Sweden is a destination, source, and, to a lesser extent, transit country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking, and a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, including forced begging and stealing. Identified and suspected victims of forced prostitution largely originate from Eastern Europe (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine), Africa (Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Uganda), and Asia (Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Nepal, and Vietnam). Swedish women and girls are also vulnerable to sex trafficking within the country. Identified and suspected victims of labor trafficking, who largely originate from Bulgaria, Romania, Cameroon, and Thailand, are subjected to labor trafficking in the domestic service and hospitality sectors, as well as in seasonal labor, when workers travel to Sweden to pick berries or perform construction, forestry, or gardening work. Victims of forced begging and stealing originate primarily from Romania and Bulgaria. The nearly 4,000 unaccompanied foreign children who arrived in Sweden in 2013 to seek asylum, primarily from Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, and Eritrea, are vulnerable to human trafficking. Child sex tourism offenses committed by Swedish nationals traveling abroad remain a problem.
The Government of Sweden fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Swedish authorities launched more trafficking investigations, though courts convicted fewer traffickers than in 2012, and judges reportedly did not fully understand trafficking. The government identified a greater number of victims and issued more temporary and permanent residence permits in 2013, but municipalities lacked trafficking-specific care facilities for child and adult male victims. The government formally expanded the mandate of its national coordinating body to include all forms of human trafficking, allowing for an enhanced response to forced labor and forced begging.
Recommendations for Sweden:
Vigorously prosecute and convict labor and sex trafficking offenders using Sweden’s anti-trafficking statute; ensure that trafficking offenders receive sentences commensurate with the severity of this serious crime; ensure adult male victims of trafficking receive trafficking-specific assistance, including appropriate shelter; ensure judges receive training on the application of the anti-trafficking law; continue efforts to identify and provide trafficking-specific assistance to child trafficking victims in Sweden, including Swedish victims of trafficking; ensure that law enforcement authorities offer trafficking victims a reflection period in accordance with Swedish law; consider proactive measures to prevent unaccompanied foreign minors from being subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor; ensure that victims of labor trafficking are provided with full information about their rights and that they are empowered to testify against their exploiters; ensure that migrant and seasonal laborers receive education about their rights in Sweden; ensure that municipal authorities understand victim protection protocols and are capable of providing victims the support they are entitled to under Swedish law; vigorously prosecute Swedish child sex tourism offenders; and continue regular, self-critical assessments of Sweden’s anti-trafficking efforts.
The Government of Sweden demonstrated mixed law enforcement efforts during the reporting period, launching more trafficking investigations, but convicting fewer traffickers than in 2012. Sweden’s 2002 anti-trafficking law prohibits both sex trafficking and forced labor, and prescribes penalties of two to 10 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Swedish law enforcement investigated 40 sex trafficking cases in 2013, an increase from 21 in 2012. Law enforcement investigated 29 cases of forced labor and nine cases of forced begging in 2013. Authorities initiated prosecutions of 13 suspected trafficking offenders under Sweden’s trafficking statute and related laws in 2013, in contrast to 35 prosecutions initiated in 2012. Authorities convicted 13 traffickers in 2013, who received sentences of up to four years in prison, a significant decline from the 33 convicted in 2012, with sentences of up to five years in prison. The government did not report the investigation or prosecution of any government officials complicit in trafficking.
While the government continued to provide specialized trainings and handbooks for investigators and prosecutors, observers reported that many judges do not understand human trafficking and lacked interest in receiving training. Some judges continued to acquit or dismiss cases where initial consent was indicated, despite the government’s 2010 revision of its anti-trafficking law to clarify that evidence of a victim’s initial consent does not override evidence of subsequent coercion. Swedish authorities collaborated with foreign governments on trafficking investigations, including Northern Ireland, Germany, Thailand, Bulgaria, and Romania.
The government improved protection efforts through identifying more victims, ensuring some victims received compensation, and issuing a greater number of temporary and permanent residence permits. The government identified 80 victims of trafficking in 2013, compared to 69 victims identified in 2012. Among those identified, there were 40 victims of sex trafficking, 31 victims of labor trafficking, and nine victims of forced begging. Police referred adult female victims of trafficking to women’s shelters, which were primarily operated by NGOs with public and private funding. These shelters offered victims assistance with immigration issues, medical care, Swedish language training, and educational and employment needs. Victims could leave the shelter at will and without a chaperone. Authorities referred child victims to social services officials, who placed child victims in foster care or group housing. The government provided no specialized shelter for male victims of trafficking, who were often housed in shelters for the homeless, drug addicts, or individuals with mental illness. Municipalities reimbursed NGOs that provided services to victims who had received a residence permit for cooperating with police. The government provided medical care and assistance with repatriation for victims not assisting law enforcement. The government offered a reflection period of 30 days during which victims could decide whether to cooperate with law enforcement authorities; this provision was not well-known across law enforcement, and authorities rarely informed victims about the reflection period. The Migration Board issued 61 temporary residence permits to suspected trafficking victims in 2013, two of which were for children of suspected victims, compared to 28 permits in 2012; the large increase was due to an investigation involving 25 forestry workers. State prosecutors had the power to file applications for permanent residence permits on behalf of trafficking victims during or after trials based upon victims’ need of protection; the Migration Board issued two individuals permanent residence permits in 2013, compared to no permits issued in 2012. The government continued a pilot program with an NGO to ensure the safe repatriation of foreign victims trafficked in Sweden. The government continued to integrate training on victim identification and referral to police at basic training. The court appointed legal counsel for victims of trafficking during the course of criminal proceedings and, although there was no formal victim restitution program, some trafficking victims received compensation in 2013. There were no reports that the government penalized identified victims for unlawful acts they may have committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
The Swedish government improved prevention efforts during the reporting period by expanding the national coordinating body’s mandate to include all forms of human trafficking. The interagency working group continued to meet, and the government’s anti-trafficking program was still formally guided and funded by an extension of its 2008-2010 action plan against prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes. Under this plan, the Government of Sweden designated the Stockholm county administration as the coordinating body of the government’s victim services activities. In April 2013, the Swedish government formally expanded the mandate to cover all forms of human trafficking rather than only sex trafficking. The national rapporteur continued to provide an annual report of the trafficking situation in Sweden which indicated areas of improvement. The Swedish government continued to fund a national help line for victims of violence and sexual abuse, including trafficking, which was available in a number of languages, including languages spoken in the countries that are most commonly countries of origin for victims of trafficking in Sweden. The government continued to conduct robust activities to reduce the demand for commercial sex, including by establishing social services groups in the three largest cities that counsel individuals arrested for purchasing commercial sex. Sweden’s law prohibiting child sexual offenses has extraterritorial reach, allowing the prosecution of suspected child sex tourists for offenses committed abroad; however, no Swedish citizens were prosecuted for committing child sexual offenses abroad in 2013.