An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


The Government of Denmark fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore Denmark remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by continuing to implement its 2015-2018 national action plan and allocating significant funding for anti-trafficking measures. For the second year in a row, the government provided trafficking victims temporary residence under section 9(c)5 of the Danish Aliens Act, which gives authorities the ability to stay deportation for victims to assist in an investigation. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it continued to focus on foreign trafficking victims’ illegal immigrant status, often incarcerating them during review of their status and repatriating non-EU resident victims to their countries of origin without proper screening. This impeded the ability of law enforcement to pursue traffickers, left victims vulnerable to re-trafficking, and made victims hesitant to come forward and work with police. Victim identification methods were difficult to implement and involved NGO partners too late in the process. In the last six years, only five victims had been granted asylum, despite the government officially identifying more than 500 victims; one victim was granted asylum during the reporting period.

Increase incentives for all victims to cooperate in the prosecution of traffickers, including by permitting temporary residency for victims while they assist law enforcement; more vigorously prosecute trafficking offenses and convict sex and labor traffickers; sentence traffickers in accordance with the gravity of the offense; cease penalization of victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, such as migration offenses, including assessing if new guidelines concerning withdrawal of charges against trafficking victims prevent their penalization and detention; strengthen and streamline victim identification procedures, including expanding law enforcement efforts to proactively identify and expeditiously transfer potential trafficking victims, especially those without legal status, from police or immigration custody to crisis centers or care providers to facilitate trust among this vulnerable group; and solicit input from NGOs in the planning process of the 2019-2021 national action plan.

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Section 262(a) of the criminal code criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed punishments of up to 10 years imprisonment; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2016, the government reassigned a large number of police units to border security duties due to the refugee crisis, and NGOs reported this continued to hinder the number of officers available to conduct trafficking investigations. Authorities investigated four trafficking cases in 2017, a decrease from 25 in 2016. The government initiated prosecutions of two trafficking suspects, compared with three in 2016. Courts convicted nine traffickers in 2017, a decrease from 17 in 2016. Sentences ranged from 2 years to 7 years and 11 months of imprisonment. Experts reported few trafficking cases were brought to trial because of the lack of incentives for victims to participate in the investigation of their traffickers, such as residency permits for victims. Authorities continued cooperation with Romanian authorities in one transnational investigation, and the defendant was convicted in Denmark, receiving a 7-year prison sentence in January 2018. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses. The national action plan directed the government’s Center Against Human Trafficking (CMM) to provide police with instructions on trafficking at the police academy and additional training for police who become investigators, but police reported this training did not occur on a regular basis. CMM was also responsible for providing training on trafficking to additional government officials, including judges.

The government maintained efforts to protect victims, but did not make improvements concerning detention of potential victims or the forced repatriation of undocumented victims. Authorities identified 98 trafficking victims in 2017, compared with 121 victims in 2016. Of these, 86 were sex trafficking victims, one was labor trafficking, five were forced to commit crimes, three were trafficked for other forms of exploitation, and three were not registered. Eight victims were men, 86 were women, and four identified as transgender. Three of the identified victims were minors (one of sex trafficking, one of forced criminal activity, and one of which the type of trafficking was not registered), compared with eight in 2016. Of those identified, one was Danish, compared with zero in 2016. Government guidelines for identifying victims required the involvement of multiple government and law enforcement agencies, requiring several interviews of victims who were kept in detention before referral to NGOs. The government maintained a list of indicators for police to reference for initial identification and procedures to guide officials in proactive victim identification. Each police district appointed a trafficking expert, and when police suspected they had a victim in custody, they were required to call CMM to interview suspected victims. CMM was responsible for formal identification of victims of Danish or EU origin or who were documented migrants, and immigration services were responsible for formal identification of undocumented migrant victims following the initial CMM interview. Officials had the authority to detain potential victims for 72 hours and could extend this period when more time was needed to determine victim status or immigration status, or to identify traffickers. NGOs continued to note the onus of victim identification remained on trafficking victims rather than officials’ proactive identification and highlighted that many victims came from communities that distrust law enforcement, making them unlikely to voluntarily identify themselves. NGOs also reported language barriers and a lack of cross-cultural understanding during the interview and judicial processes, which resulted in the alienation of many victims, particularly among an increased number of victims from Nigeria. NGOs stated victim identification methods were convoluted and involved NGO partners too late in the process, and authorities were incentivized by current laws and the complex identification process to treat trafficking victims as illegal immigrants subject to penalization. In 2016, 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. The government continued to distribute guidelines to the police and prosecution service on the withdrawal of charges against victims for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; some observers reported increased willingness by prosecutors to drop charges against trafficking victims.

