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NORWAY (Tier 2)

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, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Norway remained on Tier 2. These efforts included investigating more trafficking cases, developing new trafficking guidelines for police, and allocating significantly more funding toward implementation of the NAP. For the first time in five years, the government reported an official number of identified and assisted victims. In addition, the government developed a new action plan against “social dumping” and work-related crime, with several measures aimed at preventing exploitation, including trafficking, of foreign workers. Furthermore, the government organized a ministerial conference on fisheries crime, including labor trafficking, and established an international vessel tracking center that communicates data and analysis on illegal vessels and enables secure intergovernmental cooperation to combat fisheries crime, including labor trafficking. Several government-contracted research foundations published reports, including one looking at the prevalence of trafficking in Norway and documenting challenges and providing recommendations on how to obtain more reliable trafficking statistics. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Authorities prosecuted and convicted fewer traffickers. The government continued to delay development of formal identification procedures, an NRM, and a comprehensive statistical system for collecting data. The government continued to focus on the deportation of some foreign nationals rather than screening for trafficking indicators. Some victims were penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked rather than identified as victims and given care. Finally, 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 vulnerable to re-victimization.

  • Expand efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers with an increased focus on pursuing labor trafficking cases.
  • 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 nationwide.
  • Develop and implement a reliable comprehensive statistical system for collecting and collating data, including on victim identification and assistance and investigations, prosecutions, and convictions.
  • Screen all foreign nationals and asylum-seekers for indicators of trafficking and stay deportation of potential victims prior to screening.
  • Ensure all trafficking victims receive access to assistance regardless of whether authorities investigate and prosecute a trafficking crime as another crime.
  • Enhance efforts to proactively identify and assist trafficking victims, particularly children, by training relevant workers on procedures for identifying victims and recognizing indicators.
  • Consistently implement the existing non-punishment provisions in the criminal code to ensure trafficking victims are not inappropriately penalized solely for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
  • Enhance training for investigating cases and collecting evidence against suspected traffickers.
  • Increase training for investigators, prosecutors, and judges on identifying trafficking, applying trafficking laws, and understanding different aspects of trafficking.
  • Develop an updated NAP, corresponding to the current situation and trends in Norway, with related anti-trafficking activities.

The government maintained 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 32 trafficking cases (nine sex trafficking, nine labor trafficking, 14 unspecified forms of trafficking), compared with 29 in 2021. Authorities prosecuted two alleged traffickers (one sex trafficking, one labor trafficking), a decrease from six in 2021 but an increase from zero in 2020. Courts convicted one trafficker but, upon appeal, acquitted the individual, a significant decrease from 12 convictions in 2021 (one in 2020). 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. 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. In 2022, officials from Finland, Iceland, and Norway established the foundation for a Nordic anti-trafficking working group, comprising stakeholders from across the Nordic region engaging on trends, best practices, challenges, and activities in their respective countries. Officials also established a law enforcement sub-group composed of Nordic police officers cooperating on investigations and trainings.

All 12 police districts maintained anti-trafficking units responsible for investigating, prosecuting, and preventing cases. The units used the same investigative methods and had access to the same technical support. However, experts reported limited investigative capacity and knowledge of trafficking in some districts and staffing changes among police negatively impacted cooperation. According to media reports, police were too reliant on an individual investigator’s passion to combat trafficking rather than leadership priorities and needed to do more work on their overall anti-trafficking efforts. A lawyer, who assisted victims, agreed with the claim and noted interest and proactiveness within the police varied. Furthermore, experts expressed concern police chiefs reallocated financial resources intended for the anti-trafficking units to other units within the police based on priority, directly impacting investigations, prosecutions, and convictions. According to government officials and NGO representatives, forced labor continued to be a concern. Most suspected 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 were substandard compared to the law, because the burden of proof was difficult to meet 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, such as legal aid. Officials noted charging traffickers as such 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 insufficient evidence collection and authorities’ lack of expertise and knowledge and assessed more systematic training could enhance competence among investigators and prosecutors. The National Criminal Investigation Service maintained a national group of police experts aimed at increasing understanding and knowledge of 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. In 2022, the group developed new guidelines on identifying trafficking and distributed them to front-line police officers. The group and the Coordination Unit for Victims of Trafficking (KOM), which coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, organized several seminars and trainings throughout the year for stakeholders from national and municipal levels, civil society, and academia on various topics, such as intelligence gathering, investigative methods, and the distinction between sex trafficking and “pimping.”

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.

