SWEDEN: Tier 1
The Government of Sweden fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, Sweden remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by completing implementation of a national mechanism to identify and refer victims to care, and it identified more victims, including a significant increase in the number of potential victims identified among asylum-seekers. The government created a new anti-trafficking ambassador position to combat trafficking abroad and foster international cooperation. Although the government meets the minimum standards, the effects of the European migration crisis continued to strain government agencies’ resources and limit authorities’ ability to conduct sufficient screenings of migrants to identify potential instances of trafficking. While the government increased the number of prosecutions and convictions, including for forced begging, relatively few investigations resulted in prosecutions for trafficking offenses.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SWEDEN
Vigorously prosecute and convict labor and sex traffickers using the anti-trafficking statute; adopt a comprehensive national action plan that incorporates all forms of trafficking, including forced labor; extend to non-law enforcement authorities such as social workers the authority to grant 30-day reflection and recovery periods to ensure all victims, including those not already in contact with law enforcement, are able to receive these benefits in practice; increase efforts to identify and vigorously prosecute Swedish child sex tourism offenders; establish a permanent national anti-trafficking coordinator; provide specialized housing to trafficking victims, including options appropriate for adult male victims and labor trafficking victims; train judges on the anti-trafficking law and provide trainings for judges, prosecutors, police, migration authorities, and service providers that include sessions on labor trafficking and forced begging and criminality; and increase efforts to raise awareness of labor trafficking.
The government increased law enforcement efforts. The 2002 anti-trafficking law, as amended, prohibits all forms of trafficking 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. A legal review of forced labor laws proposed broadening trafficking penalties to include exploitation of individuals in distress. Police investigated 82 sex trafficking cases in 2016 (including 16 child sex trafficking cases), compared with 58 in 2015. Authorities prosecuted three alleged sex traffickers and convicted two of the three, compared with two prosecutions and convictions in 2015. The convicted sex traffickers were each sentenced to three years and six months imprisonment, fined 75,000 kronor ($8,280) each in damages, and will be deported to their home countries following their prison terms. Police investigated 114 cases of labor trafficking in 2016 (48 involving children), 33 of which were forced begging (122 cases in 2015). Authorities prosecuted and convicted four traffickers for forced begging in 2016 (none in 2015); one conviction was overturned on appeal. The court sentenced the remaining three traffickers to prison terms of three years and six months, three years, and six months, respectively. The national anti-trafficking coordinator and national rapporteur noted the Swedish police reorganization, concluded in 2016, hindered law enforcement anti-trafficking coordination and effectiveness. The national courts offered training for judges and lawyers that included sections on sex trafficking and child victims; however, anti-trafficking experts reported some judges continued to lack sufficient understanding of human trafficking, which may have resulted in fewer convictions and less stringent sentences. The national rapporteur conducted training for police and judges, and the prosecutor’s office offered online training for prosecutors on working with trafficking victims. Swedish authorities collaborated with foreign governments on transnational investigations. The government did not report any prosecutions or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking.
The government increased victim protection efforts. During the reporting period, the government completed implementation of its national referral mechanism to identify victims and refer them to care. Authorities identified approximately 82 victims of sex trafficking and 114 victims of forced labor and forced begging in 2016 (58 sex trafficking and 122 forced labor victims in 2015); 64 of these new victims were children. NGOs identified an additional 47 victims (42 sex and 5 labor). The national police rapporteur noted an increased capacity among social workers and migration authorities to identify victims resulted in more victim identifications not connected to other police investigations. Despite implementation of the referral mechanism, authorities continued to contend with the ongoing effects of the European migration crisis. The migration agency’s anti-trafficking coordinator identified 341 suspected trafficking cases among asylum-seekers in 2016 (91 of which involved children), a 75 percent increase in suspected cases from 2015. Although the migration agency identified significantly more potential victims during the reporting period, the high volume of asylum-seekers entering the country inhibited authorities’ ability to conduct sufficient migrant screenings for trafficking indicators. The migrant influx and asylum application backlog strained government resources available to migrants, creating vulnerabilities to trafficking, especially among unaccompanied minors. Changes to asylum and migration policy during 2016, such as changes to financial support eligibility and work placement programs, may have created additional vulnerabilities. During GRETA’s most recent visit to Sweden in 2013, it found identification largely depended on victims’ willingness and ability to meet with police and provide evidence to start a criminal investigation. Municipalities were responsible for providing services to victims—including medical and psychological care, shelter, and social assistance—in collaboration with NGOs and other government agencies involved in victims’ cases. NGOs operated most shelters with public and private funding. The government provided 500,000 kronor ($55,170) to a civil society platform representing 23 NGOs that provided care to victims. Although there were no shelters dedicated exclusively to trafficking victims, the national coordinator led a network of approximately 40 NGO-run safe houses, and adult female trafficking victims could receive services at women’s shelters for victims of domestic and honor-related violence. These shelters offered victims assistance with immigration issues, medical care, and educational and employment needs, including Swedish language training; adults could leave the shelters unchaperoned and at will. Authorities referred child victims to social services officials, who placed child victims in foster care or group housing. The government provided training to safe houses, victim support centers, and professionals who come into contact with victims. In August, the government introduced a support hotline for NGOs and professionals working with potential victims. Police received training in victim identification and all new migration agency staff received anti-trafficking instruction as part of their introductory training.
