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. These efforts included establishing a crime unit composed of specialized prosecutors handling all trafficking cases, increasing funding to NGOs for victim services, and prosecuting and convicting more traffickers. Although the government meets the minimum standards, authorities did not proactively identify trafficking victims, identifying significantly fewer victims than in past years, including among asylum-seekers and unaccompanied children. Judges lacked a sufficient understanding of all aspects of trafficking, including the application of anti-trafficking laws.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS

Increase efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims, including among asylum-seekers and unaccompanied children. • Vigorously prosecute and convict traffickers using the anti-trafficking statute. • Train officials involved in judicial proceedings, particularly judges, on all aspects of trafficking and the application of the anti-trafficking law. • Increase awareness efforts to educate asylum-seekers and unaccompanied children on the risks of labor trafficking, forced criminality, and forced begging. • Identify and vigorously prosecute Swedish child sex tourism offenders. • Establish specialized housing for trafficking victims, including for male victims.

PROSECUTION

The government increased law enforcement efforts. Chapter 4 Section 1a of the Penal Code criminalized sex trafficking 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. Through a 2018 amendment to the penal code, Chapter 4 Section 1b criminalized a lesser offense of “human exploitation,” which included the exploitation of individuals for labor or begging, and prescribed penalties of up to four years’ imprisonment; these penalties were also sufficiently stringent. In 2018, police investigated 214 trafficking cases (93 sex trafficking, 65 labor trafficking, 56 unconfirmed), compared with 212 cases in 2017. Of the cases in 2018, 14 sex trafficking cases involved children and 40 of the labor trafficking cases were forced begging. Authorities prosecuted 17 traffickers (14 for forced begging) and convicted 15 (12 for forced begging), compared with six prosecutions and five convictions in 2017. Sentences ranged from one year and six months to five years and six months’ imprisonment. 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.

According to the national anti-trafficking coordinator and national rapporteur, a reorganization of the National Police and shift in focus away from trafficking crimes hindered law enforcement anti-trafficking efforts and effectiveness; consequently, the government issued a directive that compels the National Police to improve its anti-trafficking capabilities, including through reorganization and assigning personnel duties within the force. The police appointed regional trafficking coordinators in each of the seven police regions to manage anti-trafficking efforts and serve as a resource for professionals handling trafficking cases. A new statute entered into force requiring the public prosecutor’s office to manage trafficking cases through the newly formed international and organized crime unit, comprising specialized prosecutors with relevant experience. The prosecutor’s office produced a checklist for prosecutors working potential trafficking cases, providing guidance on how to identify and handle cases. The national courts offered training for judges and lawyers that included sections on sex trafficking and child victims; however, experts reported some judges lacked a sufficient understanding of trafficking and did not apply current law in trafficking cases, impacting rulings. The national rapporteur conducted training for police and judges. The Swedish Coast Guard, police, and customs officials participated in joint regional intelligence operations in trafficking cases involving travel by sea.

PROTECTION

The government maintained victim protection efforts. Authorities identified 213 victims (92 sex trafficking, 65 labor trafficking, and 56 unidentified) in 2018, compared with 212 victims in 2017 (82 sex trafficking and 130 labor trafficking). Sixty of these new victims were children. The migration agency’s anti-trafficking coordinator identified 384 suspected trafficking victims among asylum-seekers in 2018 (44 were children), a 14 percent decrease from 2017. Reports indicated tightened migration policy curbed the inflow of asylum-seekers, allowing authorities more time to process and screen applicants for trafficking indicators. Nonetheless, the number of migrants and unaccompanied children seeking asylum remained high (approximately 944), and experts expressed concerns that many unaccompanied children were either at risk or victims of trafficking, particularly for sexual exploitation and forced criminality. Additionally, experts noted shortcomings in the proactive identification of unaccompanied children and expressed concern that the number of reported cases misrepresented the real scale of child trafficking in Sweden.

Municipalities, in collaboration with NGOs and other government agencies, provided victim services, including medical and psychological care, shelter, and social assistance. In 2018, the government allocated 800,000 krona ($89,510) to a civil society platform representing 20 NGOs that provided care to victims, whereas the government did not allocate funding in 2017 and allocated 500,000 krona ($55,940) in 2016. Although the country lacked shelters dedicated solely to trafficking victims, some municipalities ran shelters offering services to sex 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. Authorities referred child victims to social services officials, who placed child victims in foster care or group housing. There was no protected housing available to male trafficking victims.

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 in trafficking cases who cooperated with authorities received temporary residence permits, which allowed them to seek employment. Fifty-four trafficking victims received permits in 2018 (13 in 2017). 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 2017 or 2018.

PREVENTION

The government increased prevention efforts. The government adopted a national action plan for 2018, focusing on combating, preventing, and improving the detection of human trafficking. The National Police issued a report outlining police efforts, best practices, ongoing initiatives, and interagency collaborations. 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. The government coordinated a conference for the Nordic countries to share experiences and discuss common challenges in combating trafficking, including the legal process from identifying and supporting victims to delivering court decisions. The government organized awareness campaigns focusing on safe travel and conducted or funded awareness training for taxi, hotel, and restaurant staff to detect trafficking at their places of work. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. 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. Multiple agencies carried out joint workplace inspections as part of a major EU effort against unfair labor exploitation.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Sweden, and traffickers exploit victims from Sweden abroad. 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. Most sex trafficking and labor trafficking victims originate from Eastern Europe, Africa, East Asia, and the Middle East. Reported cases of labor trafficking and forced begging are increasing. Victims of labor trafficking, who largely originate from Eastern Europe, East Asia, and West Africa, face exploitation in the service, cleaning, and construction industries; cases among seasonal berry pickers have decreased significantly in recent years. Roma, primarily from Romania and Bulgaria, are subjected to forced begging and criminality and, to a lesser extent, sex trafficking. Asylum-seekers, particularly those from Nigeria, Vietnam, Morocco, Turkey, and Pakistan, as well as many stateless individuals, are subjected to human trafficking. Unaccompanied children are especially vulnerable; reports indicate a majority of suspected child trafficking victims arrived in Sweden as unaccompanied minors, primarily from Africa and the Middle East. Approximately 944 unaccompanied foreign children applied for asylum in Sweden in 2018. Approximately 4,000 to 5,000 Swedes commit child sex tourism offenses abroad annually, primarily in East Asia.

2019 Trafficking in Persons Report: Sweden
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