The government increased prevention efforts. The MOJ coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and led an inter-ministerial working group composed of representatives from seven ministries. The group facilitated information sharing, developed anti-trafficking activities and action items, and ensured implementation of the NAP in collaboration with KOM and other relevant stakeholders. Since the NAP was adopted in 2016, NGOs called for the government to develop an updated NAP, corresponding to the current trafficking situation and trends in country. In 2022, the government allocated 41 million NOK ($4.17 million) toward implementation of the NAP’s anti-trafficking programs, such as assistance, outreach, and training, a significant increase from 35 million NOK ($3.56 million) in 2021. KOM published an annual report providing an overview on victim identification, challenges relating to trafficking, and relevant agencies’ anti-trafficking activities. A government-contracted, independent social science research foundation published a report based on a project conducted in 2021 looking at the prevalence of trafficking in Norway; the report documented challenges and provided recommendations on how to obtain more reliable trafficking statistics. Observers noted the findings in the report would advance work to improve the government’s reporting and statistical systems. Separately, the Directorate of Children, Youth and Family Affairs commissioned a social science research institute to release a report examining how the criminal justice system and the county boards assess overlapping forms of exploitation and alternative approaches to protecting child trafficking victims; the report examined the international and sociological aspects of child trafficking. The MOJ funded information campaigns run by youth organizations totaling 1 million NOK ($101,720), including one campaign targeting children and young adults on the correlation between consumption and human trafficking. A government-funded NGO managed a 24-hour hotline for potential trafficking victims, available in Norwegian, English, Spanish, Arabic, and Thai. The hotline received 93 calls from potential trafficking victims in 2022, of which 37 required further assistance. In addition, the hotline received inquiries from Ukrainian refugees, but none required further assistance. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts by investigating and fining individuals purchasing sexual services.

According to government officials and NGOs, forced labor remained a concern; the government continued to raise awareness of Norwegian laws and regulations among employers while, simultaneously, encouraging the public to abstain from purchasing abnormally cheap and potentially illegal services. In 2022, the government enacted a new law allowing for more accountability and transparency among medium- to large-sized companies operating in Norway. The law 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. As part of its work to promote human rights, the government enforced greater policy coherence and expertise in corporate social responsibility in public administration by creating an advisory center with resources and advice for companies on corporate social responsibility and by incorporating in government-awarded contracts that vendors respect internationally recognized human rights. In 2022, the government developed a new action plan against “social dumping” and work-related crime, with several measures aimed at preventing the exploitation, including trafficking, of foreign workers, and launched an action plan against “social dumping” in the transportation sector. Additionally, the government implemented strategies against criminal activities in the workplace and in the labor market, which included control mechanisms and measures to combat illegal activities, including trafficking, and required cooperation among authorities, labor inspectors, NGOs, and businesses. The government also 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 maintained seven interagency centers against work-related crime, consisting of representatives from the police, the Directorate of Labor and Welfare, and the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority, among others, to identify and investigate labor trafficking cases in collaboration with the anti-trafficking police units. In 2022, the government contracted an independent social science research foundation to conduct a project focusing on Norwegian policy development and efforts to combat exploitation of foreign workers, including the effects of increased interagency cooperation in anti-trafficking efforts, “social dumping,” and working life crime. The same research foundation published a report on the exploitation of foreign workers looking at the gray area between regular working life and human trafficking. Norwegian law prohibited recruitment agencies from charging fees to job seekers for placement services and required the labor inspectorate to monitor agencies for compliance. In 2022, in collaboration with UNDP, the government organized a ministerial conference on fisheries crime, including illegal fishing, economic crime, and human trafficking, to support the Copenhagen Declaration – a declaration that maps out a framework for global political cooperation to address organized crime in the global fishing industry. At the conference, the government highlighted its newly established international vessel tracking center in Vardø that communicates data and analysis about illegal vessels and, through the use of a digital platform developed by Norway, enables secure intergovernmental cooperation to combat fisheries crime.

The government implemented its 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. The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) contributed 37.36 million NOK ($3.8 million) in 2022 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 through 2023 worth 190 million NOK ($19.33 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 ($19.33 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.

Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion on Ukraine in February 2022, the government has taken steps to mitigate the potential for trafficking among refugees by developing informational material for refugees on trafficking risks in English, Russian, and Ukrainian and conducting trainings, including a webinar on the exploitation of vulnerable people, with a focus on Ukrainian refugees for employees and volunteers at reception centers, in municipalities, and on the front line. In addition, the MOJ and inter-ministerial working group tasked directorates, such as the Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs and UDI, to combat potential risks of trafficking by raising awareness of the risks among local authorities and municipalities. Police monitored for potential trafficking cases, particularly cases involving former convicted criminals transporting Ukrainian refugees to Norway in exchange for commercial sex. With limited Ukrainian translators nationwide, the government trained additional translators and granted refugees one-year temporary protection status.

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. Trafficking victims 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. 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. Traffickers increasingly use the internet and social media to recruit victims and are typically the same ethnic background as their victims. Police report foreign organized criminal 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, and car repair shops. Other high-risk sectors include the agriculture, construction, hospitality, textiles, and extractive 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 reported an increase in labor trafficking cases. Typically, labor trafficking victims are foreign workers whose traffickers are either their employers or other employees who act as facilitators. Reports indicated forced labor was a serious problem in the fisheries sector. Many fishers are foreign workers who are highly vulnerable to exploitation, including trafficking, aboard fishing vessels, which often operate far from shore. Labor trafficking in this sector is often associated with other criminal activities, such as illegal fishing and environmental crimes. Refugees, predominantly women and children, fleeing Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and seeking sanctuary in Norway are highly vulnerable to trafficking. Reports indicate traffickers working in criminal networks lure Ukrainian refugees via social media into exploitative situations before they leave Ukraine, offering transportation out of the country or shelter in exchange for commercial sex in Norway and other European countries. Approximately 30,000 refugees from Ukraine have applied for temporary protection in Norway, of whom more than 14,000 are women and around 10,000 are children.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future