Denmark

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Tier 1

Denmark is primarily a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking from Africa, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Migrants working in agriculture, domestic service, restaurants, hotels, and factories are subjected to labor trafficking through debt bondage, withheld wages, abuse, and threats of deportation. During the year, experts reported increased awareness of forced labor crimes and victims in labor sectors, including Vietnamese migrants subjected to forced labor on illegal cannabis farms in the country. Unaccompanied migrant children are vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor, including theft and other forced criminality. There was at least one case of a foreign diplomat posted in Denmark who subjected a household worker to domestic servitude in 2013. Copenhagen’s relatively small red-light district represents only a portion of the country’s larger commercial sex trade, which includes forced prostitution in brothels, bars, strip clubs, and private apartments.

The Government of Denmark fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the year, the government launched its first prosecutions of forced labor offenders and identified an increased number of trafficking victims. While the government increased support for victims who agreed to participate in its prepared return program, the government’s primary emphasis on the repatriation of victims resulted in few convictions of trafficking offenders, and few other viable options or alternatives to removal for victims who may face retribution in their countries of origin. The government’s lack of incentives for victims to participate in the prosecution of their traffickers remained a significant obstacle to the government’s ability to bring traffickers to justice in Denmark. The government provided trafficking victims who lacked legal status with an extended time period for departure from the country if they agreed to cooperate in their repatriation; however, it did not demonstrate that it provided temporary residency permits or other forms of immigration relief to trafficking victims to specifically encourage their participation in the prosecution of their perpetrators in 2013. Finally, the government prosecuted identified trafficking victims during the year, punishing them for crimes they committed as a direct result of being trafficked.

Recommendations for Denmark:

Pursue a more victim-centered approach to trafficking by increasing incentives for trafficking victims to cooperate in the prosecution of their trafficking offenders; ensure trafficking victims are provided with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they face retribution or hardship; vigorously prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and sentence sex and labor trafficking offenders; ensure trafficking offenders serve sentences commensurate with the serious nature of the offense; investigate why so few trafficking cases are prosecuted compared with the number of victims identified; proactively implement the 2013 amendment to the Aliens Act that provides foreign victims of crime temporary residency while they assist in a prosecution by granting it for trafficking victims; create trafficking-specific provisions or expand use of existing provisions as alternatives to deportation for trafficking victims who face harm and retribution in their countries of origin; ensure that potential victims are not re-victimized, treated as offenders, or detained; consider amending Danish law to ensure trafficking victims can be considered a specific legal category exempting them from punishment for all crimes committed as a direct result of their trafficking; urge prosecutors and court officials to withdraw charges against known trafficking victims; expand law enforcement efforts to proactively identify and expeditiously transfer potential trafficking victims from police or immigration custody to crisis centers; build on efforts to refer potential trafficking victims with illegal status to crisis centers instead of first remanding them to police custody or detention, to facilitate trust and increase identification among this vulnerable group; and continue efforts to increase detection of forced labor and identification of children who are subjected to trafficking.

Prosecution

The Government of Denmark sustained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, but held few trafficking offenders accountable in 2013. Denmark prohibits all forms of both sex trafficking and forced labor through Section 262(a) of its criminal code, which prescribes punishments of up to 10 years’ imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government increased the number of trafficking investigations in 2013, and investigated 20 trafficking suspects in 2013, charging 16 of these suspects under 262(a), compared with nine trafficking suspects investigated in 2012. The government initiated prosecutions of 16 trafficking offenders in 2013, an increase from 11 in 2012. It convicted three sex trafficking offenders in 2013, the same number it convicted in 2012. Sentences for the convicted trafficking offenders were 10 months’, three years’, and four years’ imprisonment. The government launched its first prosecutions under 262(a) for forced labor during the reporting period. In March 2014, a court acquitted one suspect in a forced labor case in which two alleged victims were forced to work in the cleaning sector; the prosecutor is appealing the case. Three other forced labor cases involving seven trafficking suspects and one sex trafficking case involving six suspects remained in the prosecution phase at the end of the reporting period. Although the government can request that trafficking victims without legal status in Denmark be provided with temporary residence explicitly to assist law enforcement and testify in a trial, the government did not implement the residence permit during the reporting period. Country experts reported that few trafficking cases are brought to trial in Denmark because of the lack of incentives for victims to participate in the investigation of their trafficking offenders. The Government of Denmark did not report any investigations or prosecutions of public officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses.

Protection

The government demonstrated some progress in the protection of trafficking victims. In 2013, it identified 76 trafficking victims, an increase from 66 identified trafficking victims the previous year. These victims included 11 victims of forced labor and two children. Its primary emphasis, however, on the repatriation and return of foreign trafficking victims and lack of implementation of provisions for alternatives to their removal resulted in few protections for victims who face harm and retribution in their countries of origin. Denmark continued to be the only county in the EU that lacks a trafficking-specific residence permit. Further, the government did not demonstrate that it granted non-trafficking-specific temporary residency permits to trafficking victims to encourage their assistance in the investigation and prosecution of their trafficking offenders during the year. In June 2013, the government amended its Aliens Act to allow foreign victims of crime to temporarily remain in Denmark to assist in the prosecution of their offenders. The government did not demonstrate that it implemented this provision for trafficking victims during the reporting period.

