Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

SWEDEN: Tier 1

Sweden is a destination and, to a lesser extent, source and 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 sex trafficking largely originate from Eastern Europe, West Africa, Asia, and—to a lesser extent—Western Europe. Forced prostitution remains the most common form of trafficking in Sweden, although reported cases of labor trafficking are increasing. Identified and suspected victims of labor trafficking, who largely originate from Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, face exploitation in domestic service, hospitality, construction, agriculture, forestry, and as seasonal berry pickers. Roma are vulnerable to forced begging and criminality and originate primarily from Romania and Bulgaria. The more than 162,000 migrants who applied for asylum in 2015, primarily from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and East Africa, are vulnerable to human trafficking. Unaccompanied children are especially vulnerable; more than 35,000 unaccompanied foreign children applied for asylum in Sweden in 2015, primarily teenage boys from Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, and Eritrea. A study published in December found more than half of suspected child trafficking victims identified since 2012 arrived in Sweden as unaccompanied minors, primarily from Africa and Eastern Europe. Police note street children, especially boys from Morocco, are vulnerable to child sex trafficking and forced criminality. A study found between 4,000 and 5,000 Swedes commit child sex tourism offenses abroad annually. Swedish women and girls are also vulnerable to sex trafficking within the country.

The Government of Sweden fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period, the government instituted a national mechanism to identify and refer victims to care and identified more victims. However, the European migration crisis overwhelmed government institutions, hindering authorities’ ability to conduct sufficient screenings of migrants to identify potential instances of trafficking. The migration agency created regional anti-trafficking coordinators and a national advisory group of experts. The government increased efforts to prevent labor trafficking and forced begging through employer inspections and worker outreach. Authorities nearly doubled the number of investigations for both sex and labor trafficking; however, very few investigations resulted in prosecutions for trafficking offenses.


Vigorously prosecute and convict labor and sex traffickers using the anti-trafficking statute; adopt an updated national action plan that incorporates labor exploitation; expand authority to grant 30-day reflection and recovery periods to non-law enforcement authorities such as social workers to ensure all victims, including those not already in contact with law enforcement, are able to receive these benefits in practice; vigorously prosecute Swedish child sex tourism offenders; establish a permanent national anti-trafficking coordinator; strengthen efforts to identify and provide trafficking-specific assistance to child trafficking victims; provide specialized housing to trafficking victims, including adult male victims; train judges on the anti-trafficking law; and raise awareness of labor trafficking.


The government demonstrated limited progress in law enforcement efforts. Sweden’s 2002 anti-trafficking law prohibits sex trafficking and forced labor and prescribes penalties of two to 10 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In June, the government initiated a legal review of its anti-trafficking law to strengthen prohibitions against, and punishments for, sex trafficking. Police investigated 58 sex trafficking cases in 2015 (including 11 child sex trafficking cases), compared with 31 in 2014. Authorities prosecuted and convicted two sex traffickers, compared with one prosecution and conviction in 2014. They were sentenced to 26 and 30 months’ imprisonment, fined 82,200 kronor ($9,736) each in damages, and will be deported following their prison terms. The government increased efforts to identify and investigate cases of forced begging. Police investigated 122 cases of forced labor in 2015 (including 30 child forced labor cases), 55 of which were cases of forced begging, compared with 62 forced labor cases in 2014. There were no prosecutions or convictions for labor trafficking in 2015. The national anti-trafficking coordinator and national rapporteur noted the ongoing reorganization of the police hindered law enforcement efforts. Observers reported many judges continued to lack sufficient understanding of human trafficking, which may result in fewer convictions and less stringent sentences. The national rapporteur conducted training for police and judges, and the prosecutor’s office and national rapporteur offered online training for prosecutors and national police, respectively. Swedish authorities collaborated with foreign governments on transnational investigations. The government reported one ongoing investigation of a government official suspected of involvement in a trafficking-related corruption case; however, it did not report any prosecutions or conviction of government officials complicit in human trafficking. There were no reports of wider complicity in trafficking offenses among government officials.


