ICELAND: Tier 1
Iceland is a destination and transit country for women subjected to sex trafficking and men and women subjected to labor trafficking. Women from Eastern Europe, the Baltics, West Africa, and Brazil are subjected to sex trafficking, often in nightclubs and bars. Men and women from Africa, Eastern Europe, South America, and South and East Asia are subjected to forced labor in construction, tourism, restaurants, fish factories, and as au pairs in private houses. Foreign “posted workers” are at particular risk of forced labor as the traffickers pay them in their home countries and contract them to work for up to 183 days in Iceland to avoid taxes and union fees, limiting tax authorities’ and union officials’ ability to monitor their work conditions and pay. Traffickers also subject women to domestic servitude, forced labor, and sex trafficking and men to forced labor, sometimes through forced marriage; NGOs report these cases are rarely reported to the police. Traffickers reportedly exploit the visa-free regime in the Schengen Zone and the European Economic Area to bring victims to Iceland for up to three months and move them out of the country before they must register with local authorities.
The Government of Iceland fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government increased investigations of suspected trafficking and identified more victims. However, for the third consecutive year there were no prosecutions or convictions of suspected traffickers. The government worked with NGOs to publish and distribute updates to its victim identification, assistance, and referral procedures, focusing educational efforts on professionals likely to come into contact with potential victims. Unlike the previous reporting period, several victims identified in 2015 cooperated with law enforcement efforts. The government maintained prevention efforts by holding 11 awareness-raising sessions across the country for officials and professionals on identifying and referring victims.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ICELAND:
Significantly increase efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers; increase training for all investigators, prosecutors, and judges on detecting and prosecuting trafficking crimes; prioritize building trust between law enforcement and victims and provide protection and adequate residence and work permits to encourage victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers; provide specialized services, including shelters, for male and child trafficking victims; enhance training methods for collecting evidence against suspected traffickers to avoid overreliance on victim testimony; develop procedures for identifying victims of forced marriage and involve labor inspectors in victim identification; expand training for officials on proactive identification of trafficking victims, particularly among migrant workers, unaccompanied children, and asylum-seekers; and provide adequate funding to law enforcement for implementation of the national anti-trafficking action plan.
The government demonstrated mixed anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, due in part to inadequate funding and resources. Article 227a of the criminal code prohibits both sex trafficking and forced labor and prescribes penalties of up to 12 years’ imprisonment; these are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Law enforcement initiated 23 trafficking investigations during the reporting period, an increase from 11 investigations in 2014; of these investigations, 14 were for suspected labor trafficking, three for sex trafficking, and six were undetermined. However, as in 2013 and 2014, the government did not prosecute or convict any traffickers. The police college curriculum included instruction on victim identification and investigation of trafficking cases. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. Police authorities conducted cooperative international investigations on two suspected trafficking cases during the year.
The government strengthened victim identification and referral procedures, and increased victim identification efforts. The government identified at least 29 potential trafficking victims in 2015, an increase from 11 in 2014, and certified 10 as trafficking victims: three male (one of whom was a minor) and five female victims of forced labor (of which one adult man and one woman had been subjected to forced labor through forced marriages), and a woman and a minor male subjected to an unidentified form of trafficking. Police were unable to confirm the form of trafficking from the testimony of either victim, but suspected both were sex trafficking victims. Authorities referred all 10 of these to care facilities for assistance, but only three of the women and the minor believed to have been subjected to child sex trafficking accepted housing at shelters. There are currently no shelter services available for adult male victims. Government-funded NGOs identified and assisted one additional potential trafficking victim. In December 2014, the government signed a two-year agreement to provide funding for an NGO-run domestic abuse shelter to provide emergency shelter to female trafficking victims and their children. The 2016 state budget allocated 70.6 million krona ($573,000) to the shelter, compared with 65.1 million krona ($528,000) for 2015. The Welfare Ministry provided the shelter with an additional 200,000 krona ($1600) for the provision of services for trafficking victims. The shelter maintained a team of specialists to manage cases involving possible trafficking victims. Victims had access to free legal, medical, psychological, and financial assistance, whether or not they stayed at the shelter or cooperated with authorities. Municipal social service agencies provided services and financial assistance to trafficking victims, and the Ministry of Welfare reimbursed the municipalities for all associated expenses; in 2015, the government refunded 12.5 million krona ($102,000) to municipal governments for expenses related to “foreign citizens in distress,” which may have included trafficking victims. The government allocated 71 million krona ($576,000) in the 2016 state budget to a separate NGO offering psychological services to victims, compared with 65.5 million krona ($532,000) in 2015. Iceland remained without specialized care for male victims, who could access general social services and receive referrals to NGOs providing food, shelter, legal advice, and healthcare. Municipal and state child protection services were responsible for assisting unaccompanied children, including child trafficking victims.
The national police commissioner published detailed procedures for police to use to identify, contact, and work with possible trafficking victims to provide them with assistance. The government distributed information on the EU-issued “Guidelines for the Identification of Victims of Trafficking” and NGO-developed interview guidelines to government employees most likely to come into contact with trafficking victims. The Directorate of Immigration had written procedures to identify trafficking victims and provide them with information and resources, including during the interview process for asylum-seekers. Immigration and police officers used a pocket checklist to identify potential victims and inform them of available services. NGOs stated these procedures worked effectively to identify and provide resources to suspected victims. Witness protection for trafficking victims was not mandated by law, but the government provided it in practice. Three victims identified in 2015 agreed to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation of their cases, but no cases went to court during the reporting period; many victims declined to participate in the investigations due to fear of retaliation by traffickers. An NGO reported most victims of forced marriage, which may involve forced labor or sex trafficking crimes, do not contact police or press charges due to fear of traffickers and because cases can be hard to prove. Victims could file civil suits against traffickers or seek restitution from the government, but no victims did so. Any foreign trafficking victims could obtain a six-month residence permit. An additional one-year renewable residence permit was available to victims who cooperated with law enforcement or who may have faced retribution or hardship in their home countries; however, victims with either temporary residence permit could not apply for a permit to work legally in the country. The government did not issue any such temporary residence permits to victims in 2015. In early 2016, two Sri Lankan female labor trafficking victims living in a shelter left the country because they were legally unable to acquire work permits; the government provided them only 5,200 krona ($42) per week in financial assistance and denied them residence permits. There were no reports authorities detained, fined or jailed victims for illegal acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking.
The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The government continued to implement its 2013-2016 national action plan and allocated 10 million krona ($81,000) in the 2016 budget to do so. The steering group responsible for overseeing implementation of the national action plan met monthly, established a temporary taskforce to focus on education and awareness raising, and improved law enforcement data collection and assessment of human trafficking. Its education team held 11 sessions for civil professionals across the country on victim identification and referral. Approximately 1,000 government and municipal specialists in law enforcement, welfare services, healthcare services, labor, and education attended these and 17 sessions held in 2014. In December 2015, the government signed a four-year anti-trafficking agreement with the Icelandic Red Cross that specified establishing a hotline for trafficking victims to access assistance and resources, training of legal professionals with assistance from international organizations, efforts to raise trafficking awareness within general Icelandic society, and increased cooperation between agencies and organizations involved in combating trafficking. The government demonstrated efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts by monitoring and working with social media sites to reduce online advertisement of prostitution, but did not make efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. The government included anti-trafficking language in its code of conduct for diplomatic personnel, but provided no trafficking-specific training.