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The Government of Iceland does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Iceland remained on Tier 2. These efforts included amending legislation to allow potential trafficking victims who were granted residence permits on the grounds of trafficking to obtain work permits; adopting a national action plan (NAP); allocating additional funds to NGOs for victim assistance; and assisting more potential victims. 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 eighth consecutive year, and insufficient evidence collection during investigations inhibited successful prosecutions.


Significantly increase efforts to prosecute and convict suspected traffickers. • Enhance training for investigating cases and collecting evidence against suspected traffickers. • Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking cases under the trafficking statute. • Proactively identify trafficking victims and refer them to care facilities for assistance. • Develop and implement formal victim identification and referral procedures, which clarify division of labor among stakeholders. • Develop a comprehensive data system collecting statistics on victim identification and assistance and investigations, prosecutions, and convictions. • Implement the NAP and allocate adequate funding for implementation. • Increase training for police, prosecutors, judges, and other officials on all aspects of trafficking, particularly on proactive identification of victims among migrant workers, asylum-seekers, and unaccompanied children. • Institutionalize regular meetings of the national steering group to improve interagency anti-trafficking coordination. • Conduct awareness raising campaigns targeting particularly vulnerable populations and industries.


The government maintained weak law enforcement efforts. Article 227a of the criminal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 12 years’ imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Overextended government personnel, limited political attention and resources, and the failure to prioritize trafficking slowed progress and coordination. Law enforcement reported 15 investigations, compared with 20 in 2017 and 16 in 2016. The government did not report prosecuting or convicting any trafficking cases since 2010. Prosecutors reported investigating cases sufficiently and collecting adequate evidence remained a problem; consequently, all cases recommended to the prosecutor’s office resulted in suspended investigations or no prosecutions. Furthermore, experts noted authorities prosecuted cases under non-trafficking laws, such as smuggling. Experts also underscored the need for consistently educating prosecutors and judges on all aspects of trafficking. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses. Icelandic and German authorities cooperated on a trafficking case, which remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period.

Although limited human resources hindered law enforcement effectiveness, police maintained a special investigative unit dedicated to combating trafficking and prostitution and a special email address for tips or inquiries about possible trafficking cases. In 2018, the police formed a cyber-crime unit to support the trafficking unit by monitoring the internet for trafficking activity. Additionally, the police district responsible for border control at the international airport operated a unit specializing in major crime and trafficking investigations. During the reporting period, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) allocated 370 million krona ($3.2 million) for police investigations and an additional 37 million krona ($318,660) for special projects in 2018. 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 police conducted a course for officers, investigators, and prosecutors, focusing on detecting and apprehending persons who buy sexual services, with a focus on sex trafficking. The police also held a three-day training session with Swedish law enforcement experts on investigating prostitution and trafficking cases. The government sponsored participation of two prosecutors, a judge, and a MOJ specialist at a trafficking conference focused on prosecuting cases and victims’ rights during legal proceedings. The MOJ coordinated a lecture on how to identify and collect evidence to better support trafficking prosecutions; 130 police, investigators, prosecutors, judges, and other government and NGO officials participated. The government broadcasted the lecture to all police districts in Iceland.


The government increased victim protection efforts. Government-funded civil society organizations identified nine potential trafficking victims, compared with seven in 2017. Authorities were unable to confirm the form of trafficking of the potential victims but noted all were foreign nationals. As in previous years, since the government lacked country-wide statistical information on trafficking, anecdotal reports of potential victims varied depending on the source, and double counting likely occurred across organizations, obtaining data was problematic. The Ministry of Welfare (MOW) assisted 25 potential male labor trafficking victims from Ukraine and Romania, and the women’s shelter did not report assisting any potential victims, compared with two and four victims, respectively, in 2017. The national police commissioner maintained detailed procedures for police to use to identify, contact, and work with possible trafficking victims. The government continued to distribute NGO-developed interview guidelines to government employees most likely to encounter trafficking victims. The Directorate of Immigration provided its staff with procedures to identify trafficking victims during the interview process for asylum-seekers. As part of the newly adopted NAP, the government in conjunction with NGOs planned the development of a national referral mechanism (NRM), including cost assessments and roles and responsibilities of stakeholders. Since there was no NRM during the reporting period, police maintained standardized referral procedures that required them to contact welfare services in the municipality and MOW to coordinate victim care and placement. Experts stated these procedures worked effectively in practice but required further guidance on where to refer victims. Furthermore, experts noted while it was generally difficult to build victims’ confidence in and cooperation with authorities, a formal NRM would promote better cooperation between victims and authorities on investigations and, in turn, enhance data collection. In 2018, the Directorate of Labor created procedures on assisting potential victims and maintained a three-member team to respond to suspected trafficking cases and educate government employees on trafficking and identifying possible victims.

The government continued to fund an NGO-run domestic abuse shelter providing emergency shelter to female trafficking victims and their children; the government allocated 77.1 million krona ($664,030) to the shelter, compared with 71 million krona ($611,490) for 2017. The government provided the shelter with an additional 300,000 krona ($2,580) for the provision of services for trafficking victims, compared to 350,000 krona ($3,010) 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. The government allocated 78 million krona ($671,780) to a separate NGO offering psychological services to individuals in prostitution and trafficking victims, compared to 71 million krona ($611,490) in 2017. The government, in collaboration with several NGOs, maintained a center offering free comprehensive services to abuse victims, including trafficking victims, and allocated 50 million krona ($430,630). There were no accommodations 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. The government organized courses for health care employees at clinics across the country on working with victims. Victims could file civil suits against traffickers, but no victims did so during the reporting period. Foreign trafficking victims could obtain either a nine-month residence permit or a one-year renewable residence permit, which was available to victims who cooperated with law enforcement or who faced retribution or hardship in their home countries. The government did not issue any temporary residence permits in 2017 or 2018. The government amended the Act on Foreign Nationals to allow potential victims who received residence permits on the basis of trafficking to obtain work permits for the duration of their residence permits.


The government maintained prevention efforts. For the second consecutive year, the government lacked a NAP but adopted a new plan on the last day of the reporting period in 2019. MOJ led the national steering group, which met sporadically during the reporting period, to coordinate interagency anti-trafficking efforts. The Ministry of Social Affairs appointed a working group to combat social dumping on the domestic labor market, and the group submitted a report to the government with recommendations on assistance and protection for labor trafficking victims. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government did not host any awareness raising events during the reporting period.


As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Iceland, and, to a lesser extent, traffickers exploit victims from Iceland abroad. Traffickers subject women from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and South America to sex trafficking, often in nightclubs and bars. Traffickers subject men and women from the Baltics, Eastern Europe, and Asia to forced labor in the construction, tourism, and restaurant industries. Observers report a growing number of Albanian boys and Roma individuals vulnerable to forced begging. 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 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