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 demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Iceland remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by investigating more trafficking cases and adding a staff member to the specialized investigative unit. Iceland also identified more potential victims and increased resources for overall victim protection. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not prosecute or convict any suspected traffickers for the seventh consecutive year. Observers reported the need for further clarification on referral procedures and the inability for victims to receive work permits hindered investigations due to victims leaving the country for employment.

Significantly increase and report efforts to identify trafficking victims and refer victims to care facilities for assistance; intensify efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict suspected traffickers; 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 and work permits to encourage victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers; provide specialized services, including for male and child trafficking victims; enhance training methods for collecting evidence against suspected traffickers to avoid overreliance on victim testimony; improve victim referral procedures and develop procedures for identifying victims of forced marriage; expand training for officials on proactive identification of trafficking victims, particularly among migrant workers, unaccompanied children, and asylum-seekers; and finalize a current national anti-trafficking action plan and provide adequate funding for its implementation.

The government slightly increased law enforcement efforts. Article 227a of the criminal code criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to eight years imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Law enforcement reported 20 investigations compared with 16 investigations in 2016. Law enforcement also investigated one suspect for knowingly soliciting a sex trafficking victim to perform a commercial sex act. The government has not reported prosecuting or convicting any trafficking cases since 2010. Law enforcement did not conduct any international investigation during the year, compared to one in 2016. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses. The police maintained a special investigative unit dedicated to combating trafficking and prostitution and added a staff member to the unit for a total of three officers. Law enforcement maintained a special email address for tips or inquiries about possible trafficking cases. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) announced increasing resources for police by 407 million krona ($3.9 million) to investigate sexual abuse cases, including sex trafficking. Observers reported the need to consistently train and educate prosecutors and judges on trafficking. The police college curriculum included instruction on victim identification and investigation of trafficking cases and police officers working on prostitution-related offenses received specific training on trafficking.

The government maintained victim protection efforts. Government-funded civil society organizations identified seven potential trafficking victims, compared to four official victims in 2016. Of these, three were potential victims of sex trafficking, compared to four forced labor victims in 2016. Police were unable to confirm the form of trafficking of the other potential victims. The national police commissioner maintained detailed procedures for police to use to identify, contact, and deal with possible trafficking victims to provide them with assistance. The government continued to distribute 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. The government did not have a national referral mechanism, but police maintained standardized referral procedures that required police to contact welfare services in the municipality and the Ministry of Welfare (MOW) to coordinate victim care and placement. NGOs stated these procedures worked effectively in practice but required further clarification on the roles and responsibilities, including guidance on where to refer victims. Government-funded NGOs provided equal assistance and support to official and potential victims; the MOW provided services to two potential victims and four potential victims received assistance from the women’s shelter, compared to one victim in 2016. The government held 10 sessions on victim identification and assistance for approximately 400 officials.

The government maintained its two-year agreement signed in December 2016 to provide funding for an NGO-run domestic abuse shelter to provide emergency shelter to female trafficking victims and their children. The 2018 state budget allocated 76 million krona ($730,140) to the domestic abuse shelter, compared with 71 million krona ($682,100) for 2017. The MOW provided the shelter with an additional 300,000 krona ($2,880) for the provision of services for trafficking victims, compared to 350,000 krona ($3,360) in 2017. 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 MOW reimbursed the municipalities for all associated expenses. In 2016, the government refunded 22.3 million krona ($214,240) to municipal governments for expenses related to “foreign citizens in distress,” which may have included trafficking victims. The government allocated 77 million krona ($739,740) in the 2018 state budget to a separate NGO offering psychological services to individuals in prostitution and trafficking victims, compared to 71 million krona ($682,100) in 2017. 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 and allocated 50 million krona ($480,350). There were no specialized care available for male victims, though they could access general social services and receive referrals to NGOs providing food, shelter, legal advice, and health care. Municipal and state child protection services were responsible for assisting unaccompanied children, including child trafficking victims.

Witness protection for trafficking victims was not mandated by law, but the government could provide it. In previous years, an NGO reported victims of forced marriage, which may involve forced labor or sex trafficking crimes, generally did not contact police or press charges due to fear of traffickers and because cases can be difficult to prove. Victims could file civil suits against traffickers or seek restitution from the government, but no victims did so during the reporting period. Any foreign trafficking victim could obtain a nine-month residence permit. An additional one-year renewable residence permit was available to victims who cooperated with law enforcement or who 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. Police reported that investigations often stall because foreign victims leave the country to seek employment. The government did not report issuing any temporary residence permits in 2017, compared to one in 2016.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. MOJ led the steering group that met once a month to coordinate interagency anti-trafficking efforts. The Directorate of Labor (DOL) maintained 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, and conducting targeted visits to talk to employees and supervisors. The government’s 2013-2016 national action plan expired during the previous reporting period; the government reported a new action plan was in development. The government organized an awareness raising conference for approximately 200 government officials and civil society, including police, prosecutors, and labor unions. Police continued to enforce laws against purchasing commercial sex but did not report efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor.

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 rarely come to the attention of 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.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future