Following identification, CMM offered assistance to all victims, including information on undocumented victims’ options for voluntary return, asylum, or humanitarian residence. In 2017, 88 victims accepted support and were referred to government care facilities. Government-operated and government-funded NGO facilities provided trafficking victims medical and psychological care, shelter, and financial, legal, and reintegration assistance, regardless of gender, disability, origin, or immigration status. Shelter provided was separated by gender and age, with adults able to leave shelters unaccompanied and at will. Although these trafficking-specific services existed, victims were sometimes housed with asylum-seekers and refugees. The Danish Red Cross assisted unaccompanied children and child victims in another facility partially funded by the government. Victims were not permitted to seek employment while receiving assistance, but they could apply for compensation through a state fund and through civil suits against their traffickers; the government did not report if victims pursued these in 2017.

The government provided undocumented trafficking victims a 30-day “extended time limit for departure” (with extension up to 120 days) 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 did not refer to a period of reflection and recovery necessary to determine whether victims will cooperate in the investigation of their cases; rather it was a period of time the victims had to cooperate in their repatriation. In 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. The government provided those who accepted the prepared return with up to six months temporary residency and training to prevent re-trafficking. The reflection period and prepared return did not provide means for victims to seek employment, but also did not prevent victims who were legally allowed to work from seeking employment. Victims who participated in the prepared return also had freedom of movement, and largely remained in shelter accommodations provided after their formal identification. In 2017, 13 trafficking victims accepted a prepared return (12 in 2016). Regardless of whether foreign victims accepted the prepared return, the government provided 50,000 kroner ($8,060) to victims when they were deported. Authorities deported undocumented victims who did not accept a prepared return unless they were assisting in the prosecution of a trafficker. In 2017, immigration services granted temporary residency permits to two identified victims and one potential victim under section 9(c)5 of the Danish Aliens Act, based on their cooperation with police on ongoing investigations and prosecutions. The government also granted one victim an asylum residency permit in 2017. 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. NGOs reported the threat of deportation prevented victims from coming forward and led some identified victims to leave shelters before the conclusion of police investigations or court proceedings in order to evade deportation.

The government maintained prevention efforts. In addition to 88.3 million kroner ($14.2 million) allotted for its 2015-2018 national action plan for trafficking protection and prevention programs, and 9.4 million kroner ($1.5 million) allocated in 2016 to counter-trafficking efforts through 2020, in 2017, the Danish Parliament allocated 63 million kroner ($10.1 million) for the 2019-2021 national action plan currently in the planning phase. However, NGOs reported concerns their input had not been sought in the most recent planning meetings for the 2019-2021 plan, despite inclusion of NGO input in the previous plan. The government had a protocol to provide training on trafficking to diplomatic and consular staff, but did not provide any such training during the reporting period. The government conducted training for health service providers at clinics, shelters, and hospitals on how to identify trafficking victims and notify authorities. Authorities continued to train tax and labor inspectors on labor trafficking indicators. Authorities maintained guidelines for the hospitality sector to assist employers in the prevention of labor exploitation. Authorities conducted public information campaigns aimed at curbing demand for trafficking and provided public education about the signs of possible trafficking; however, CMM reported its plans to end this outreach due to an inability to evaluate awareness campaign effectiveness. CMM operated a hotline for reporting trafficking cases in both Danish and English; in 2016, the most recent period for which statistics were available, the hotline received 398 calls, and one victim was identified. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex.

As reported over the past five years, Denmark is primarily a destination and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking from Eastern Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. Migrants are subjected to labor trafficking in construction, agriculture, domestic service, restaurants, hotels, and factories through debt bondage, withheld wages, abuse, and threats of deportation. Unaccompanied migrant children are vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor, including drug trafficking, theft, and other forced criminality. Copenhagen’s relatively small red-light district represents only a portion of prostitution in the country, which includes sex trafficking in brothels, bars, strip clubs, and private apartments. The rise in migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees entering and transiting Denmark has increased the size of the population vulnerable to human trafficking, though more recently, the number of asylum-seekers and refugees has declined, and the number of victims from Nigeria has increased.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future