The Government of Denmark 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 Denmark remained on Tier 2. These efforts included investigating and prosecuting more trafficking cases, entering into an international cooperative law enforcement agreement, and allocating funds to develop outreach work among workers vulnerable to forced labor. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Courts did not convict any traffickers, the lowest number of convictions since 2003. Authorities identified and assisted fewer trafficking victims. Furthermore, lack of incentives for victims to cooperate in investigations, such as residence permits, and the de facto preference to repatriate inhibited successful prosecutions and left victims vulnerable to re-trafficking and reluctant to come forward and work with police.

Vigorously increase efforts to prosecute and sentence convicted traffickers to significant prison terms.Proactively identify potential trafficking victims and provide them with government-sponsored assistance.Increase incentives for all victims to cooperate in the prosecution of traffickers, including by granting temporary residency for victims while they assist law enforcement.Investigate and prosecute trafficking cases under the trafficking statute.Expand efforts to streamline victim identification procedures, including by expeditiously transferring potential trafficking victims from police or immigration custody to crisis centers or care providers to facilitate trust among this vulnerable group.Re-establish the anti-trafficking unit within the Copenhagen Police.Allow victims receiving assistance to seek employment or temporary work.

The government increased law enforcement efforts. Section 262(a) of the criminal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed punishments of up to eight years’ imprisonment; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, authorities investigated six trafficking cases, an increase from one in 2018 and four in 2017. Officials prosecuted four trafficking suspects, compared with three in 2018 and two in 2017. Courts did not convict any traffickers in 2019, the lowest statistic for convictions since 2003 (one in 2018, nine in 2017). The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses.

Experts reported authorities prosecuted limited trafficking cases because of the lack of incentives for victims to cooperate in investigations. Additionally, experts acknowledged that since 2016, the government reassigned a large number of police units to counterterrorism, gang violence, and border security duties, shifting police attention and time away from trafficking and limiting the number of officers available to conduct investigations. Furthermore, the police’s anti-trafficking unit remained part of the homicide division, as one of its many responsibilities, and police were more likely to investigate and charge suspected traffickers for crimes other than trafficking, such as pimping. Approximately 18 million kroner ($2.7 million) was available to the police to investigate and combat trafficking, though they did not report using the resources. The government’s Center against Human Trafficking (CMM) provided police with instructions on trafficking at the police academy and additional training for police who became investigators. CMM also provided guidelines to defense lawyers representing trafficking victims. The government entered into a cooperative law enforcement agreement with Eurojust to ensure cooperation in cross-border investigations and prosecutions and subsequently opened an office with a permanent representative in The Hague.

The government decreased protection efforts. Authorities identified 64 trafficking victims (38 sex trafficking, 17 labor trafficking, five forced criminality, four unknown) in 2019, the lowest number of victims identified since 2011 and a decrease from 97 in 2018 and 98 in 2017. Of these victims, 22 were male, 41 were female, and one identified as transgender. Six of the identified victims were minors (10 in 2018, three in 2017). There were no Danish victims identified. Experts noted the trend toward online advertisement of prostitution made identifying sex trafficking victims more difficult. The government provided a list of indicators for authorities to reference for initial identification and procedures to guide officials in proactive victim identification. According to NGOs, government guidelines for identifying victims were convoluted and involved them too late in the process. Guidelines for identifying victims required the involvement of multiple government and law enforcement agencies, requiring several interviews of victims who at times remained in detention before referral to NGOs. Guidelines required police to call CMM if a suspected victim was in custody. CMM was responsible for formal identification of victims of Danish or EU origin or who were documented migrants, and immigration services were responsible for formal identification of undocumented migrant victims following an initial CMM interview. Officials had the authority to detain potential victims for 72 hours and could extend this period when they needed more time to determine victim status or immigration status, or to identify traffickers. NGOs contended authorities primarily treated victims as undocumented immigrants subject to deportation, especially if victims were previously detained by law enforcement.

Government-operated and government-funded NGO facilities provided trafficking victims medical and psychological care; shelter; and financial, legal, and reintegration assistance, regardless of gender, disability, origin, or immigration status. Although these trafficking-specific services existed, authorities sometimes housed victims with asylum-seekers and refugees. In 2019, 63 victims accepted support and entered care facilities (89 in 2018). Victims receiving assistance, who did not have legal residency, could not seek employment but they could apply for compensation through a state fund and through civil suits against their traffickers. The Danish Red Cross assisted unaccompanied children and child victims in another facility partially funded by the government and screened all unaccompanied minors in asylum centers for trafficking indicators. Observers continued to express concern over unaccompanied minors, particularly Moroccan boys living in asylum centers, being forced into sex trafficking, forced labor, and petty criminality.

In 2019, parliament amended the Aliens Act, allowing the government to grant residence permits to refugees and family members, including trafficking victims, for temporary stay only, and to revoke residence permits if the need for protection no longer existed, unless it contradicted Denmark’s international obligations as it relates to refugees who risk persecution if returned to their home country. The government did not report granting residence permits to victims in 2019. If undocumented victims assisted in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers, the government provided a 30-day extended departure deadline (with extension up to 120 days) as part of its return program for trafficking victims required to leave Denmark. Regional anti-trafficking experts, including the Council of Europe, emphasized this period did not refer to a period of reflection and recovery necessary to determine whether victims would cooperate in the investigation of their cases; rather it was a period of time the victims had to cooperate in their repatriation. The government provided those who accepted the return with up to six months temporary residency and training to prevent re-trafficking. Some victims chose not to participate in the program, reportedly because it was merely a preparation for deportation. Additionally, traffickers’ debt-based coercion and victims’ lack of protection in their home countries served as significant deterrents from accepting the return. Authorities deported undocumented victims who did not accept a return unless they were assisting in the prosecution of a trafficker. NGOs reported the threat of deportation prevented victims from coming forward and led some identified victims to leave shelters before the conclusion of police investigations or court proceedings in order to evade deportation.

The government maintained prevention efforts. Government officials implemented the 2019-2021 national action plan. In addition to the 9.4 million kroner ($1.4 million) allocated in 2016 to counter-trafficking efforts through 2020, the government allocated 63 million kroner ($9.5 million) to trafficking programs for the new action plan. During the reporting period, CMM conducted awareness campaigns addressing forced labor, including outreach to at-risk businesses, such as massage parlors. The government continued to fund a Danish Red Cross project aimed at identifying and supporting unaccompanied minors in the asylum system who are potential victims of trafficking. The Department for Gender Equality allocated 3.9 million kroner ($586,290) for a 2016-2019 Danish trade union project, focusing on developing outreach work among workers vulnerable to forced labor. A Danish trade union released a report in December that found hundreds of cooks from China exploited at sushi and Chinese restaurants across Denmark under conditions that authorities suspected to be systematic human trafficking. CMM published guidelines on preventing forced labor in businesses and supply chains. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel. CMM operated a hotline for reporting trafficking cases in Danish and English; in 2019, the hotline received 316 calls, compared with 277 calls in 2018.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Denmark and, to a lesser extent, traffickers exploit victims from Denmark abroad. Traffickers exploit men, women, and children from Eastern Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America in forced labor and sex trafficking in Denmark. Traffickers exploit migrants in labor trafficking, specifically trucking, construction, agriculture, domestic service, restaurants, hotels, and factories through debt-based coercion, withheld wages, abuse, and threats of deportation. Traffickers exploit unaccompanied migrant children, particularly Moroccan boys, in sex trafficking and forced labor, including drug trafficking, theft, and other forms of forced criminality. NGOs report a trend toward prostitution advertised online rather than on the street.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future