The government increased protection efforts. In 2022, the government identified 57 adult trafficking victims, marking the first time in five years the government reported an official number of identified victims; the last reported official statistic was 262 victims identified and assisted in 2016. The vast majority of identified victims in 2022 were foreign national women. The government also reported identifying two child trafficking victims (one in 2021). The government continued to develop a comprehensive countrywide statistical system on trafficking, including victim identification and assistance data, which originally commenced in 2017 along with efforts to establish an NRM. Although the government did not have an NRM, authorities utilized guidelines to identify and refer potential victims. The guidelines required government employees to refer potential trafficking victims to the appropriate authorities and assistance programs; NGOs also used the guidelines. The government was responsible for training all relevant personnel. 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. Experts recommended developing and implementing an NRM to strengthen identification and data collection. However, according to experts, developing an NRM was not considered a government priority since authorities viewed the current system as working well. Nonetheless, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and KOM continued developing an NRM and maintained a working group to facilitate the process. Over the past six years, the working group assessed and proposed different NRM models, but stakeholders did not approve any of the proposals because they could not come to a consensus. One NGO reported stakeholders had different agendas when it came to content and outcomes, and some feared losing their position as an NRM would assign actors specific roles. While NGOs acknowledged an NRM would clarify roles and procedures, they were concerned it would make the parameters for identifying victims too narrow.
The government provided victim assistance through municipal crisis centers and government-funded NGOs. These NGOs provided foreign and domestic victims with shelter, legal aid, stipends for food, psychological care, medical assistance, and Norwegian language classes. Under the law, victims were unable to access assistance granted to trafficking victims when authorities investigated and prosecuted a trafficking crime as another crime. In 2022, all 57 identified trafficking victims received assistance. The government allocated 37 million Norwegian kroner (NOK) ($3.76 million) for assistance services, an increase from 35 million NOK ($3.56 million) in 2021. An NGO that provided assistance to individuals in commercial sex ran a program offering training and work experience to trafficking victims through internships. 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 2.6 million NOK ($264,470) in 2022, compared with 3 million NOK ($305,160) in 2021. Victims under a reflection period received legal assistance, health care services, shelter, and other necessary support. The law permitted residency to victims who testified in a criminal case regardless of whether it was prosecuted as a trafficking case or another crime. In 2022, authorities granted a six-month reflection period to nine victims and limited residence permits of up to 12 months to nine victims. Authorities granted two potential victims residence permits due to compelling humanitarian considerations and five permits to potential victims 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 (UDI) maintaining written guidelines for the identification and referral of potential victims, an 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. UDI and an international organization implemented a return and reintegration project for potential trafficking victims; in 2022, the project ensured the safe return of four potential victims. The law allowed trafficking victims from countries within the European Economic Area (EEA) to receive full financial reintegration support to their country of origin. However, NGOs expressed concern that victims from outside the EEA who were ineligible for financial support, such as asylum-seekers whose asylum applications were rejected, were at risk of re-victimization.
During the reporting period, the government enacted amendments to the Child Protection Act, allowing Child Welfare Services (CWS) to temporarily place all potential child victims in an institution for six weeks at a time and up to six months, for their protection and care, and without consent, if authorities considered them at risk for human trafficking. CWS directly assisted children (two in 2022) under the auspices of the Directorate for Children, Youth, and Family Affairs’ trafficking unit for service to child trafficking victims. The unit worked to improve procedures to identify child victims, support coordination among government authorities, and provide training and capacity-building activities. The Directorate for Children, Youth, and Family Affairs contracted an independent social science research foundation to conduct a three-year study of the unit, evaluating tasks and identifying best practices; the foundation recommended clarifying the unit’s role and mandate and making information on the unit more readily available to CWS. Child trafficking victims could receive support, such as interviews and medical examinations, at Barnehus – multidisciplinary centers (11 throughout Norway) offering a coordinated, child-sensitive approach to preventing re-traumatization during investigations and court proceedings. Authorities placed identified child victims in state-run institutions, such as orphanages or foster care, for up to six months. An NGO expressed concern statistics did not accurately reflect the number of child trafficking victims in country. The MOJ reported a lack of knowledge regarding trafficking among child protection services. To assist with the identification and investigation of trafficking cases involving children, the government maintained procedures for cooperation among police, immigration authorities, and CWS. Additionally, throughout 2022, the Directorate for Children, Youth, and Family Affairs’ unit conducted 10 seminars, focusing on topics related to child trafficking for employees from child protection services.
The government maintained 16 centers providing victims participating in criminal proceedings with guidance and support, including assistance applying for compensation and legal advice. The law entitled trafficking victims to financial compensation from traffickers and to three hours of free legal aid, regardless of income or immigration status, to consider applying for a reflection period. Experts raised concerns authorities did not consistently implement existing non-punishment provisions in the criminal code and instead penalized victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. In 2022, the government enacted amendments to Section 62a of the Criminal Procedure Act, allowing for prosecutors to potentially reduce or remit penalties in cases involving more serious crimes. According to experts, however, some prosecutors believed individuals could not be compelled to commit a crime and were, thus, unwilling to reduce or remit penalties, especially in cases involving more serious crimes. Furthermore, experts reported authorities did not screen for trafficking indicators during investigations, hindering implementation of the non-punishment provision; did not always view suspected criminals as potential victims; and placed the onus on victims to prove their victimization. An NGO noted, because of a lack of training, police continued to neglect identifying some potential victims, and therefore charged, prosecuted, and deported victims when they should have received protection. An NGO continued collaborating with the Norwegian Correctional Service, and, in 2022, identified three potential victims in Norwegian prisons. In 2022, the non-punishment provision was the focus of several capacity-building initiatives, including a seminar conducted by the national group of police experts.