The government increased victim protection efforts. The government identified 46 potential trafficking victims, a significant increase from nine potential trafficking victims in 2020. The majority of potential victims were adult foreign nationals; however, authorities identified three potential victims younger than 15 years old. Of the 46 potential victims, authorities confirmed five as trafficking victims; all were female. The Bjarkarhlid Family Justice Center maintained responsibility for the national referral mechanism (NRM) and continued to serve as a “one stop shop” for victims of violence, including trafficking. The government allocated 3 million Icelandic krona (ISK) ($23,080) for the NRM, the same amount as in 2020. Through the NRM, the center coordinated social services and law enforcement involvement, provided victims with assistance, and compiled victim information and case history into a centralized database. Furthermore, the center utilized a standardized questionnaire for victims to better quantify and identify vulnerable groups. In 2021, the center developed a tool with indicators for identifying victims and distributed it in locations where victims received assistance, such as health clinics. The police maintained identification and referral procedures requiring them to contact welfare services in the municipality and the Ministry of Social Affairs to coordinate victim care and placement. The Directorate of Immigration (DOI) provided staff with comprehensive SOPs for screening asylum-seekers for potential trafficking; SOPs also dictated referral paths for and processes applying to potential unaccompanied child trafficking victims. A team of experts referred victims to relevant NGOs or institutions providing short- or long-term care.
Overall, the government maintained a well-managed social welfare system with robust protections. All victims had access to free legal, medical, psychological, and financial assistance, whether or not they stayed at a shelter or cooperated with authorities. In 2021, six trafficking victims received assistance from social services, compared with three victims in 2020. Municipal social service agencies provided services and financial assistance to victims, and the Ministry of Welfare (MOW) reimbursed the municipalities for all associated expenses. In 2021, the government allocated 15 million ISK ($115,400) toward the Bjarkarhlid Center for housing, counseling, health care, and financial assistance. The MOW’s action plan on preventing violence and its consequences, which included action items to combat trafficking and provide services for victims, called for the creation of standardized guidance for all anti- trafficking service providers and allocated 15 million ISK ($115,400) annually until 2023 to ensure the implementation of the guidance, as well as all action items, no later than 2022. Moreover, the government allotted 234 million ISK ($1.8 million) for service agreements with various shelters that provided assistance to victims. The government in partnership with an NGO maintained a women’s shelter in Akureyri, the largest town in northern Iceland. In southern Iceland, the government provided 1.5 million ISK ($11,540) for a new counseling and support center for victims of gender-based violence, including trafficking victims. There were no accommodations available for male victims, although they could access general municipal social services and receive referrals to NGOs providing food, shelter, legal advice, and health care. Under the Child Protection Act, all children dwelling in Iceland had the same right to protection and services from child welfare. 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 children, noting that the DOI placed such children in an unsupervised reception center with no child protection staff, only one security guard, and free access from other residents, putting them at risk to trafficking. Additionally, experts reported there was no formal identification and referral process for child trafficking victims. If authorities came across a case involving a potential child trafficking victim, they contacted local child protection authorities who were responsible for ensuring accommodation and other services. Child trafficking victims received support, including interviews and medical examinations, at Barnahus—a multidisciplinary and interagency center offering child victims, including child trafficking victims, a coordinated and effective response to prevent re-traumatization during investigations and court proceedings. All three child trafficking victims identified received services from the municipality and from Barnahus. Icelandic law allowed foreign trafficking victims to obtain either a nine-month residence permit or a one-year renewable residence permit, which was available to victims who faced retribution or hardship in their home countries or cooperated with law enforcement. Officials noted, in most instances of suspected trafficking, foreign victims opted to leave the country instead of cooperating with investigations. Police took official reports for all victims, except in cases involving children, in which a specialized psychologist took their statements. In accordance with the NRM, victims could receive a state-appointed and state-funded attorney, as well as social workers and psychiatric services. While there was no specific restitution program for trafficking victims, such a program existed for victims of violence and could be applicable for trafficking victims. Under the Icelandic judicial system, if a legal proceeding yielded a conviction, the court could order restitution as part of sentencing.