The government increased victim protection efforts. During the reporting period, the government instituted a national referral mechanism to identify victims and refer them to care. Authorities identified approximately 58 victims of sex trafficking and 122 victims of forced labor and forced begging in 2015, compared with 31 sex trafficking and 63 forced labor victims in 2014; 41 of these new victims were children. Despite these measures, implementation of the new referral mechanism was limited. Although authorities identified significantly more victims during the reporting period, the ongoing European migration crisis overwhelmed government institutions, hindering authorities’ ability to conduct sufficient migrant screening to identify potential trafficking victims. Additionally, the migration agency’s anti-trafficking coordinator identified 195 suspected trafficking cases among asylum-seekers (66 of which involved children), a 76 percent increase in suspected cases from 2014. During GRETA’s most recent visit to Sweden in 2013, it found identification largely depended on victims’ willingness and ability to meet with police and provide evidence to start a criminal investigation. Municipalities were responsible for providing services to victims, including medical and psychological care, shelter, and social assistance. NGOs operated most shelters with public and private funding. The government provided 300,000 kronor ($35,500) to a civil society platform representing 23 NGOs for a pilot program to strengthen civil society’s role in providing care to victims. Although there were no shelters dedicated exclusively to trafficking victims, the national coordinator led a network of approximately 40 NGO-run safe houses, and adult female victims of trafficking could receive services at general women’s shelters. These shelters offered victims assistance with immigration issues, medical care, and educational and employment needs, including Swedish language training; adults could leave the shelters unchaperoned and at will. Authorities referred child victims to social services officials, who placed child victims in foster care or group housing. The government provided training to safe houses and victim support centers. The national anti-trafficking coordinator provided 15 training sessions for professionals who come into contact with victims. Police received training in victim identification and the migration agency trained 600 staff members; beginning in April 2015, all new migration agency staff received anti-trafficking instruction as part of their introductory training.

The Aliens Act entitles victims to a 30-day reflection period to recover and contemplate cooperation with law enforcement; however, authorities stated that because only an investigating police officer or prosecutor could file this application, such temporary residency was in practice primarily available to victims already in contact with law enforcement. Victims and witnesses in trafficking cases who cooperated with authorities were granted temporary residence permits; 12 trafficking victims and 29 witnesses received these permits in 2015. Although only victims who assisted in investigations were eligible for residence permits, the government continued to provide medical care and repatriation assistance for victims not assisting law enforcement. In 2015, the government repatriated 22 victims through a safe return program in conjunction with an international organization. State prosecutors had the power to file applications for permanent residence permits on behalf of victims during or after trials based upon need of protection, such as in cases in which victims would face retribution in their countries of origin; the migration agency did not issue any permanent residence permits in 2015 or 2014. There were no reports the government penalized victims for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, although in past years GRETA referenced reports of Swedish authorities deporting irregular migrants who had been subjected to trafficking without identifying them as potential victims, despite the presence of trafficking indicators. GRETA also previously expressed concern that foreign victims who were not ready to provide evidence to law enforcement were quickly removed from Sweden, which did not permit adequate risk assessments of repatriating victims.


The government increased prevention efforts. The migration agency created six regional anti-trafficking coordinators and a national advisory group of experts. The government extended the national anti-trafficking coordinator’s mandate through 2016 and allocated 6.5 million kronor ($770,000) for the office in 2015; however, the government did not establish a permanent office, which limited the coordinator’s ability to develop and implement long-term anti-trafficking programs and projects. The national police rapporteur on trafficking continued to provide an annual report of the trafficking situation and the government’s progress. However, the government did not have a current national action plan to address trafficking. Authorities put increased focus on preventing foreign labor exploitation through a national study, outreach to vulnerable groups, and increased monitoring efforts. In January 2016, authorities began conducting mandatory interviews with foreign workers employed in at-risk sectors who were seeking to extend their work permits. During the reporting period, there were no reports of labor trafficking among berry pickers, who were notably vulnerable to exploitation in recent years, which authorities attributed to increased police efforts, labor reforms, unannounced inspections, efforts to inform workers of their rights, and bilateral cooperation. The government continued to fund a national helpline to assist victims and public authorities seeking guidance. Authorities conducted awareness training for taxi, hotel, and restaurant staff to detect trafficking at their places of work. The government continued to conduct activities to reduce the demand for commercial sex and forced labor. Sweden’s law prohibiting child sexual offenses has extraterritorial reach, allowing the prosecution of suspected child sex tourists for crimes committed abroad. In May, the government signed a bilateral agreement with Cambodia, a destination country for Swedish child sex traffickers, to improve efforts to identify Cambodian victims and Swedish perpetrators of sex trafficking. The government has not prosecuted a Swedish citizen for committing child sexual offenses abroad since 2012. The government provided anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel and training on sexual exploitation and abuse, including on human trafficking, to troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions.