ICELAND: Tier 2
The Government of Iceland does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government made significant efforts to meet the minimum standards during the reporting period by opening a center offering free comprehensive services to victims of abuse, including trafficking, and establishing specialized teams to investigate trafficking and educate government employees on the crime. However, these efforts were not serious and sustained compared to the efforts during the previous reporting period. The government did not prosecute or convict any suspected traffickers for the sixth consecutive year and decreased investigations of suspected traffickers. Therefore, Iceland was downgraded to Tier 2.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ICELAND
Intensify efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict suspected traffickers; significantly increase and report efforts to identify trafficking victims and refer victims to care facilities for assistance; increase training for all police, prosecutors, and judges on detecting and prosecuting trafficking crimes; prioritize building trust between law enforcement and victims and provide protection, residence, and work permits to encourage victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers; provide specialized services, including shelters for male and child trafficking victims; enhance training methods for collecting evidence against suspected traffickers to avoid overreliance on victim testimony; develop procedures for identifying victims of forced marriage; involve labor inspectors in victim identification; expand training for officials on proactive identification of trafficking victims, particularly among migrant workers, unaccompanied children, and asylum-seekers; and develop a current national anti-trafficking action plan and provide adequate funding to law enforcement for its implementation.
The government maintained law enforcement efforts, but did not prosecute and convict any suspected traffickers for the sixth consecutive year. Article 227a of the criminal code criminalizes both sex trafficking and forced labor and prescribes penalties of up to 12 years imprisonment; these are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Law enforcement reported 16 investigations in 2016, compared with 23 investigations in 2015. The government has not reported prosecuting or convicting any trafficking cases since 2010. Police authorities reported one cooperative international investigation during the year, compared with two in 2015. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. The police established a special investigative unit dedicated to combating trafficking and prostitution, and a special email address for tips or inquiries about possible human trafficking cases. The police college curriculum included instruction on victim identification and investigation of trafficking cases.
The government decreased efforts to identify trafficking victims and refer victims to care facilities, but increased efforts to shelter and provide services to victims. The government identified four victims in 2016 (four in 2015). All four victims were subjected to forced labor. Authorities referred one victim to care facilities for assistance. In December 2016, the government renewed its two-year agreement to provide funding for an NGO-run domestic abuse shelter to provide emergency shelter to female trafficking victims and their children. The 2017 state budget allocated 71 million krona ($629,042) to the domestic abuse shelter. In 2016, the state budget allocated 70.6 million krona ($625,498) to the shelter, compared with 65.1 million krona ($576,770) for 2015. The Ministry of Welfare provided the shelter with an additional 350,000 krona ($3,101) for the provision of services for trafficking victims. The shelter maintained a team of specialists to manage cases involving possible trafficking victims. Victims had access to free legal, medical, psychological, and financial assistance, whether or not they stayed at the shelter or cooperated with authorities. Municipal social service agencies provided services and financial assistance to trafficking victims, and the welfare ministry reimbursed the municipalities for all associated expenses. In 2016, the government refunded 22.3 million krona ($197,572) to municipal governments for expenses related to “foreign citizens in distress,” which may have included trafficking victims. The government allocated 71 million krona ($629,042) in the 2016 state budget to a separate NGO offering psychological services to victims, compared with 65.5 million krona ($580,314) in 2015. The government in collaboration with several NGOs opened a center offering free comprehensive services to abuse victims, including trafficking victims, as a two-year pilot project. There were no shelter services or specialized care available for male victims, though 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 national police commissioner published detailed procedures for police to use to identify, contact, and deal with possible trafficking victims to provide them with assistance. The government distributed information on the EU-issued “Guidelines for the Identification of Victims of Trafficking” and NGO-developed interview guidelines to government employees most likely to come into contact with trafficking victims. The directorate of immigration had written procedures to identify trafficking victims and provide them with information and resources, including during the interview process for asylum-seekers. Immigration and police officers maintained a pocket checklist to identify potential victims and inform them of available services. NGOs stated these procedures worked effectively in practice. Witness protection for trafficking victims was not mandated by law, but the government provided it in practice. Victims could file civil suits against traffickers or seek restitution from the government, but no victims did during the reporting period. Prior to January 2017, any foreign trafficking victim could obtain a six-month residence permit; temporary residence permits issued after that date were valid for nine months. 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; however, victims with either temporary residence permit could not apply for a permit to work legally in the country. The government issued one temporary residence permit in 2016. Trafficking victims have left the country pending investigations because they were legally unable to work or obtain permanent residence permits. There were no reports authorities detained, fined, or jailed victims for illegal acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking.
The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The directorate of labor (DOL) established a three-member team to respond to suspected trafficking cases and educate government employees on trafficking and identifying possible victims. DOL monitored the operations of companies that hired foreign “posted workers” by reviewing hiring contracts, checking paychecks against bank statements showing payout of wages, and conducting targeted visits to talk to employees and supervisors. The government reported developing a 2017 action plan to replace its 2013-2016 plan. The government held 30 sessions on victim identification and assistance for approximately 2,000 government and municipal specialists in law enforcement, welfare services, healthcare services, labor, and education. In May 2016, the government organized a public symposium on trafficking issues, focusing on forced labor. Throughout the reporting period, the government demonstrated efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts and forced labor. The government included anti-trafficking language in its code of conduct for diplomatic personnel but provided no trafficking-specific training.
As reported over the past five years, 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, and South America are subjected to sex trafficking, often in nightclubs and bars. Men and women from the Baltics, Eastern Europe, South America, and East Asia are subjected to forced labor in construction, tourism, and restaurants. Foreign “posted workers” are at particular risk of forced labor as the traffickers pay them in their home countries and contract them to work for up to 183 days in Iceland to avoid taxes and union fees, limiting tax authorities’ and union officials’ ability to monitor their work conditions and pay. Traffickers also subject women to domestic servitude, forced labor, and sex trafficking and men to forced labor; NGOs note these cases are rarely reported to the police. Traffickers reportedly exploit the visa-free regime in the Schengen Zone and the European Economic Area to bring victims to Iceland for up to three months and move them out of the country before they must register with local authorities.