36 Asian migrants rescued from slavery in Costa Rica


San Jose : Costa Rican authorities rescued 36 Asians who were apparently being used as slaves on two fishing boats and arrested four people on charges of human trafficking.

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Police told the media that the group of 15 Vietnamese, 13 Indonesians, five Filipinos, two Taiwanese and one Chinese were exploited, received little to eat, lived in overcrowded conditions, had their passports taken away and were lashed with whips.

“They were held in extremely unhealthy conditions, crammed together and worked up to 20 hours a day,” police director Jorge Rojas said in a statement.

Director of migration Mario Zamora described the workers’ plight as “modern slavery”.

The operation was carried out Saturday on a private dock in the Central Pacific province of Puntarenas, where authorities searched several properties and seized two fishing boats.

They also arrested two Taiwanese fishery owners and two captains of the fishing boats.

Rojas said the investigation began four months ago when nine Vietnamese managed to escape from the boats, which were not legally registered in Costa Rica, and reported the situation to the authorities.

Investigations showed that the 36 Asians had worked on the boats for at least two years, for which they had been offered a monthly wage of $250 but never received any money, since their bosses promised to send it directly to their families.

The Asian migrants are in the custody of Costa Rica’s migration authority and could be sent back to their respective countries in the coming weeks, though they also have the possibility of seeking asylum in the Central American country.