The government maintained efforts to protect victims. Authorities identified 121 trafficking victims in 2016, compared with 93 victims in 2015. Eight of the identified victims were minors (five of sex trafficking, one of forced criminal activity, and two trafficked for “other” purposes), compared with six in 2015. Authorities did not identify any Danish trafficking victims in 2016. The government provided a list of indicators for police to reference for initial identification and procedures to guide officials in proactive victim identification. When police suspected they had a victim in custody, they called government anti-trafficking experts to assist in questioning and explain the victim’s rights; each police district appointed a trafficking expert. NGOs noted the onus of victim identification remained on trafficking victims rather than officials’ proactive identification. Government guidelines for identifying victims required shuffling victims between law enforcement and government agencies before referring them to NGOs. NGOs stated victim identification methods were convoluted and involved NGO partners too late in the process. NGOs contended authorities primarily treated trafficking victims as illegal immigrants subject to the justice system. The Danish Institute for Human Rights stated victims had been incarcerated pending review of their immigration status and as part of the process for identifying their traffickers. According to NGOs, the current laws and identification process incentivized police officers to treat victims as illegal immigrants. A third-party audit of the identification process revealed the government did not effectively disseminate current statistics and reports or manage its long-term planning.
Government-funded, NGO-operated facilities provided trafficking victims care services, including medical, psychological, and legal assistance; these facilities were dedicated to trafficking victims. The Danish Red Cross assisted unaccompanied children and child victims in another facility partially funded by the government. Victims could apply for compensation through a state fund and through civil suits against their traffickers; however, no victims pursued these in 2016. To help prevent trafficking victims from being penalized for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking, the director of public prosecutions distributed guidelines on the identification of victims and the withdrawal of charges against them to the police and prosecution service. Some observers reported increased willingness by prosecutors to drop charges against trafficking victims. The government did not implement efforts to provide alternatives to victims’ removal, resulting in few protections for victims.
While the government reported asylum or humanitarian residence permits could be used as alternatives to removal for victims who lacked legal status in Denmark, trafficking victims could not qualify for these provisions or receive these protections solely on the basis of being subjected to trafficking crimes. The government required victims to prove they were persecuted in their home countries on the basis of Refugee Convention grounds. In 2016, the government offered a family of two trafficking victims (one adult and one minor) temporary residence under section 9(c) of the Danish Aliens Act, which the victims accepted. The government continued to offer trafficking victims a 120-day “extended time limit for departure” as part of its prepared return program for trafficking victims ordered to leave Denmark; the prepared return gave victims a specified period of time to receive services before their eventual deportation. Regional anti-trafficking experts, including the Council of Europe, emphasized this period does not refer to a period of reflection and recovery necessary to determine whether victims will cooperate in the investigation of their cases; rather it is a period of time the victims have to cooperate in their repatriation. During 2016, the Council of Europe criticized Denmark for failing to honor the required 120-day period of recovery and reflection prior to deportation of trafficking victims. In 2016, 12 trafficking victims accepted a prepared return (43 in 2015). Authorities deported victims without legal residency who did not accept a prepared return unless they were assisting in the prosecution of a trafficker. Some victims chose not to participate in the program, reportedly based on the perception it was merely a preparation for deportation. Victims’ debt bondage to their traffickers and lack of protection in their home countries served as significant deterrents from accepting the prepared return. The effective lack of alternatives to removal impeded the ability of law enforcement to pursue traffickers and left victims vulnerable to re-trafficking.