The government decreased protection efforts. The government began creating a comprehensive statistical system, per a recommendation from GRETA, on trafficking statistics including victim identification and assistance data. As a result, the government did not report how many victims it identified or assisted in 2017; the government identified and provided services for 262 trafficking victims in 2016. In 2017, the government’s ROSA project (re-establishment, organizing safe places to stay, security, assistance) received 38 victim referrals from government agencies, compared with 13 victim referrals in 2016. The government did not have any formal written identification procedures, but government agencies that came into contact with potential victims often referred to KOM’s national guidelines on how to identify and refer potential victims. The government provided protection to trafficking victims through municipal crisis centers and government-funded NGOs. These NGOs provided foreign and domestic victims with shelter, legal aid, stipends for food, psychological care, medical assistance, fitness facilities, and Norwegian language classes. ROSA provided training to both airport and border police on victim identification during the reporting period.
Additionally, ROSA managed a 24-hour hotline for potential victims and continued seeing an increase in calls, particularly from potential labor trafficking victims. ROSA received 118 initial contacts from possible victims through their hotline, compared with 97 contacts in 2016. The contrast in numbers is a result of the type of assistance needed once contact is made with ROSA. Of the 118 making initial contact, 45 ultimately accepted shelter, compared to 40 in 2016. In 2017, Parliament earmarked 20 million kroner ($2.4 million) in grant schemes to NGOs, exclusively for measures to prevent trafficking and support victims. ROSA remained the largest project exclusively intended to assist victims of trafficking and received 6.2 million kroner ($756,470) in government funding. Various NGOs received grants of the remaining 13.9 million kroner ($1.7 million) to operate shelters, including one for male victims. Another publicly supported NGO assisted sex trafficking victims who had been granted a reflection period with vocational programs and sponsored internships. Child Welfare Services provided specialized care to child victims, including accommodation in a child protection institution or a foster home. Foreign victims had the same access to care as domestic victims, but their knowledge of available care and services may have been more limited. KOM did not collect detailed statistics on child trafficking victims, as child victims are under care of the Child Welfare Service. GRETA previously reported Norwegian border officials did not adequately identify potential victims. Experts observed the police were under pressure to deport individuals without legal status and often pursued deportation without screening for indicators of trafficking, particularly among individuals in prostitution.
The government did not have a national referral mechanism (NRM), but KOM and the MOJ were developing one during the reporting period. Observers expressed concern the proposed NRM and identification procedures would be under the labor and welfare administration agency, an agency with minimal experience and knowledge on how to deal with victims, or of trafficking trends in general. Additionally, the proposed NRM would reduce the reflection period for victims from six months to 45 days, raising the fear that victims would not seek assistance or file a report with police, and authorities would deport victims without proper screening. NGOs had limited engagement with MOJ in the planning process for the NRM; GRETA’s recent report recommended that the government give NGOs a larger role in decisions concerning victims of trafficking. Authorities granted a six-month reflection period to eight victims and limited residence permits, up to 12 months, to 15 victims in 2017, compared with 24 and 23, respectively, in 2016. Victims were required to file a formal complaint to police and assist authorities on their trafficking investigation in order to be eligible for the limited residence permits. Ten possible victims were granted residence permits due to compelling humanitarian considerations or a particular connection to Norway during the reporting period. Reports claimed that fewer residence permits were issued to victims on the basis of human trafficking, which diminished the victims’ status as a trafficking victim and hindered the ability to fully understand the scale of trafficking in-country. Observers expressed concern over the lack of communication between police and immigration authorities, resulting in the deportation of victims who may have merited temporary residency or whose country of origin were conflict-ridden or left victims susceptible to threats of violence. GRETA raised concerns that new amendments to asylum legislation, shortening deadlines for asylum-seekers to appeal a rejected application from three weeks to one week, risked limiting the possibilities for identifying victims of trafficking among asylum-seekers. Forced labor victims who were material witnesses against a former employer could obtain other employment while awaiting trial and are eligible to leave the country before trial proceedings. Victims facing retribution or hardship in their countries of origin could apply for asylum after law enforcement no longer required their assistance; seven victims received asylum status in 2017 (17 in 2016).