IRB – Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (Autor)
With regard to protection provided by the National Institute for Children (Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, PANI), the Website of the Costa Rican Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy (Ministerio de Planificación Nacional y Política Económica, MIDEPLAN) stated that:
Together with civil society, [PANI] will concretely engage in actions to safeguard the physical and emotional integrity of children and adolescents who are exposed to situations of high risk, and whose parents are unable to adequately care for them. Furthermore, [PANI] will be responsible for finding the best living arrangement for the child, be it with family or non-family members, before turning to institutional channels (23 Aug. 2000).
The MIDEPLAN Website also listed the services provided by PANI, which include: information and education; legal and psychological aid; counselling, mediation, emergency services; adoption, support to foster homes and shelters (ibid.). PANI's National Adoption and Legal Counselling Council (Consejo Nacional de Adopciones y la Asesoría Jurídica) has worked in conjunction with its local offices throughout Costa Rica (ibid.).
Country Reports 2000 reported the following on protection and intervention by PANI:
In recent years, the PANI has increased public awareness of abuse of children, which remains a problem. From January to June, the Institute intervened in 3,704 cases of abandonment, 1,013 cases of physical abuse, 536 cases of sexual abuse, and 885 cases of psychological abuse of children. The PANI attributed the increase in cases reported to better reporting capabilities and an increase in patterns of child abuse. There was also a continued increase in reported psychological abuse cases because the 1997 Code of Childhood and Adolescence redefined such abuse and increased awareness of it. Abuses appear to be more prevalent among poor, less-educated families. Traditional attitudes and the inclination to treat such crimes as misdemeanors sometimes hamper legal proceedings against those who commit crimes against children (2001 Section 5).
Other government initiatives include the National Agenda for Children and Adolescents, a new program to protect minors, that will improve and strengthen services for children victims of sexual abuse, child labour, and inadequate education and health care; the plan will also contribute to enforcing laws aimed at protecting children (CAR 29 Sept. 2000). Since signing the Convention on Children's Rights in 1990, Costa Rica has passed a series of laws that protect children:
...the Law Against Domestic Violence (1996), the Law to Protect Adolescent Mothers (1997), revised management of the National Child Welfare Agency (PANI) (1997), establishment of the Childhood and Adolescent Code (1998) and the Law Against Sexual Exploitation of Minors (1999) (ibid.).
In practice, PANI's work is limited by a lack of funding (CAR 29 Sept. 2000; Defensoría de los habitantes 26 July 2001; La Nación 2 July 2001). The Central America Report (CAR) stated that since PANI's inception in 1997, the organization has faced financial problems; PANI was to receive seven per cent of the collected income tax, but the funds have never been forwarded to it (29 Sept. 2000). In its 2000-2001 annual report, the Defensoría de los habitantes (Ombudsman's Office) reported the details of a complaint it had received from a youth clinic and the National Children's Hospital in which PANI had not taken the urgent actions required to protect a group of sisters who had been sexually abused by their father (26 July 2001). The Defensoría de los habitantes pressured the PANI to intervene in the case, to dictate the necessary protection measures, and to lodge the case through the appropriate channels (vía jurisdiccional) (ibid.). The office reminded the PANI that it was not only responsible for providing psychological support to victims of abuse, but also that it was given a mandate to intervene as a party during legal proceedings involving cases of child abuse; it was also responsible for legally representing children and adolescents who were not under parental or guardian authority (ibid.). In response to the Ombudsman's report, PANI stated that it lacked the human and material resources required to adequately carry out all of its functions, including legally representing abused children during administrative or judicial proceedings (ibid.).
In July 2001, a shelter for abused children in Limón was forced to close its doors because, according to the shelter's coordinator, PANI did not forward all the required funds for the operation of the shelter (La Nación 2 July 2001). The Limón shelter, called the Club de Leones, was the third shelter that provided services to the PANI to have faced difficulties (ibid.). In March 2001, the El Carmen shelter in Puntarenas closed its doors for alleged anomalies, while the Cristo Rey shelter in San José has been subject to an investigation (ibid.). PANI's press office reported that in the case of the shelter in Limón, PANI was soon to forward the remaining funds and explained that the discrepancy arose when the shelter failed to send its monthly report on time (ibid.). However, the shelter coordinator said that PANI has promised to send the funds for weeks (ibid.). PANI has indicated that it will transfer the children who were lodged in the Limón shelter to other shelters located in the same province (ibid.).
Another La Nación report stated that in June 2001, PANI linked up with the 911 emergency services network (13 Aug. 2001). In the first two weeks of August 2001, 1,283 calls related to mistreatment and abuse of children were received by 911 (ibid.). PANI has faced insufficient resources to respond to the problems of abused children; for example, it lacks the vehicles required to transport the children and lacks the number of shelters needed to lodge them (ibid.). In response to the lack of funds, PANI's president has asked for assistance from the international community and has asked the Comptroller General that PANI be directly allowed to solicit contracts from professional service providers (ibid.).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.
Central America Report (CAR)
[Guatemala]. 29 September 2000. "Children's Rights: Abuses Brought
to Light." (NEXIS)
Country Reports on Human Rights
Practices for 2000. 2001. United States Department of State.
Washington, DC. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/wha/index.cfm?docid=746
[Accessed 24 Aug. 2001]
Defensoría de los habitantes. 26
July 2001. Informe de labores de la Defensoría de los
Habitantes 2000-2001. http://www.nacion.co.cr/ln_ee/defensoria/2001/cap1-6.html
[Accessed 24 Aug. 2001]
La Nación [San
José]. 13 August 2001. Rónald Díaz. "Lluvia de
denuncias por abuso a menores." http://www.nacion.co.cr/ln_ee/2001/agosto/13/pais16.html
[Accessed 27 Aug. 2001]
_____. 2 July 2001. Raquel Gólcher Beirute. "Cierra albergue en Limón." http://www.nacion.co.cr/ln_ee/2001/julio/02/pais10.html [Accessed 27 August 2001]