The government encouraged victims to assist in the prosecution of their alleged traffickers. Victims and witnesses in trafficking cases who cooperated with authorities were granted temporary residence permits, which allowed them to seek employment. Twenty-five trafficking victims and 45 witnesses received these permits in 2016 (12 and 29, respectively, in 2015). The Aliens Act entitles victims to a 30-day reflection period to recover and contemplate cooperation with law enforcement, during which they are eligible for emergency financial aid; however, authorities stated that because only an investigating police officer or prosecutor could file this application, such temporary visas were in practice primarily available to victims already in contact with law enforcement. Although only victims who assisted in investigations were eligible for residence permits, the government continued to provide medical care and repatriation assistance for victims not assisting law enforcement. In 2016, the government repatriated 14 victims through a safe return program in conjunction with an international organization. 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 agency did not issue any permanent residence permits in 2016 or 2015. The government assigned a legal representative to each victim participating in a trial to provide emotional support and assistance. There were no reports the government penalized victims for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, and the law allows victims forced to commit criminal acts to avoid prosecution or, if prosecuted, to have the charges withdrawn. In past years, however, 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.
The government increased prevention efforts. In May 2016, the government created a new anti-trafficking ambassador position to improve Sweden’s efforts to combat trafficking abroad and foster international cooperation. The government allocated 6.5 million kronor ($717,200) for the national anti-trafficking coordinator’s office in 2016 and announced the creation of a new gender equality authority to monitor and coordinate gender policy, including sex trafficking; the national anti-trafficking coordinator’s office will move under this new authority beginning in 2018. The national police rapporteur on trafficking continued to provide an annual report on the trafficking situation and the government’s progress in combating trafficking. The government released a new action plan for the protection of children against trafficking in June 2016, and a national strategy to address men’s violence against women in November 2016; however, the plans did not address labor trafficking and the government did not have a current comprehensive national action plan to address trafficking. Authorities conducted mandatory interviews with foreign workers employed in at-risk sectors who were seeking to extend their work permits. The migration agency conducted background checks on companies employing foreign workers and occasionally denied work visas in cases where employment contracts did not meet the necessary requirements. A study published in November 2016 on foreign labor exploitation recommended increased government control of labor agreements between domestic employers and foreign employees and stronger sanctions for employer violations. During the reporting period, there were no reports of labor trafficking among berry pickers, who were notably vulnerable to exploitation in recent years, which authorities attributed to increased police efforts, labor reforms, unannounced inspections, efforts to inform workers of their rights, and bilateral cooperation. Authorities conducted or funded awareness training for taxi, hotel, and restaurant staff to detect trafficking at their places of work. The government conducted an awareness campaign to reduce the demand for commercial sex, and the new strategy to address violence against women includes measures aimed at demand reduction. Sweden’s law prohibiting child sexual offenses has extraterritorial reach, allowing the prosecution of suspected child sex tourists for crimes committed abroad. A Swedish court prosecuted a Swedish citizen for committing child sexual offenses abroad in 2016, the first such prosecution since 2012. The government provided anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel and training on sexual exploitation and abuse, including on human trafficking, to troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions.
As reported over the past five years, 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. Sex trafficking victims largely originate from Eastern Europe, West Africa, Asia, and—to a lesser extent—Western Europe. Although sex trafficking remains the most common form of trafficking in Sweden, reported cases of labor trafficking are increasing. Victims of labor trafficking, who largely originate from Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, face exploitation in domestic service, hospitality, construction, agriculture, and forestry; cases among seasonal berry pickers have decreased significantly in recent years. Roma, primarily from Romania and Bulgaria, are vulnerable to forced begging and criminality and, to a lesser extent, sex trafficking. The government reports most traffickers are the same nationality as their victims and are often part of criminal networks engaged in multiple criminal activities, although an increasing number of reported cases involve traffickers who are family members or have no ties to organized crime. The approximately 29,000 migrants who applied for asylum in 2016, primarily from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Iran, as well as a many stateless individuals, are vulnerable to human trafficking. Identified victims among this group also originate from West Africa and East Asia. Unaccompanied children are especially vulnerable; more than 2,100 unaccompanied foreign children applied for asylum in Sweden in 2016, 30 percent of whom were from Afghanistan. A 2015 study found more than half of suspected child trafficking victims identified since 2012 arrived in Sweden as unaccompanied minors, primarily from Africa and Eastern Europe. Police note street children, especially boys from Morocco, are vulnerable to child sex trafficking and forced criminality. A 2013 study found between 4,000 and 5,000 Swedes commit child sex tourism offenses abroad annually, primarily in East Asia. Swedish women and girls are also vulnerable to sex trafficking within the country.