The Government of Norway 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 with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Norway remained on Tier 2. These efforts included prosecuting and convicting significantly more traffickers and ordering traffickers to pay victim compensation. Additionally, the government passed a new law to allow for more accountability and transparency among medium- to large-sized companies operating in Norway, requiring those companies to conduct due diligence assessments for human rights issues and labor conditions in their supply chains. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. For the fifth consecutive year, the government did not report an official number of identified and assisted victims and continued to delay development of formal identification procedures, a national referral mechanism (NRM), and a comprehensive statistical system for collecting data. The government continued to focus on the undocumented status of some foreign nationals rather than screen them for trafficking indicators, subsequently some victims were penalized for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit rather than identified as victims and given care. Authorities did not consistently identify potential child trafficking victims. Moreover, when authorities investigated and prosecuted a trafficking crime as another crime, victims were unable to access assistance granted to trafficking victims under Norwegian law, leaving them susceptible to re-victimization. Authorities investigated fewer trafficking cases and continued to charge traffickers under non-trafficking statutes.
Report annual data on the number of victims identified and assisted by the government.
Establish an NRM and victim identification procedures that receive adequate input from NGOs, define processes and roles of all relevant government agencies and front-line actors, and train those actors to ensure uniform implementation across the country.
Enhance efforts to proactively identify and assist trafficking victims, particularly children, by training relevant workers on procedures for identifying child victims and recognizing indicators.
Ensure all trafficking victims receive access to assistance regardless of whether authorities investigate and prosecute a trafficking crime as another crime.
Increase efforts to investigate trafficking cases under the trafficking statute and prosecute and convict suspected traffickers.
Screen all foreign nationals and asylum-seekers for indicators of trafficking and stay deportation of potential victims prior to screening.
Develop and implement a reliable comprehensive statistical system for collecting and collating data, including on child trafficking, victim identification and assistance, and investigations, prosecutions, and convictions.
Enhance training for investigating cases and collecting evidence against suspected traffickers.
Improve efforts to understand the demand for forced labor and identify victims of labor trafficking and refer them to assistance.
Increase training for investigators, prosecutors, and judges on applying trafficking laws and understanding different aspects of trafficking.
The government increased law enforcement efforts. Sections 257 and 258 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to six years’ imprisonment for crimes involving adult victims and up to 10 years’ imprisonment for those involving child victims. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. Police investigated 29 trafficking cases (14 sex trafficking, 10 labor trafficking, five unspecified), compared with 38 in 2020. Authorities prosecuted six alleged traffickers, an increase from zero in 2020. Courts convicted 12 traffickers (five for sex trafficking, seven for labor trafficking), a significant increase from one conviction in 2020. Sentences ranged from one year imprisonment to eight years’ imprisonment and a fine. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes. The Norwegian government regularly collaborated with other European governments at national and local levels to pursue investigations and prosecutions of alleged traffickers. On one joint investigation team, authorities from Norway and Romania cooperated on a sex trafficking case involving Romanian women forced into commercial sex in Norway. Authorities of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden facilitated international policing efforts and information-sharing, including on trafficking-related issues, through Nordic liaison officers stationed at 20 Nordic embassies and consulates around the world.
