Managing director of the Icelandic Human Rights Center Margrét Steinarsdóttir says she has encountered more than 100 victims of human trafficking in Iceland over the past years. Eight persons have sought her help so far this year.Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
According to Fréttablaðið, in most cases, victims of human trafficking end up in the sex industry and most of the victims are women.
However, men are also reported to have fallen victims to human trafficking, usually ending up working for low or no salaries. They often have to work throughout the day, distributing papers, in the construction or service sectors.
Margrét states that slavery is a fact in Iceland. Although things changed when stripping was banned in 2010, she says she has assisted a number of women who have sought help after starting out as strippers but were later forced into prostitution.
“Some women married men who later prostituted them. Many of these found themselves in violent relationships after they stopped working as strippers and couldn’t control their lives,” Margrét explains.
She finds it important to carry out further investigation of human trafficking in Iceland and increase police surveillance with means through which victims enter the country, such as through family agreements and au pair licenses.
It must be kept in mind that victims of human trafficking aren’t necessarily smuggled to Iceland, are deceived or forced to come to the country, but may arrive on their own free will, Margrét points out.
She references the Palermo Resolution. “If you take advantage of a person’s poor condition, his or her consent doesn’t matter.”
According to her, many of the women who worked as strippers in Iceland came from the Russian minorities in the Baltic countries. “These girls often had a good education but couldn’t get a suitable job and this was the only way for them to earn a living.”
The Reykjavík Metropolitan Police and the Directorate of Immigration are currently investigating a case of suspected human trafficking at Chinese massage clinics in the capital. Individuals who have worked there claim that they didn’t receive the suitable salary.