The government maintained victim protection efforts. The MOJ identified seven suspected trafficking victims (five sex trafficking, two labor trafficking), compared with nine in 2018. Government-funded civil society organizations did not identify any potential trafficking victims, compared with nine in 2018 and seven in 2017. However, labor unions and the Red Cross suspected incidents of trafficking, but neither maintained a registry with statistics on trafficking victims. As in previous years, since the government lacked countrywide statistical information on trafficking and anecdotal reports of potential victims varied depending on the source, obtaining data was problematic. The Ministry of Welfare (MOW) reported that no potential male trafficking victims requested assistance, and the women’s shelter assisted one potential victim, compared with 25 and none in 2018 and two and four in 2017. The National Police Commissioner issued updated detailed procedures for police to use to identify, contact, and work with possible trafficking victims. As part of the national action plan (NAP), the government, in conjunction with NGOs, continued to develop a national referral mechanism (NRM), including cost assessments, roles, and responsibilities of stakeholders, with the goal to implement it in 2020. 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 would benefit from a more structured approach on where to refer victims, as implementation was largely ad hoc. 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.
The government allocated 79 million krona ($654,190) to an NGO offering psychological services to individuals in prostitution and trafficking victims, compared with 78 million krona ($645,910) in 2018. The government, in collaboration with several NGOs, maintained a center, Bjarkarhlíð, offering free comprehensive services to abuse victims, including trafficking victims, and allocated 70 million krona ($579,660) in 2019, a significant increase compared with 50 million krona ($414,040) in 2018. During the reporting period, the government adopted an action plan on preventing violence and its consequences, which included action items to combat trafficking and provide services for victims accompanied by six million krona ($49,690) in funding. The action plan also earmarked three million krona ($24,840) for coordinated welfare services, specifically for victims, and designated Bjarkarhlíð as the official provider of safe housing, counseling, health care, and financial support. Lastly, the action plan called for the creation of standardized guidance for all anti-trafficking service providers, as well as allocated 10 million krona ($82,810) in 2019 and 15 million krona ($124,210) annually until 2023 to ensure the implementation of all action items no later than 2022. Additionally, the government continued to fund an NGO-run domestic abuse shelter providing emergency shelter to female trafficking victims and their children; the government allocated 94 million krona ($778,400) to the shelter, an increase compared with 77.4 million krona ($640,940) for 2018. As part of its Coronavirus-stimulus package, in March 2020, the government donated 100 million krona ($828,090) to expedite construction of the shelter. 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 and national child protection services were responsible for assisting unaccompanied children, including child trafficking victims. Observers noted shortcomings in the assistance process for unaccompanied minors, noting that the Directorate of Immigration placed such children in an unsupervised reception center with no child protection staff and only one security guard. There were no accommodations available for male victims, though they could access general municipal social services and receive referrals to NGOs providing food, shelter, legal advice, and health care. Municipal social service agencies provided services and financial assistance to trafficking victims, and the MOW reimbursed the municipalities for all associated expenses. 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 issued one nine-month temporary residence permit in 2019, compared with none in 2018 or 2017. Despite the directorates of immigration and labor developing formal procedures for identifying potential trafficking victims when processing applications for residence and work permits, observers suspected possible trafficking victims were at times subject to deportation without full screening for trafficking indicators, especially Nigerian and Ghanaian women exploited abroad who applied for asylum in Iceland. Observers also raised concerns that immigration policies prioritized following deportation procedures over identification. In 2019, the Directorate of Immigration appointed a team to develop enhanced registration guidelines, reporting mechanisms, and data collection on trafficking information within its agency.