During the reporting period, all 12 police districts maintained anti-trafficking units. According to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), the anti-trafficking units were vulnerable to temporary staffing gaps when districts reallocated personnel to address other priorities, such as narcotics. The MOJ noted the siloed organization of the police force was problematic in addressing trafficking because investigators in districts did not always use the same criteria to identify trafficking cases. In addition, experts reported that limited investigative capacity and knowledge of trafficking in some districts and staffing changes among police negatively impacted cooperation. The Oslo Public Prosecutors’ Office reported police investigated and referred fewer trafficking cases to prosecutors in 2021. Although officials noted an overall better understanding of forced labor, particularly forced criminality, they highlighted the need to increase efforts to investigate and prosecute forced labor cases. Most forced labor cases resulted in prosecutions on lesser charges of social dumping—whereby workers were given unacceptably low wages or unreasonable working conditions, such as long hours or inadequate living quarters, that are sub-standard compared to the law—because the burden of proof was difficult and officials did not have a good understanding of forced labor. As in previous years, investigators and prosecutors continued to charge traffickers with non-trafficking crimes, such as narcotics and “pimping,” which subsequently barred victims from access to specific rights and weakened deterrence, did not adequately reflect the nature of the crime, and undercut broader efforts to fight trafficking. Officials noted charging traffickers as such when it was difficult to meet the burden of proof for a trafficking charge under the law, citing cases of online exploitation as particularly difficult to prosecute because traffickers hid traces of their crime via anonymous servers and other technological defenses. Experts attributed charging traffickers with non-trafficking crimes to authorities’ lack of expertise, knowledge, and evidence collection and assessed more systematic training could enhance competence among investigators and prosecutors. Experts also recommended increased training for prosecutors and judges on understanding trafficking, including the different types. The National Criminal Investigation Service maintained a national police group of experts aimed at increasing the understanding and knowledge about trafficking within the Norwegian Police Authority. The group’s responsibilities included knowledge-sharing between police and prosecutors, development of working methods and anti-trafficking efforts, and advancing cooperation with relevant stakeholders. The Coordination Unit for Victims of Trafficking (KOM), which coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, organized several seminars for various stakeholders from national and municipal levels, as well as civil society and academia, on detecting trafficking, ensuring victims’ rights, and strengthening coordination.
The government minimally maintained protection efforts. In 2021, the government continued to delay development of a comprehensive countrywide statistical system on trafficking, including victim identification and assistance data, which originally commenced in 2017. Since then, KOM and the MOJ have decided to withhold the number of identified and assisted victims until after a more formal and reliable system is in place. Subsequently, for the fifth consecutive year, the government did not report an official number of victims identified or assisted but noted identifying one potential child trafficking victim (the last reported official statistic was 262 victims identified and assisted in 2016). NGOs reported identifying 82 potential adult victims in 2021; the majority were foreign nationals. Although the government had neither an NRM nor formal identification procedures, authorities utilized informal guidelines to identify and refer potential victims. Despite these guidelines, authorities and NGOs sometimes operated under different criteria for identification and registered potential victims multiple times, leading to inaccurate and duplicative statistics. The government also implemented pandemic-mitigating restrictions, such as lockdowns and border closures, which reduced its ability to identify and refer potential victims to NGOs and other actors that provided assistance; experts noted this impact underscored the need for an NRM. NGOs reported the pandemic intensified the shift toward online commercial sex and made identifying and assisting sex trafficking victims more difficult. Furthermore, experts noted deficiencies in identifying labor trafficking victims, citing the government’s lack of understanding of the demand in certain sectors for forced labor. Experts raised concerns authorities did not screen for trafficking indicators during investigations, further raising concerns authorities did not implement the non-punishment provision and instead penalized victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. Experts reported police did not always view criminals as potential victims. In 2021, an NGO identified one trafficking victim in prison, whom authorities released as a result of the NGO’s efforts. During the reporting period, the MOJ and KOM continued to develop an NRM and maintained a working group to facilitate the process, which began in 2018. The working group’s initial proposal received wide criticism from various stakeholders expressing concern the proposed NRM would reduce the reflection period for victims from six months to 45 days, which could result in fewer victims assisting authorities in investigations and authorities deporting more victims while they were still recovering from their abuse. In 2021, the working group submitted a new proposal to the MOJ recommending different NRM models for strategic and operational collaboration, highlighting the pros and cons of implementing each model, and identifying areas of further assessment.
