Sweden is a destination, source, and, to a lesser extent, transit country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor. Women, men, and children are subjected to forced labor and forced criminal activities, including begging and stealing. Identified and suspected victims of forced prostitution largely originate from Eastern Europe (Romania, Lithuania, Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, and Poland), Africa (Nigeria, Eritrea, Gambia, Cameroon, Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Kenya), and Asia (Thailand, India, Uzbekistan, and Mongolia). Swedish girls were also vulnerable to sex trafficking within the country. Men and women from Bulgaria, Cameroon, Latvia, Slovakia, China, Bangladesh, Estonia, Thailand, and Vietnam are subjected to labor trafficking in the domestic service and hospitality sectors, as well as in seasonal labor, when workers travel to Sweden to pick berries or perform construction, forestry, or gardening work. Authorities report that organized crime groups are increasingly involved in leading trafficking schemes in Sweden. Both victims and perpetrators of forced begging and stealing originate primarily in Romania and Bulgaria. The 3,578 unaccompanied foreign children who arrived in Sweden in 2012 to seek asylum, primarily from Afghanistan, are vulnerable to human trafficking. Child sex tourism offenses committed by Swedish nationals traveling abroad remain a problem.
The Government of Sweden fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Swedish courts convicted more trafficking offenders than in past years, though law enforcement launched fewer investigations, and there were concerns that judges did not fully understand the trafficking phenomenon. The government began a pilot project with an NGO to ensure the safe repatriation of foreign trafficking victims found in Sweden, while there continued to be concerns about the lack of specialized care for men and child victims of trafficking. Authorities took action to combat child sex tourism committed abroad by Swedish nationals, and imposed new rules on employers of seasonal workers, though the government continued its anti-trafficking work without an action plan against labor trafficking.
Recommendations for Sweden: Vigorously prosecute, convict, and punish labor and sex trafficking offenders using Sweden’s anti-trafficking statute; ensure that trafficking offenders receive sentences commensurate with the gravity of this serious crime; ensure judges receive training on the application of the anti-trafficking law; ensure that migrant and seasonal laborers receive education about their rights in Sweden; ensure that trafficking victims are offered a reflection period in accordance with Swedish law; continue efforts to identify and provide trafficking-specific assistance to child trafficking victims in Sweden, including Swedish victims of trafficking; ensure adult male victims of trafficking receive trafficking-specific assistance; consider proactive measures to prevent unaccompanied foreign minors from being subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor; formalize victim identification mechanisms; ensure that labor trafficking is explicitly included in the mandate of the national coordinator and any national action plan; ensure that victims of labor trafficking are provided with full information about their rights and that they are empowered to testify against their exploiters; provide longer term residency options for victims who may face retribution or hardship in their country of origin; ensure that municipal authorities understand victim protection protocols; consider a national anti-trafficking awareness campaign to address forced labor in addition to forced prostitution; vigorously prosecute Swedish child sex tourism offenders; and continue regular, self-critical assessments of Sweden’s anti-trafficking efforts.
The Government of Sweden demonstrated mixed law enforcement efforts during the reporting period, launching fewer trafficking investigations. Sweden’s 2002 anti-trafficking law prohibits both sex trafficking and forced labor and prescribes penalties of two to 10 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2012, Swedish law enforcement investigated 21 sex trafficking cases, a decline from 35 in 2011. Law enforcement investigated 48 cases of forced labor, forced begging, or forced criminal activities, in contrast to 62 in 2011. Of the 21 cases of sex trafficking, nine involved children; 13 of the 48 labor trafficking cases involved children. Authorities initiated prosecutions of 35 suspected trafficking offenders under Sweden’s trafficking statute and related laws, in contrast to 43 prosecutions initiated in 2011. The courts dismissed two cases, down from eight dismissals in 2011. The remaining 33 offenders were convicted and received sentences of up to five years in prison, roughly equivalent to the 27 convicted in 2011, with sentences of up to four and a half years in prison. The government did not report the investigation, prosecution, or conviction of any government officials complicit in trafficking.
