Iceland

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Report

ICELAND: Tier 1

Iceland is a destination and transit country for women subjected to sex trafficking and men and women subjected to labor trafficking. Women from Eastern Europe, the Baltics, West Africa, and Brazil are subjected to sex trafficking in nightclubs and bars. Men and women from Eastern Europe and China are subjected to forced labor in massage parlors, restaurants, construction, and fish factories, and as au pairs in private houses. Women are subjected to domestic servitude and sex trafficking through forced marriage. Traffickers reportedly exploit the visa-free regime in the Schengen Zone to bring victims to Iceland for up to three months and move them out of the country before they have to register with local authorities.

The Government of Iceland fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government questioned dozens of alleged purchasers of sexual services to uncover links between prostitution and trafficking, though these efforts did not result in any trafficking prosecutions or convictions. The government identified fewer victims than in 2013, but updated its victim identification and referral procedures and established a team of professionals to provide immediate assistance to identified victims. None of the victims identified in 2014 cooperated with law enforcement efforts due to fear of retaliation by suspected traffickers. The government increased prevention efforts by holding 17 awareness-raising sessions across the country for officials and professionals on identifying and referring victims.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ICELAND:

Increase prosecutions and convictions of traffickers; increase training for investigators, prosecutors, and judges on detecting and prosecuting trafficking crimes; encourage victim participation in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers by developing trust with victims and providing adequate residence and work permits; enhance training methods for collecting evidence against suspected traffickers to avoid overreliance on victim testimony; increase efforts to combat forced labor by involving labor inspectors in victim identification efforts and discouraging demand for forced labor in sectors at risk of human trafficking; provide regular training to officials on proactive identification of trafficking victims, particularly among migrant workers, unaccompanied children, and asylum seekers; provide specialized services for male and child trafficking victims; provide adequate funding for implementation of the national anti-trafficking action plan; establish an independent national rapporteur to monitor and evaluate anti-trafficking efforts; and do not punish trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a result of their exploitation.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained a low level of anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, due in part to limited funding and resources. Iceland prohibits both sex trafficking and forced labor under Article 227a of its criminal code, which prescribes penalties of up to 12 years’ imprisonment. This penalty is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Law enforcement initiated 11 trafficking investigations during the reporting period, compared with 12 in 2013. The government did not prosecute any traffickers or achieve any trafficking convictions in 2013 or 2014. Police questioned dozens of alleged purchasers of sexual services to uncover links between prostitution and human trafficking, but these efforts did not result in any trafficking prosecutions or convictions. The government allocated 10 million krona ($78,900) for police in the Sudurnes region to combat organized crime, including human trafficking. The government organized trainings for law enforcement and immigration personnel on victim identification and supported their participation in external trainings on trafficking. The police college curriculum included instruction on victim identification and investigation of trafficking cases. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.

PROTECTION

The government strengthened victim identification and referral procedures, but decreased victim identification efforts. The government identified at least 11 potential trafficking victims in 2014, a decrease from 17 in 2013. A government-funded, NGO-run shelter for domestic violence victims sheltered four female victims and government social services assisted a fifth female victim. Government-funded NGOs identified and assisted an additional four potential trafficking victims. In December 2014, the government signed a two-year agreement to provide funding to an NGO-run shelter for domestic abuse victims to provide emergency shelter to female trafficking victims and their children. The 2015 state budget allocated 65.1 million krona ($514,000) to the shelter, compared with 56.1 million krona ($443,000) for 2014, and an additional two million krona ($15,800) to help the shelter train staff and meet increased security requirements resulting from the agreement. The government paid for all expenses associated with victim assistance. Victims had access to free legal, medical, psychological, and financial assistance, regardless of whether they stayed at the shelter or cooperated with authorities. The government allocated 65.5 million krona ($517,000) in the 2015 state budget to a separate NGO offering psychological services to victims, compared with 71.4 million krona ($563,000) for 2014. There was no specialized care available for male victims, although they could access general social services and receive referrals to NGOs providing food, shelter, legal advice, and healthcare. Municipal and state child protection services were responsible for assisting unaccompanied children, including child trafficking victims.

The government updated its victim identification and referral procedures by formally adopting the EU-issued “Guidelines for the Identification of Victims of Trafficking” and adopting NGO-created interview guidelines for professionals most likely to come into contact with trafficking victims. The government also established a team of professionals, including NGO representatives, to assist potential trafficking victims and encourage them to participate in investigations and prosecutions. Immigration and police officers used a pocket checklist to identify potential victims and inform them of available services. NGOs stated this system worked effectively, in practice. Observers expressed concern that law enforcement inappropriately weighed the initial consent of victims when making trafficking victim determinations and failed to identify some victims due to their limited understanding of trafficking. The government afforded witness protection to trafficking victims as a matter of policy but not law. All victims identified in 2014 declined to cooperate with law enforcement due to fear of retaliation by suspected traffickers. Victims could file civil suits against traffickers or seek restitution from the government, but no victims did so. Foreign trafficking victims could obtain a six-month residence permit to decide whether to cooperate with law enforcement. An additional one-year renewable residence permit was available to victims who cooperated with law enforcement or who may have faced retribution or hardship in their home countries; victims with temporary residency could apply for a permit to work legally in the country. The government did not issue any temporary residence permits to victims. Victims were reportedly punished for presenting false travel documents.

PREVENTION

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The government continued to implement its 2013-2016 national action plan, though funding gaps reportedly delayed implementation of some parts of the plan. One official at the interior ministry devoted 20 percent of her time to coordinating the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. The coordinator established a steering group to oversee implementation of the national action plan, which met monthly and included representatives from law enforcement, social services, and an NGO. The steering group prioritized awareness raising and established an education team that held 17 sessions across the country on victim identification and referral. Approximately 300 government officials and professionals attended these meetings and joined an email list promoting networking and knowledge sharing. Police distributed pocket checklists for identification of victims in hotel rooms in the Sudurnes region and Iceland’s international airport. The government demonstrated efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts by enforcing legislation banning the purchase of sex and the operation of strip clubs, but it did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.