The government provided victim assistance through municipal crisis centers and government-funded NGOs. These NGOs provided foreign and domestic victims with financial, legal, and medical assistance; shelter; psychological care; and Norwegian language classes. In 2021, NGOs reported assisting 82 victims who received accommodation and follow-up support, such as counseling. Parliament allocated 35 million Norwegian kroner (NOK) ($3.99 million) to NGOs specifically for assistance services, the same amount as in 2020. NGOs reported social distancing regulations due to the pandemic dissuaded victims from seeking assistance, particularly sex trafficking victims, for fear that violating those regulations would result in deportation or imprisonment. Civil society reported that when authorities investigated and prosecuted a trafficking crime as another crime, victims were unable to access assistance granted to trafficking victims under Norwegian law. Oslo’s Labor and Social Affairs Department maintained Human Trafficking Support Oslo to assist and support adult victims, including foreign victims in a reflection period and allocated 3 million NOK ($341,760) in 2021, compared with 4 million NOK ($455,680) in 2020. The Directorate for Children, Youth, and Family Affairs maintained a coordinating unit for service and assistance to child trafficking victims. The unit worked to improve procedures to identify child victims, provide training and capacity building activities, and support coordination between government authorities. Child Welfare Service was responsible for providing child trafficking victims with assistance; in 2021, it assisted one child victim, compared with zero in 2020. Authorities placed identified child victims in state-run institutions, such as orphanages, or foster care for up to six months. According to officials, authorities did not consistently identify child victims and maintain statistics. An NGO expressed concern statistics did not accurately reflect the number of child trafficking victims. To assist with the identification and investigation of trafficking cases involving children, the government maintained procedures for cooperation among police, immigration authorities, and child welfare authorities. An NGO that provided assistance to individuals in commercial sex ran a program offering training and work experience to trafficking victims through internships.
Victims under a reflection period received legal assistance, health care services, shelter, and other necessary support. In 2021, authorities granted a six-month reflection period to eight victims and limited residence permits of up to 12 months to eight victims, compared with 16 and three in 2020. Authorities granted two possible victims residence permits due to compelling humanitarian considerations (six in 2020) and one permit based on protection status. Observers raised concerns police focused more on an individual’s lack of residence permit or immigration documentation than screening them for trafficking indicators, resulting in the deportation of potential victims. Despite the Directorate of Immigration maintaining written guidelines for the identification and referral of potential victims, a 2021 inspection report criticized authorities for failing to screen immigrants during deportation proceedings and for deporting potential witnesses of trafficking crimes. A public prosecutor also criticized the police for showing more concern with fulfilling deportation quotas than investigating trafficking cases. Furthermore, the continued pandemic-related closure of the Storskog border crossing with Russia in 2021 to anyone seeking protection prevented the screening of trafficking victims along the northern border. The border crossing closed again in 2022 in line with sanctions responding to Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine. Sixteen centers provided victims participating in criminal proceedings with guidance and support, including legal advice and assistance applying for compensation. The law entitled trafficking victims to financial compensation from traffickers. In 2021, traffickers paid five victims compensation, totaling 446,000 NOK ($50,810). The law allowed trafficking victims from countries within the European Economic Area (EEA) candidacy for full financial reintegration support to their country of origin. However, NGOs expressed concern that ineligibility for financial support to victims from outside the EEA, such as asylum-seekers who received rejected asylum applications, exposed them to the risk of re-victimization.
The government increased prevention efforts. During the reporting period, the government continued to implement measures from the national action plan. Various government agencies and ministries responsible for implementation provided financial resources toward the plan’s activities but did not report the amount of funding allocated in 2021. KOM published an annual report providing an overview on victim identification, challenges relating to trafficking, and relevant agencies’ anti-trafficking activities. The MOJ, KOM, and UNODC coordinated on a project aimed at more accurately estimating the prevalence of trafficking in Norway; the government contracted an independent social science research foundation to lead the project, which predictably encountered various challenges due to the limited availability of statistics. The foundation projected publishing a report in 2022 documenting challenges and providing recommendations on how to obtain more reliable trafficking statistics. The MOJ funded information campaigns run by youth organizations totaling 700,000 NOK ($79,740), including one campaign targeting 13-26 year-old children and young adults on the correlation between consumption and human trafficking, as well as exploitation into sex trafficking. An NGO managed a 24-hour hotline for potential trafficking victims, available in Norwegian, English, Spanish, Arabic, and Thai. The government allocated 1.6 million NOK ($182,270) for the hotline, a decrease from 3 million NOK ($341,760) in 2020. In collaboration with other Baltic Sea Region countries, the government participated in a project establishing long-term cooperation between stakeholders and academia to educate future journalists on trafficking issues through workshops, panel discussions, and competitions. In response to an inflow of Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and arriving in Norway, the government headed a regional anti-trafficking task force through its presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States, with a special focus on preventing Ukrainian citizens from being exploited and developing partnerships between governments and local organizations to identify trafficking risks in local communities. During the reporting period, the government launched a new strategy to combat modern slavery, including trafficking, focused on leveraging development assistance globally. Some international projects led by Norway included decreasing the scale of prevalence, especially forced labor in the agriculture sector, with a focus on women and children in Ghana and eradicating child labor in Uganda. Norway also provided core support to Alliance 8.7 and maintained anti-trafficking grants, totaling approximately between 96.6 million and 131.7 million NOK ($11 million-$15 million). The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.
