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.