The commitment and expertise of Swedish police and prosecutors was hampered by an inadequate anti-trafficking response on the part of the judiciary. For instance, in 2010, the government revised its anti-trafficking law to clarify that evidence of a victim’s initial consent does not override evidence of subsequent coercion, but some judges continue to acquit or dismiss cases where initial consent was indicated. While the government continued to provide specialized trainings and handbooks for investigators and prosecutors, observers reported that many judges do not understand the trafficking phenomenon and lacked interest in receiving training. Swedish authorities collaborated with foreign governments on trafficking investigations, including Belgium, Lithuania, Norway, and Serbia.
The government demonstrated some progress in the reporting period with increased attention to the safe repatriation of victims trafficked in Sweden, though there were continued concerns regarding service delivery to male trafficking victims. The government identified 69 victims of trafficking during the reporting period, compared to approximately 141 victims identified in the previous reporting period and 84 victims in 2011. There were 21 victims of sex trafficking and 48 victims of trafficking for other purposes. Police referred adult female victims of trafficking to NGOs operating women’s shelters, where victims receive assistance with immigration issues, medical care, Swedish language training, and educational and employment needs. Victims could leave the shelter at will and without a chaperone. Authorities referred child victims to social services officials, who placed child victims in foster care or group housing. The government provided no specialized shelter for male victims of trafficking, who were often housed in shelters for the homeless, drug addicts, or individuals with mental illness. Municipalities reimbursed NGOs that provided services to victims who had received a residence permit for cooperating with police. The government provided medical care and assistance with repatriation for victims not assisting law enforcement. The government offered a reflection period of 30 days during which victims could decide whether to cooperate with law enforcement authorities; this provision was not well-known across law enforcement and authorities rarely informed victims about the reflection period. The Migration Board issued 28 temporary residence permits to trafficking victims in 2012, two of which were for children of trafficking victims, compared to 39 permits in 2011. State prosecutors had the power to file an application for a permanent residence permit on behalf of a trafficking victim during or after a trial based upon the person’s need of protection; however, no victims obtained such immigration status in 2012. The government decided to grant two Mongolian children asylum based on information that they had been victims of trafficking in their country of origin prior to arriving in Sweden. NGOs reported that municipal authorities had an uneven understanding of victim protection protocols. In 2012, the government launched a pilot program with an NGO to ensure the safe repatriation of foreign victims trafficked in Sweden. The government continued to integrate training on victim identification and referral to police at basic training. The court appointed legal counsel for victims of trafficking during the course of criminal proceedings and, although there was no formal victim restitution program, the government’s Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority awarded compensation to some trafficking victims in 2012. There were no reports that the government penalized identified victims for unlawful acts they may have committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
The Swedish government improved prevention efforts during the reporting period, instituting new rules for employers of seasonal workers and taking robust action against child sex tourism. The interagency working group continued to meet, and the government’s anti-trafficking program was still formally guided and funded by an extension of its 2008-2010 action plan against prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes. Under this plan, the Government of Sweden designated the Stockholm county administration as the coordinating body of the government’s victim services activities. Recognizing that forced labor has expanded in the country, Swedish authorities have voluntarily acted, in the absence of a formal mandate or action plan, to combat this additional form of trafficking in persons. Nevertheless, the government recognized that the lack of a formal mandate or action plan to address labor trafficking sometimes hindered its efforts to address the crime. The national rapporteur continued to provide an annual report of the trafficking situation in Sweden which included areas of improvement. The Swedish government funded a national help line for victims of violence and sexual abuse, including trafficking, which was available in a number of languages, including languages spoken in the countries that are most commonly countries of origin for victims of trafficking in Sweden.
The Swedish Migration Board implemented new rules on employers of foreign seasonal workers, requiring employers to demonstrate that they can guarantee their workers’ salaries. These employers must also register in Sweden or another EU country, which increases accountability. The government continued to conduct robust activities to reduce the demand for commercial sex, including by establishing social services groups in the three largest cities that counsel individuals arrested for purchasing commercial sex. Sweden’s law prohibiting child sexual offenses has extraterritorial reach, allowing the prosecution of suspected child sex tourists for offenses committed abroad. The national criminal police staffed a unit focused on combating child sex tourism with two intelligence officers and two full-time investigators, who assisted foreign and Swedish authorities with criminal cases of child sex tourism. In 2012, the government convicted one Swedish man for child sex tourism.