SWEDEN: Tier 1
Sweden is a destination and, to a lesser extent, source and transit country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking, and a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, including forced begging and stealing. Identified and suspected victims of sex trafficking largely originate from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and—to a lesser extent—Western Europe. Identified and suspected victims of labor trafficking, who largely originate from Bulgaria, Romania, and Cameroon, face exploitation in the domestic service, hospitality, construction, agricultural, and forestry sectors. Victims of forced begging and stealing originate primarily from Romania and Bulgaria. More than 7,000 unaccompanied foreign children documented in Sweden in 2014, primarily from Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, and Eritrea, are vulnerable to human trafficking. A study found between 4,000 and 5,000 Swedes commit child sex tourism offenses while traveling abroad. Swedish women and girls are also vulnerable to sex trafficking within the country.
The Government of Sweden fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period, Swedish authorities launched significantly more labor trafficking investigations and took innovative steps to combat exploitation in begging and berry picking. However, very few investigations resulted in prosecutions for trafficking offenses. Sweden continued to lack a national mechanism to identify and refer victims to care and did not provide specialized housing to adult male victims. National coordination against trafficking was based on a 2008-2010 action plan that did not address labor exploitation. The government, however, initiated an inquiry in September 2014 aimed at evaluating Sweden’s trafficking laws and how legal authorities should handle trafficking cases.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SWEDEN:
Vigorously prosecute and convict labor and sex traffickers using Sweden’s anti-trafficking statute; establish a mechanism to identify and provide assistance to all victims, including those who are not participating in a criminal case; adopt an updated national action plan that incorporates labor exploitation; strengthen efforts to identify and provide trafficking-specific assistance to child trafficking victims in Sweden, including Swedish victims; provide specialized housing to adult male victims; train judges on the application of the anti-trafficking law; inform victims of Sweden’s reflection period; increase victims’ access to compensation; raise awareness of labor trafficking; and vigorously prosecute Swedish child sex tourism offenders.
The government demonstrated mixed law enforcement efforts. Sweden’s 2002 anti-trafficking law prohibits both sex trafficking and forced labor and prescribes penalties of two to 10 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Police investigated 31 sex trafficking cases in 2014, compared with 40 in 2013. Authorities prosecuted and convicted one individual for sex trafficking, who was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. Police investigated 62 cases of forced labor in 2014, 13 of which were cases of forced begging, compared with 38 forced labor cases in 2013. Two individuals were prosecuted for labor trafficking and found not guilty. There were only two trafficking convictions from 2013 to 2014. Observers in Gothenburg reported authorities routinely charged trafficking suspects with crimes carrying lesser penalties than Sweden’s trafficking law, leading to sentences that were not proportionate or dissuasive. Observers reported many judges did not fully understand trafficking, particularly how a victim’s initial consent did not override subsequent coercion. The national rapporteur for trafficking began lecturing at the judicial academy, although observers reported many judges lacked interest in receiving this training for fear that this might compromise their independence and impartiality. Swedish authorities collaborated with foreign governments on transnational investigations. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government demonstrated some progress in victim protection efforts. Authorities identified approximately 31 victims of sex trafficking and 63 victims of forced labor and forced begging; 14 of these victims were children. Sweden did not have a national mechanism to identify victims and refer them to care. GRETA found identification largely depended on victims’ willingness and ability to meet with police and provide evidence to start a criminal investigation. Adult female victims of trafficking could receive services at general women’s shelters, which were primarily operated by NGOs with public and private funding. These shelters offered victims assistance with immigration issues, medical care, and educational and employment needs. Authorities referred child victims to social services officials, who placed child victims in foster care or group housing. The government, however, provided no specialized shelter for male victims of trafficking. Municipalities reimbursed NGOs that provided services to victims who had received a residence permit for cooperating with police. Municipalities also reimbursed NGOs for some of the victims who did not have a residence permit. The government provided medical care and assistance with repatriation for victims not assisting law enforcement. The Aliens Act entitles victims to a 30-day reflection period to recover and contemplate cooperation with law enforcement; however, because only an investigating officer could file this application, only the victims willing and able to immediately provide evidence to law enforcement were able to receive temporary residency. Forty-eight trafficking victims cooperating with an investigation received a six-month residence permit in 2014. State prosecutors had the power to file applications for permanent residence permits on behalf of victims during or after trials based upon need of protection, such as in cases in which victims would face retribution in their countries of origin; the Migration Board did not issue any permanent residence permits in 2014, compared with two in 2013. No victims received compensation through Swedish courts in 2014. GRETA referenced reports of Swedish authorities deporting irregular migrants who had been subjected to trafficking without identifying them as potential victims, despite the presence of trafficking indicators. Observers reported foreign victims who were not ready to provide evidence to law enforcement were quickly removed from Sweden; GRETA reported concern that expedited removal did not permit adequate risk assessments of repatriating victims.
The government increased prevention efforts. Sweden continued to implement some items from its 2008-2010 plan addressing prostitution and sex trafficking, and in September 2014, it initiated an inquiry to evaluate its trafficking laws and how legal authorities should handle trafficking cases. The government extended the mandate of a national coordinator to 2016. The national rapporteur, housed in the national police, continued to provide an annual report of the trafficking situation and the government’s progress. GRETA reported NGOs did not participate in policy formulation or coordinating structures. Authorities put increased focus on forced begging through a national study and appointment of a national coordinator on begging. The government implemented a new minimum wage for employed berry pickers, who were notably vulnerable to exploitation in recent years. The government continued to fund a national helpline to assist victims and public authorities seeking guidance. Awareness-raising campaigns focused on sex trafficking rather than forced labor, criminality, or begging. The government continued to conduct activities to reduce the demand for commercial sex. Sweden’s law prohibiting child sexual offenses has extraterritorial reach, allowing the prosecution of suspected child sex tourists for offenses committed abroad; no Swedish citizens were prosecuted for committing child sexual offenses abroad in 2014. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. The government trained military personnel to recognize and prevent trafficking in persons prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.