SWEDEN: Tier 1

The Government of Sweden fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore Sweden remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by establishing municipal-level anti-trafficking working groups and action plans to address regional needs and identifying more victims, including potential victims among asylum-seekers. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not sufficiently screen migrants for trafficking among an increased volume of migrants and asylum-seekers in the country. The government did not provide funding to NGOs for victim support services. While the government increased the number of prosecutions and convictions, including for forced begging, relatively few investigations resulted in prosecutions for trafficking offenses.

Vigorously prosecute and convict labor and sex traffickers using the anti-trafficking statute; improve efforts to conduct sufficient screenings to identify trafficking victims among migrants; allocate funding to sustain the operation of NGO victim support services; finalize and fully implement a comprehensive national action plan, incorporating all forms of trafficking, including forced labor and criminal activity; expand efforts to train officials involved in judicial proceedings, particularly judges on applying anti-trafficking laws; increase efforts to identify and vigorously prosecute Swedish child sex tourism offenders; establish specialized housing for trafficking victims, including for male victims; and increase efforts to raise awareness of labor trafficking and forced begging.

The government increased law enforcement efforts. The 2002 anti-trafficking law, as amended, criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of two to 10 years imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government proposed new legislation, broadening trafficking penalties to apply to the exploitation of individuals for the purposes of forced labor and begging. In 2017, police investigated 212 trafficking cases (82 sex trafficking and 130 labor trafficking), compared with 196 cases (82 sex trafficking and 114 labor trafficking) in 2016. Of the cases in 2017, 23 sex trafficking cases involved children and 40 of the labor trafficking cases were forced begging. Authorities prosecuted six traffickers and convicted five, compared with three prosecutions and two convictions in 2016. Sentences ranged from eight months to four years and two months imprisonment. Authorities prosecuted three traffickers for forced begging, convicting two with prison terms of four years and two months and expulsion from Sweden, compared with four prosecutions and convictions in 2016. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. Swedish authorities collaborated with foreign governments on transnational investigations.

The national anti-trafficking coordinator and national rapporteur noted law enforcement anti-trafficking efforts were hindered by a reorganization of the Swedish police organization and a shift in focus to other types of cases and crimes, such as gang violence. The national courts offered training for judges and lawyers that included sections on sex trafficking and child victims; however, experts reported some judges lacked sufficient understanding and did not apply current legislation in trafficking cases, which may have resulted in fewer convictions and weak sentences. The national rapporteur conducted training for police and judges, and the prosecutor’s office offered online training for prosecutors on working with trafficking victims.

The government maintained victim protection efforts; however, it did not provide funding to NGOs for victim support services. Authorities identified 212 victims (82 of sex trafficking and 130 of forced labor and forced begging in 2017, compared with 196 victims in 2016 (82 of sex trafficking and 114 of labor trafficking and forced begging); 60 of these new victims were children. NGOs identified an additional 30 victims. 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 444 suspected trafficking victims among asylum-seekers in 2017 (107 were children), a 30 percent increase from 2016. Although the migration agency identified more potential victims, the high volume of asylum-seekers entering the country inhibited authorities’ ability to conduct sufficient screenings for trafficking indicators. Authorities provided training on victim identification to new migration agency staff and police.

Municipalities, in collaboration with NGOs and other government agencies, provided victim services, including medical and psychological care, shelter, and social assistance. In the absence of a national action plan, the government did not allocate funding to NGOs for victim support services. In 2016, however, the government provided 500,000 kronor ($61,030) to a civil society platform representing 23 NGOs that provided care to victims. Some municipalities ran shelters specifically for 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. Shelters assisted non-Swedish victims with immigration issues, medical care, and educational and employment needs, including Swedish language training. The government trained professionals at safe houses and victim support centers. Authorities referred child victims to social services officials, who placed child victims in foster care or group housing.