The government continued to employ innovative methods to uncover forced labor crimes; its outreach and training to tax authorities led to the identification of six forced labor victims by referral of tax authorities in 2013. Further, the government continued to increase coordination between law enforcement and social workers in an effort to improve victim identification and to employ confidence-building techniques to identify potential trafficking victims arrested and detained on immigration violations. For example, government protection officials reported increased visits to foreign women in prostitution held in jail during the reporting period to encourage potential victims to come forward. NGOs reported that the government’s increased resources to aid the Danish Center Against Human Trafficking (CMM)’s efforts in jails and asylum centers led to improved victim identification. During the reporting period, 48 trafficking victims were identified while in detention, 14 were identified by social organizations, four identified in CMM’s drop-in shelters, three by trade unions, and seven by other means. Despite these efforts, NGOs report that Denmark’s lack of specific incentives for victims rendered it nearly impossible to get victims to speak out against their traffickers. NGOs noted the onus of victim identification remained unrealistically on trafficking victims, particularly if the identification efforts occurred in detention settings during Denmark’s 72-hour limitation for charging an individual with a crime. The government continued to support three crisis centers and a mobile outreach health unit that served victims of trafficking, which accommodated 72 victims of trafficking. Victims were free to come and go from these centers.

While the government reported asylum or humanitarian residency permits can be used as alternatives to removal for victims who lack legal status in Denmark, trafficking victims cannot qualify for these provisions or be officially granted these protections solely on the basis of being subjected to trafficking crimes in Denmark; they must otherwise prove that they were persecuted in their home countries on the basis of Refugee Convention grounds. NGOs and government protection officials report that asylum is rarely granted to trafficking victims in Denmark. The government granted asylum to two trafficking victims during the year, including one incarcerated sex trafficking victim and a victim subjected to domestic servitude by a foreign diplomat posted in Denmark; this represents an increase from no victims granted asylum the previous year. However, the government denied an asylum claim to a Nigerian trafficking victim and initiated deportation proceedings against her and her young child after her testimony helped secure conviction against her traffickers. According to the victim’s attorney and an official who helped investigate the case, the victim received death threats from members of her trafficking network during the trial and faced immediate harm upon possible return to Nigeria. The government issued a stay of deportation in 2013 after a case was filed with the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Amnesty International raised serious concerns about the threatened deportation with the government during the year and urged the government to increase overall protections for foreign trafficking victims in Denmark who faced serious harm upon their return to countries of origin.

The government continued to offer trafficking victims an “extended time limit for departure” as part of its prepared return program for trafficking victims who have been ordered to leave Denmark; the prepared return gives victims a specified period of time to receive services in Denmark before their eventual deportation. During the year, the government prolonged this period of time from 100 to 120 days to “improve the planning of the victims return to the country of origin.” As noted by regional anti-trafficking experts, including the Council of Europe, the “reflection” aspect of this prolonged period does not refer to a period of rest and recovery necessary to determine whether or not a victim will cooperate in the investigation of their case; rather it is a period of time the victims have to cooperate in their repatriation. In 2013, 11 trafficking victims participated in the prepared return program, compared to 13 in 2012. During the reporting period, the government increased the level of after-care support it provided to victims in this program from three to six months and provided increased funding for housing, medical assistance, and income generating activities to help victims achieve a sustainable reintegration in their country of origin. Despite this increased support, few trafficking victims agreed to participate in the program, reportedly based on a perception that it is merely a preparation for deportation. NGOs reported that victims’ debt bondage to their trafficking offenders serves as a significant deterrent from accepting the prepared return.

During the year, the government prosecuted trafficking victims for crimes committed as a direct result of their trafficking. In one case, the government prosecuted three Vietnamese nationals who were identified as trafficking victims for cannabis cultivation. The government reported it continued to provide guidelines instructing police commissioners, chief prosecutors, and regional public prosecutors to withdraw charges against formally identified victims of trafficking if the alleged offence relates to the trafficking and cannot be characterized as a serious crime. The government reported it dropped charges in a different case for at least five other Vietnamese nationals arrested for cannabis cultivation in 2013.

Prevention

The Government of Denmark sustained efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. Its center against human trafficking continued a public information campaign aimed at increasing public awareness of sex trafficking and reducing demand for prostitution. The center also conducted outreach to 15 municipalities in Denmark on identification and assistance for child trafficking victims, including development and dissemination of a booklet that included indicators and information on where to refer children who may be potential trafficking victims. In 2013, the Danish tax authority continued its innovative efforts to train tax inspectors and employees of trade unions on labor trafficking identification, training over 1,000 tax officials. The government also continued to train social workers, police officers, judges, prosecutors, immigration officers, health professionals, and NGOs on human trafficking during the year. The government designated the equivalent of approximately $680,000 to fund victim identification, prepared return, and public awareness activities in 2013 and 2014 as part of its 2011-2014 national action plan, and allocated the equivalent of approximately $1.9 million to fund activities in 2015. The government initiated a program to reduce the demand for prostitution and forced labor during the reporting period, but has yet to implement this campaign. The Danish Ministry of Defense provided human rights training to Danish soldiers prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions, which included instruction on its zero-tolerance policy on human trafficking.