Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons


Denmark is primarily a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking from Africa, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Migrants working in agriculture, domestic service, restaurants, hotels, and factories are subjected to labor trafficking through debt bondage, withheld wages, abuse, and threats of deportation. Unaccompanied migrant children are vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor, including theft and other forced criminality. Copenhagen’s relatively small red-light district represents only a portion of the country’s larger commercial sex trade, which includes sex trafficking in brothels, bars, strip clubs, and private apartments.

The Government of Denmark fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period, law enforcement authorities collaborated with foreign counterparts to convict more traffickers, including through the country’s first use of a criminal code section that provides more stringent penalties for convicted traffickers. The government also continued to identify victims and fund service providers. However, the government’s default approach to protecting victims without EU residency was to repatriate victims to their countries of origin. While an asylum process existed to protect victims who face retribution in their countries of origin, only four victims have ever been granted asylum, despite the government officially identifying more than 200 victims in the last three years. No other residence permit exists for trafficking victims, and a 2013 amendment that gave authorities the ability to stay deportation in order for victims to assist in an investigation has never been used. The effective lack of alternatives from removal impedes the ability of law enforcement to pursue traffickers and leaves victims vulnerable.


Pursue a more victim-centered approach to trafficking by increasing incentives for victims to cooperate in the prosecution of traffickers, including by providing temporary residency to victims while they assist law enforcement; provide all victims legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they face retribution or hardship, such as through a broader application of asylum status; vigorously prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and sentence sex and labor traffickers; sentence traffickers to imprisonment commensurate with the serious nature of the offense; investigate why few trafficking cases are prosecuted compared with the number of victims identified; take measures to prevent potential victims from being re-victimized, treated as offenders, or detained; amend Danish law to ensure trafficking victims can be considered under a specific legal category exempting them from punishment for all crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; expand law enforcement efforts to proactively identify and expeditiously transfer potential trafficking victims from police or immigration custody to crisis centers; and build on efforts to refer potential trafficking victims with illegal status to crisis centers instead of first remanding them to police custody or detention, to facilitate trust and increase identification among this vulnerable group.


The government made progress in law enforcement efforts, although the inadequate efforts to incentivize victims to assist in investigations and prosecutions impeded these efforts. Denmark prohibits all forms of trafficking through Section 262(a) of its criminal code, which prescribes punishments of up to 10 years’ imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Authorities investigated 12 reported cases of trafficking in 2014, a decrease from 13 reported cases in 2013. In 2014, the government initiated prosecutions of 15 sex trafficking suspects, a decrease from 16 in 2013. Courts convicted nine sex traffickers in 2014, and two additional 2014 trafficking convictions were still pending appeal, compared with three total convictions in 2013. For the first time, the government used Section 262(a) to convict two traffickers; the case was pending appeal at the close of the reporting period. Sentences for the convicted traffickers ranged from 18 months to 36 months’ imprisonment. Authorities reported extensive cooperation with foreign law enforcement counterparts in achieving the convictions secured in 2014. Although a 2013 amendment to the Aliens Act allowed authorities to request trafficking victims without legal status in Denmark be provided with temporary residency to assist law enforcement and testify in a trial, authorities did not use this provision in 2013 or 2014. Country experts reported few trafficking cases are brought to trial in Denmark because of the lack of incentives for victims to participate in the investigation of their traffickers. Police receive instruction on trafficking at the police academy and again during their first year on the job. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses.


The government continued strong efforts to identify victims and fund care providers, but victim protection efforts were impeded by an overemphasis on foreign trafficking victims’ illegal presence and repatriation. The government did not implement efforts to provide alternatives to victims’ removal, resulting in few protections for victims who faced harm and retribution in their countries of origin. While the government reported asylum or humanitarian residence permits could be used as alternatives to removal for victims who lacked legal status in Denmark, trafficking victims could not qualify for these provisions or receive these protections solely on the basis of being subjected to trafficking crimes in Denmark. The government required victims to prove they were persecuted in their home countries on the basis of Refugee Convention grounds. In 2014, the government approved two asylum applications out of the 22 trafficking victims who applied; authorities granted two victims asylum in 2013.

The government continued to offer trafficking victims a 120-day “extended time limit for departure” as part of its prepared return program for trafficking victims ordered to leave Denmark; the prepared return gave victims a specified period of time to receive services before their eventual deportation. Regional anti-trafficking experts, including the Council of Europe, emphasized this period does not refer to a period of reflection and recovery necessary to determine whether or not victims will cooperate in the investigation of their cases; rather it is a period of time the victims have to cooperate in their repatriation. In 2014, eight of the 71 identified trafficking victims accepted a prepared return, compared with 11 in 2013. Few victims agreed to participate in the program, reportedly based on the perception it was merely a preparation for deportation. Victims’ debt bondage to their traffickers served as a significant deterrent from accepting the prepared return.

In 2014, the government identified 71 victims, compared with 76 in 2013. These victims included six victims of forced labor and six children. Police referred 48 victims to care. Nine asylum seekers were identified as trafficking victims and referred to care. Authorities did not officially identify any Danish victims in 2014, though authorities reported having done so in the past and acknowledged other cases may have gone undetected. When police suspected they had a victim in custody, they could call government anti-trafficking experts to join the police questioning and explain the victim’s rights. However, one observer reported police officers’ de facto standard procedure when encountering cases of prostitution was to check individuals’ immigration documents and deport those that had entered Denmark illegally, regardless of whether officers had detected indicators of trafficking. NGOs noted the onus of victim identification remained on trafficking victims, particularly if the identification efforts occurred in detention settings during Denmark’s 72-hour limitation for charging an individual with a crime. The government funded NGOs to provide victim care services, including medical, psychological, and legal assistance. Victims could apply for compensation through a state fund and through a civil suit against their traffickers; however, no victim pursued these in 2014.


The government sustained efforts to prevent trafficking. Authorities developed a 2015 to 2018 national action plan with input from NGOs; the plan was in the process of being approved at the close of the reporting period. The plan suggested allocating 7 million krone ($1 million) for improving trust between victims and public officials. Authorities conducted a public information campaign aimed at increasing awareness of sex and labor trafficking and operated a hotline for trafficking cases. Authorities continued to train tax inspectors and labor inspectors on labor trafficking identification. The government did not take measures to reduce the demand for prostitution and forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.