The government slightly increased victim protection efforts. The government identified seven trafficking victims (one labor trafficking and six unspecified forms of trafficking), compared with five in 2021. All victims were foreign nationals; three were children. The Bjarkarhlid Family Justice Center maintained responsibility for the NRM and continued to serve as a “one stop shop” for victims of violence, including trafficking. The government allocated 35 million ($247,160) toward Bjarkarhlid for the NRM, a significant increase from 18 million ISK ($127,110) in 2021. 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. The center also distributed guidelines for identifying victims 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 2022, 12 trafficking victims received assistance from social services, compared with six victims in 2021. Municipal social service agencies provided services and financial assistance to victims, and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MOSL) reimbursed the municipalities for all associated expenses. The MOSL’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 ($105,900) annually until 2023 to ensure the implementation of the guidance as well as all action items. Moreover, the government allotted 292 million ISK ($2.06 million) for service agreements with various shelters that provided assistance to victims, a significant increase from 234 million ISK ($1.65 million) in 2021. The government in partnership with an NGO maintained two shelters in Akureyri and Reykjavik for women and children; the shelters provided free counseling services for women. In southern Iceland, the government maintained a counseling and support center for victims of GBV, including trafficking victims. Male victims 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. Pursuant to the NAP, child protection authorities prepared and provided guidelines for identifying potential child trafficking victims for professionals working with children. In addition, an MOJ-led task force and the National Agency for Children and Families produced information on identifying trafficking indicators among children. 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 a coordinated, child-sensitive approach to preventing re-traumatization during investigations and court proceedings. All three child trafficking victims identified received services from the municipality and from Barnahus.
Icelandic law allowed victims to receive support services, regardless of their participation in investigations and prosecutions, and 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. In 2022, the government amended the law permitting compensation claims at the appeal stage of court proceedings despite acquittals of convicted criminals, including traffickers; ensuring legal aid at every stage of court proceedings, including if a case, such as a trafficking case, returns to the courts as a civil case; and providing better information disclosure on a case’s progress and access to documentation by the victim’s legal representative. In 2022, authorities reported incarcerating a potential trafficking victim for transporting illegal drugs as a direct result of being trafficked; as of the end of the reporting period, the investigation remained ongoing.