The government encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their alleged traffickers. The Aliens Act entitled victims to a 30-day reflection period to contemplate cooperation with law enforcement, during which they were eligible for emergency financial aid; however, only an investigating police officer or prosecutor could file the application, limiting availability to victims already in contact with law enforcement. Victims and witnesses in trafficking cases who cooperated with authorities received temporary residence permits, which allowed them to seek employment. Thirteen trafficking victims and 47 witnesses received permits in 2017 (25 and 45, respectively, in 2016). Although only victims who assisted in investigations were eligible for residence permits, the government provided medical care and repatriation assistance for victims not assisting law enforcement. In 2017, the government repatriated 40 victims through a safe return program in conjunction with an international organization. Prosecutors had the power to file applications for permanent residence permits on behalf of victims based on protection needs, such as in cases in which victims would face retribution in their countries of origin; the government did not issue any permanent residence permits in 2016 or 2017. There were no reports the government penalized victims for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. In past years, however, GRETA referenced reports of authorities deporting irregular migrants who had been subjected to trafficking without identifying them as potential victims, despite the presence of trafficking indicators.

The government increased prevention efforts. The government established municipal-level, anti-trafficking working groups and action plans to address regional needs and issues. A national strategy to address men’s violence against women came into effect, and the government allocated 1.3 billion kronor ($158.7 million) for awareness campaigns and to promote violence prevention programs and education, including anti-trafficking. The administrative board developed reports on how children, including unaccompanied minors and asylum-seekers, were vulnerable to exploitation, and how authorities handled their trafficking cases. During the reporting period, the government lacked a national action plan, though it initiated work on a new plan in 2017. The newly created gender equality agency incorporated the office of the national anti-trafficking coordinator; however, most of its employees did not transfer to the new agency, raising concerns over the loss of knowledgeable staff. Experts also expressed concern the new agency would focus on sexual exploitation, neglecting other forms of trafficking. As reports of labor trafficking increased, municipalities funded efforts offering advice on employee rights in the Swedish labor market and on avoiding labor trafficking. Authorities conducted mandatory interviews with foreign workers who were employed in at-risk sectors and seeking to extend their work permits. The migration agency conducted background checks on companies employing foreign workers and occasionally denied work visas in cases where employment contracts did not meet the necessary requirements. The tax authority implemented an action plan to combat illegal labor and organized crime. Authorities conducted or funded awareness training for taxi, hotel, and restaurant staff to detect trafficking at their places of work. The government proposed making the purchase of sexual services abroad a crime to reduce the demand for commercial sex, and the new strategy to address violence against women included measures aimed at demand reduction. Sweden’s law prohibiting child sexual offenses had extraterritorial reach, allowing the prosecution of suspected child sex tourists for crimes committed abroad. The government provided anti-trafficking training to troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions.

As reported over the past five years, Sweden is a destination and, to a lesser extent, source and transit country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking, and a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, including forced begging and stealing. Sex trafficking victims largely originate from Eastern Europe, Africa, East Asia, and the Middle East, though Swedish women and girls are vulnerable to sex trafficking within the country. Reported cases of labor trafficking and forced begging are increasing. Victims of labor trafficking, who largely originate from Eastern Europe, West Africa, and East Asia, face exploitation in service, cleaning, and construction; cases among seasonal berry pickers have decreased significantly in recent years. Roma, primarily from Romania and Bulgaria, are vulnerable to forced begging and criminality and, to a lesser extent, sex trafficking. Most traffickers are the same nationality as their victims and are often part of criminal networks engaged in multiple criminal activities, although an increasing number of reported cases involve traffickers who are family members or have no ties to organized crime. The approximately 26,000 migrants, who applied for asylum in 2017, primarily from Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Morocco, and Cuba, as well as a many stateless individuals, are vulnerable to human trafficking. Unaccompanied children are especially vulnerable; a 2015 study found more than half of suspected child trafficking victims identified since 2012 arrived in Sweden as unaccompanied minors, primarily from Africa and Eastern Europe. More than 1,336 unaccompanied foreign children applied for asylum in Sweden in 2017. Street children in Sweden, especially boys from Morocco, are vulnerable to child sex trafficking and forced criminality. Approximately 4,000 and 5,000 Swedes commit child sex tourism offenses abroad annually, primarily in Asia.

U.S. Department of State

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