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Street Children

Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                          

Republic of Panama

Panama's dollarized economy rests primarily on a well-developed services sector that accounts for 80% of GDP.

Economic growth will be bolstered by the Panama Canal expansion project that began in 2007 and is scheduled to be completed by 2014 at a cost of $5.3 billion - about 25% of current GDP. The expansion project will more than double the Canal's capacity, enabling it to accommodate ships that are now too large to transverse the transoceanic crossway, and should help to reduce the high unemployment

Description: Description: Panama

rate. Strong economic performance has reduced the national poverty level to 29% in 2008; however, Panama has the second most unequal income distribution in Latin America.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Panama is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Some Panamanian women are trafficked to Jamaica, Europe, and Israel for commercial sexual exploitation, but most victims are trafficked to and within the country into Panama’s sex trade. NGOs report that some Panamanian children, mostly young girls, are trafficked into domestic servitude. Government agencies indicate that indigenous girls may be trafficked by their parents into prostitution in Darien province. Most foreign sex trafficking victims are adult women from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and neighboring Central American countries; some victims migrate voluntarily to Panama to work but are subsequently forced into prostitution. Weak controls along Panama’s borders make the nation an easy transit point for trafficked persons.  - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009  Check out a later country report here and possibly a full TIP Report here


CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Panama.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.

HELP for Victims

Country code: 507-



Nations Make Progress Against Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Finds

Charlene Porter, Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State, 14 June 2004

[accessed 7 October 2013]

The world's most comprehensive report on trafficking in persons shows governments are making some progress in their responses to this form of organized criminal activity -- often called modern-day slavery -- with stronger laws, increased convictions and greater protections for victims.

Consistent with its objective of inspiring action against human trafficking, the TIP report also issues praise for localities that have adopted "best practices" in their strides to prevent trafficking, provide for victims or prosecute traffickers themselves. Panama has passed a law that requires businesses in the tourist industry to inform travelers about laws against child pornography and sex tourism. The city of Madrid has taken strides to reduce both prostitution and trafficking by targeting the customers of these illicit endeavors, while at the same time engaging in prevention and victim assistance efforts.

*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Panama

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 20 June 2021]


There continued to be reports of Central and South American and Chinese men exploited in forced labor in construction, agriculture, mining, restaurants, door-to-door peddling, and other sectors; traffickers reported using debt bondage, false promises, lack of knowledge of the refugee process and irregular status, restrictions on movement, and other means. There also were reports of forced child labor (see section 7.c.).


Children were exploited in forced labor, particularly domestic servitude, and sex trafficking.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 4 May 2020]


Human trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labor remains a serious problem despite some government efforts to combat it. Both Panamanian and migrant workers in certain sectors—including the agricultural sector, where many workers are indigenous people—are subject to exploitative working conditions. Enforcement of basic labor protections is weak in rural areas and among informal workers.

2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Dept of Labor, 2018

[accessed 22 April 2019]

[accessed 4 May 2020]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

[page 786]

Some children in Panama are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation, mainly in tourist areas in Panama City and in beach communities. (5; 6) According to the results of Panama’s 2016 survey on child labor, the highest prevalence of child labor is in rural areas and autonomous indigenous areas, or comarcas. The comarca Ngäbe Buglé and the provinces of Panama and Bocas del Toro had the highest number of children engaged in child labor. (1)

UNICEF and Casa Alianza join efforts against violence

UNICEF Press centre, Press release, Panama City, 6 September 2004

[accessed 15 December 2010]

Assistance to street children and the search for alternative lifestyles, as opposed to the stigma against adolescents produced by the phenomenon of gangs or “maras” constitute a key part of the work of UNICEF and Casa Alianza. Both organizations share the idea that the solution to the social problems that affect children and adolescents should come through public policies in education, health, housing, employment and protection, that is to say, through the creation of opportunities. The response of the state, faced with this type of problem, is to punish the children who live in conditions of poverty.

Project DESTINO to Combat Child Labor in Panama [PDF]

Creative Associates International, WASHINGTON, News Release, September 30, 2004


[accessed 10 September 2011]

[accessed 11 February 2018]

Many of Panama’s poor and indigenous children must help their families by working on farms, limiting their educational development and lifelong opportunities. To combat these effects, three Panamanian organizations—Casa Esperanza, FUNDAMUJER and Fundacion Tierra Nueva—are teaming up to provide nonformal and flexible education opportunities for 7,100 child laborers.

The three-part collaboration stems from a newly launched project funded by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) called Disminuyendo y Erradicando el Trabajo Infantil para Nuevas Oportunidades (DESTINO). DESTINO will target poor and indigenous children in the central Panamanian provinces of Chiriquí, Coclé, Veraguas, Herrera, Los Santos, Darién and Comarca Gnobe Bugle, who are working on family or commercial farms to help their parents make ends meet. Due to long work hours and seasonal harvests, these children miss school, making it difficult for them to keep up with schoolwork, and prompting many to drop out.

Despite Panama’s compulsory-education laws, tens of thousands of children—nearly 58,000 in 2002—between ages 5 and 17 were working. Of this group, only 42 percent attended school.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 4 June 2004

[accessed 15 December 2010]

[37] The Committee welcomes the ratification of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in respect of Inter-country Adoption of 1993 but is concerned that there is still a need for more effective measures to guarantee adoption procedures respectful of the rights of the child and to prevent the abuse of adoption, e.g. for trafficking of children.

[58] The Committee welcomes the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. It remains concerned that sexual exploitation and abuse continue to be serious problems and that the victims of sexual exploitation do not have access to appropriate recovery and assistance services. The Committee also remains concerned about the lack of data to determine the real dimension of the problem of child abuse and sexual exploitation and about the insufficient measures to prevent and combat trafficking of children.


Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 10 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – The country was a destination point for trafficked women. There was evidence that rural children were trafficked internally to work as domestic servants in urban areas. Colombia remained the primary country of origin for trafficked women, followed by the Dominican Republic. Although many Colombians and Dominicans came willingly to the country, apparently intending to become prostitutes, anecdotal evidence suggested that some were forced to continue as prostitutes after they wanted to end involvement.

The country was a transit point for Colombian sex workers to other Central American countries and the United States. Although some of these women were assumed to be trafficking victims, the government could not verify numbers. Alien smuggling remained a widespread problem, with most aliens coming from Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, China, and India, and transiting the country by means of smuggling networks enroute to the United States. Some were trafficked for debt bondage, including Chinese debt bondage within the country.

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 15 December 2010]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Children in Panama also work as domestic servants.  Panama is a transit and destination country for girls, primarily from Colombia and the Dominican Republic, trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation.  Children are also trafficked within Panama for sexual exploitation, and are involved in child pornography.

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