for children trafficking victims and teenage mothers who were trafficking victims. It can hold up to 70 children each night. It also offers courses in sewing, baking, jewelry-making and small business administration to the residents of its shelters. This helps to combat poverty and decreases vulnerability to future trafficking. Casa Alianza partners with other nonprofits to improve victim identification, build local capacity and provide help to suspected trafficking victims. The nonprofit has contributed to decreased gang activity in the area and increased school attendance among children.
Hope for the Future
Although the Nicaraguan government has decreased its efforts to combat human trafficking, many other countries and organizations continue to work to prevent human trafficking in Nicaragua. Casa Alianza is just one example of the existing anti-trafficking work in Nicaragua. Research on human trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean is growing, and this will enable governments and NGOs to more effectively prevent human trafficking and support victims.
– Camden Eckler