To allow for more accountability and transparency among medium- to large-sized companies operating in Norway, Parliament passed a new Transparency Act in 2021. The act required companies that produce goods and services domestically and abroad to conduct due diligence assessments for human rights issues and labor conditions in their supply chains and ensure the public had access to information on how those companies handled adverse impacts on human rights and decent working conditions. The government continued to implement its strategy against work-related crime, including labor trafficking, by regularly conducting workplace inspections, especially at construction sites and car washes, which were known to be frequently noncompliant with the law. According to authorities, inspections have led to detecting forced labor cases in the past. The government raised awareness of Norwegian laws and regulations related to labor violations, including by hosting a seminar for the national police group of experts that focused on forced labor issues. Norwegian law prohibited recruitment agencies from charging fees to job seekers for placement services and required the labor inspectorate to monitor agencies for compliance. The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) contributed 31.6 million NOK ($3.6 million) in 2021 to the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery to combat trafficking, with a particular focus in Bangladesh and India on securing trafficking-free supply chains in selected industries and preventing trafficking in connection with migration. Additionally, NORAD granted funding agreements worth 190 million NOK ($21.65 million) for its Development Program to End Modern Slavery, which sought to reduce the prevalence and scope of trafficking in selected partner countries and sectors and to cooperate with multilateral and civil society organizations. Separately, NORAD pledged 190 million NOK ($21.65 million) for a three-year project (2020-2023) targeting countries in the Sub-Saharan region of Africa, with a focus on forced labor and child labor. The government also participated in a regional project to support stakeholders in combating and disrupting labor trafficking by analyzing and consolidating information, improving assistance to victims, and increasing prosecution of traffickers.
As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Norway, and to a lesser extent, traffickers exploit victims from Norway abroad. As a result of the pandemic, traffickers increasingly shifted recruitment methods from in-person to online settings, mainly through social media. Trafficking victims identified in Norway primarily originate from Eastern and Southern European countries, such as Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine, with the vast majority being adult women, often in their 30s with some intellectual disabilities, exploited in sex trafficking. Additional reports indicate an increase in victims from Thailand who come to Norway to reunite with their Norwegian spouses, and once in the country, traffickers exploit them in labor or commercial sex. Police report foreign organized networks exploit third-country national women, who stay in Norway for short periods of time before they are transported to other European countries, in commercial sex. Traffickers exploit women and girls in sex trafficking in massage parlors and men and women in labor trafficking, specifically in domestic service, as well as in restaurants, grocery stores, car repair shops, and the construction, fishing, and transportation industries. Traffickers subject children to forced criminal activities and other forms of forced labor, including illegal employment in car washes and private housekeeping. In recent years, authorities and civil society representatives report an increase in labor trafficking cases. In all known labor trafficking cases, potential victims are foreign workers whose traffickers are either their employers or other employees who act as facilitators. Traffickers are typically the same ethnic background as their victims. Foreign nationals and Ukrainian refugees, predominantly women and children, who are fleeing Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and seeking sanctuary in Norway, are highly vulnerable to trafficking.