Iceland is a destination and transit country for women subjected to sex trafficking from Eastern Europe, the Baltics, Nigeria, and China. Men and women are subjected to forced labor in massage parlors and restaurants through threats and withholding of documents. Women from Nigeria, who were coerced into prostitution in other European countries through curses and spiritual practices, sought asylum in Iceland. Authorities suspect the involvement of foreign organized crime groups in forced prostitution. Traffickers reportedly exploit the visa-free regime in the Schengen Zone to bring victims to Iceland for up to three months and then move them out of the country before the point at which they would need to register with local authorities.
The Government of Iceland fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government enhanced support for the police taskforce on organized crime and human trafficking, and continued to develop the expertise of law enforcement to investigate trafficking offenses. The government, however, did not prosecute any trafficking offenses, perhaps reflecting the low number of victims identified, limited success in encouraging victims to cooperate with law enforcement, and lack of legal authority to conduct proactive investigations. The Icelandic government has yet to launch awareness activities to educate the public on how to identify and report possible trafficking.
Recommendations for Iceland: Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders; formalize procedures for all officials and NGOs to identify and refer victims to care; provide specialized training on victim identification to frontline responders and officials in a position to encounter vulnerable populations; conduct public awareness activities focused on increasing identification of sex and labor trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; continue to support trust building with victims of trafficking to provide protection and to encourage their participation in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers; and train national emergency hotline operators on responding to potential trafficking cases.
The Government of Iceland strengthened efforts to investigate suspected trafficking offenders during the reporting period, but failed to initiate any prosecutions for trafficking offenses or obtain any convictions. Iceland prohibits both sex trafficking and forced labor under Article 227a of its criminal code, which prescribes penalties up to 12 years’ of imprisonment. This penalty is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Police initiated six human trafficking investigations during the reporting period, an increase from two investigations in 2011. However, the government did not prosecute or convict any suspected offenders. Only one trafficking victim agreed to cooperate with law enforcement during the year. Icelandic authorities conducted one ongoing transnational investigation with Norwegian law enforcement counterparts. While NGOs lauded the anti-trafficking efforts of the Sudurnes police district, which dedicated personnel to proactively identify possible trafficking victims in the area or arriving at the international airport, law enforcement reportedly was not responsive to information relayed by NGOs. Law enforcement efforts were hindered by Law Number 88/2008 that limits proactive police investigations. An investigative taskforce on organized crime and human trafficking held weekly meetings to share information on current cases, and the government provided the equivalent of approximately $400,000 in 2012 and $200,000 in 2013 to strengthen the operations of the taskforce and increase training. The Icelandic government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of public officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during the reporting period. It paid for police to attend multiple anti-trafficking training courses abroad in 2012. The core curriculum of the national police college continued to cover identifying and investigating trafficking cases. The Sudurnes police district hosted a seminar for police from around the country and the government trained staff at the social service centers in Reykjavik on human trafficking.
The government increased efforts to provide support and protection for victims of trafficking, though identification efforts remained insufficient. The government identified six female sex trafficking victims and one male labor trafficking victim during the reporting period, compared with a total of three victims identified in 2011; all victims identified in 2012 were referred to care. NGOs reported identifying a total of 10 victims. A lack of official statistics on the number of identified victims likely obscures the actual number of victims subjected to trafficking in Iceland. The government did not fully formalize procedures for social service workers, health officials, and labor inspectors to identify and refer victims to care. The government administered a questionnaire with care providers and multi-disciplinary partners, who expressed a desire for more training on trafficking victim identification. The government provided the approximate equivalent of approximately $83,300 in 2012 to fund the NGO operations of a long-term shelter for sex trafficking victims and women exiting prostitution, compared with the equivalent of approximately $79,100 provided in 2011. The shelter has the capacity to house six women; four stayed in the shelter during the reporting period. The government allocated the equivalent of approximately $345,700 in the 2013 state budget to the country’s only domestic violence shelter that is also available to victims of trafficking and the equivalent of approximately $536,000 to the NGO that runs the long-term shelter for psychological and other services. Any potential trafficking victims coming to the domestic violence shelter were referred to the NGO that runs the long-term shelter. Victims were free to come and go from the shelters. There was no specialized shelter for male victims of trafficking, though they had access to general social services. Child protection services were responsible for unaccompanied child victims of trafficking. Victims had the right to access free medical care and legal services provided by the government, although the government did not report how many victims of trafficking, if any, utilized these services. Potential victims of trafficking without legal status in Iceland could obtain a six-month residency permit for a reflection period—time in which a victim may recover and decide whether to cooperate with law enforcement. An additional one-year renewable residency permit is available to victims of trafficking who cooperate with law enforcement or who face compelling circumstances, such as retribution or hardship in their home countries; victims with temporary residency are able to work legally in the country. The government, however, did not issue any temporary residence permits to potential victims of trafficking during the reporting period, and one victim was left without a legal status in the country. There were no reports of victims being punished for acts committed as a direct result of their being subjected to human trafficking.
The government did not demonstrate progress in efforts to prevent trafficking through educating the public, including potential victims, about human trafficking. The government did not conduct any anti-trafficking awareness activities in Iceland in 2012. The government continued to fund an anti-trafficking field project in another country through the OSCE, continued support to an OSCE project in collaboration with Moscow State University on human trafficking and the role of the media, expanded an existing project to combat human trafficking in Belarus, and helped to fund the Council of the Baltic Sea States’ anti-trafficking taskforce. The government accomplished the majority of its goals from the 2009 to 2012 national anti-trafficking action plan; a 2013 to 2015 national action plan was pending adoption at the end of the reporting period. The government demonstrated efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts and forced labor by enforcing legislation banning the purchase of sex and the operation of strip clubs.