Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons


Denmark is primarily a destination and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking from Eastern Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. Migrants are subjected to labor trafficking in agriculture, domestic service, restaurants, hotels, and factories 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. Since 2009, 25 children have been identified as victims of trafficking in Denmark, nine forced into pickpocketing, three into cleaning restaurants, five into forced criminal activity, and eight into selling sex. 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 rise in migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees entering and transiting Denmark increases the size of the population vulnerable to human trafficking.

The Government of Denmark fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. In May 2015, the government approved its 2015-2018 national action plan against human trafficking, which expanded the funding and scope of the government’s efforts to combat trafficking, focusing on prevention, outreach, victim support, and partnerships with NGOs. The government identified an increased number of victims of trafficking and trafficking-related crimes and continued to fund victim service providers. The government used its human trafficking law to convict three individuals of crimes related to labor trafficking. However, the government’s default approach to trafficking cases involving victims without EU residency was to repatriate victims to their countries of origin. The effective lack of alternatives to removal impeded the ability of law enforcement to pursue traffickers and left victims vulnerable. In the last four years, only four victims have been granted asylum, despite the government officially identifying almost 300 victims. The temporary residence permit that exists for trafficking victims, authorized through a 2013 amendment to the Aliens Act, gave authorities the ability to stay deportation in order for victims to assist in an investigation; this legal tool has never been used for trafficking victims.


Pursue a more victim-centered approach to trafficking by increasing incentives for victims to cooperate in the prosecution of traffickers, including by permitting temporary residency for victims while they assist law enforcement; more vigorously prosecute trafficking offenses and convict sex and labor traffickers; sentence traffickers in accordance with the gravity of the offense; avoid penalizing victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, including through assessing whether new guidelines concerning withdrawal of charges against victims of trafficking prevent their penalization and detention; expand law enforcement efforts to proactively identify and expeditiously transfer potential trafficking victims, especially those without legal status, from police or immigration custody to crisis centers or care providers to facilitate trust and increase identification among this vulnerable group.


The government made progress in law enforcement efforts, although 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.

The national police investigated three cases of trafficking in 2015, a decrease from 12 in 2014. However, in 2015, the government initiated prosecutions of 58 trafficking suspects, an increase from 15 in 2014. First-level courts had 12 trafficking case convictions in 2015, compared to nine cases in 2014. Sentences ranged from 24 months’ to 36 months’ imprisonment for the convicted traffickers. In addition, in a forced labor case begun in 2014, where 12 migrants were forced to live in a garage and work up to 20 hours a day, charges were changed on appeal from labor trafficking to usury and fraud, and two men were sentenced to 24 and 36 months’ imprisonment. Experts reported that few trafficking cases were brought to trial in Denmark because of the lack of incentives for victims to participate in the investigation of their traffickers. 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, 2014, or 2015. There remain difficulties in securing the participation of victims in the prosecution of their traffickers; a government report issued during the year acknowledged authorities did not systematically offer advice and support to foreign citizens in prostitution or others potentially vulnerable to trafficking. Police received instruction on trafficking at the police academy and again after their first year on the job. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses.


Government efforts to protect victims were mixed. The government identified victims and funded care providers, but its emphasis on repatriating victims without legal status impeded victim protection efforts. 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. The government did not grant asylum to any of the 10 trafficking victims who applied.

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 2015, 43 of the 93 identified trafficking victims accepted a prepared return, compared with eight of 71 in 2014. Victims in Denmark without legal residency who did not accept a prepared return were deported unless they were assisting in the prosecution of a trafficker. Some victims chose not to participate in the program, reportedly based on the perception it was merely a preparation for deportation. Victims’ lack of protection in their home countries and debt bondage to their traffickers served as significant deterrents from accepting the prepared return. The effective lack of alternatives to removal impeded the ability of law enforcement to pursue traffickers and left victims vulnerable to re-trafficking.

In 2015, the government identified 93 victims, compared with 71 in 2014. These victims included one victim of forced labor, 49 victims of sex trafficking, and 43 victims forced to commit crimes (such as theft and the production and sale of illicit substances) or exploited in trafficking-related crimes (such as holding migrants against their will for the purpose of stealing social benefits); six victims were children (one victim of sex trafficking and five victims of forced criminal activity). Authorities did not identify any Danish victims of trafficking in 2015, 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 called government anti-trafficking experts to join the police questioning and explain the victim’s rights. A trafficking subject matter expert has been appointed in each police district. NGOs noted the onus of victim identification remained on trafficking victims rather than officials’ proactive identification. The government funded NGOs to provide victim care services, including medical, psychological, and legal assistance. Funding increased from approximately $1.9 million during the previous 2011-2014 National Action Plan to approximately 18 million Danish Krones ($2.8 million) set aside in the 2015-2018 National Action Plan that NGOs and other civil society organizations can apply for to perform tasks covered under the scope of the national action plan. Victims could apply for compensation through a state fund and through a civil suit against their traffickers; however, no victims pursued these in 2015. To help prevent trafficking victims from being penalized for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking, in May 2015 the director of public prosecutions published guidelines on the identification of victims and the withdrawal of charges against them; these guidelines were distributed to the police and prosecution service. Some observers reported increased willingness by prosecutors to drop charges against victims of trafficking and the Ministry of Justice did not report any cases where victims of trafficking were prosecuted in 2015. The government did not implement efforts to provide alternatives to victims’ removal, resulting in few protections for victims of trafficking.


The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. As part of the 2015-2018 National Action Plan, the government continued to provide training to police, diplomats, and other government personnel. Denmark’s Center Against Human Trafficking worked closely with police, and provides training for tax and labor inspectors. Authorities created a guidebook and checklist for helping businesses reduce the risk of using trafficked labor, by spotting irregularities in hiring and recruitment and reporting suspected labor trafficking. The government approved funding for an NGO-operated counseling and health service in Zealand that will work with potential victims of trafficking among foreign nationals working in brothels. Authorities conducted public information campaigns aimed at increasing awareness of sex and labor trafficking, provided public education about the signs of possible trafficking, and publicized through social media a hotline for reporting trafficking cases. Authorities continued to train tax and labor inspectors on labor trafficking indicators. The government did not take measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex.