Up to ten possible cases of trafficking have been reported to police since Fréttablaðið began covering the issue last month. The paper has ran a series of articles on the issue including a list of possible signs of trafficking. Police in the Southwest Iceland region of Suðurnes usually work on up to ten trafficking cases each year. The cases are varying in nature. Some are connected to drug smuggling, others to forced labor, false passports and prostitution.
There are few resources available to trafficking victims in Iceland. The Women’s Shelter (Kvennaathvarfið) is one association which offers assistance to women who are victims of physical or psychological abuse but as Snorri Birgisson, detective at Suðurnes Police pointed out to Fréttablaðið recently, trafficking victims are not always female.
In 2012, three expectant mothers who stayed at Kristínarhús, a shelter which was run by Stígamót, Education and Counseling Center for Survivors of Sexual Abuse and Violence, for female victims of prostitution or trafficking, received assistance as trafficking victims. However, as the women didn’t want to speak about their situation, it is not known how they came to Iceland and whether they were victims of trafficking or prostitution, Fréttablaðið reports. The shelter is has now been closed down.
One expectant mother who has applied for asylum in Iceland is suspected of being a victim of trafficking but has refused assistance. The police say that there is little can be done if an individual refuses help and the case is considered closed for the time being.
The closure of Kristínarhús has had an impact on the investigation of trafficking cases, Vísir reports. Without a safe shelter it is difficult for police and social services to earn the trust of victims, which can have an adverse impact on the investigation of the case and the victim’s recovery. According to the Ministry of the Interior’s action plan on trafficking, it is vital to secure the wellbeing of the victim as well as investigate the case and secure the individual’s recovery.
Snorri told Fréttablaðið that many of those who travel to Iceland on false passports are hoping for a better life and job and don’t realize that they are victims. He says it is important to better train people on detecting false passports but also other signs of trafficking. “It’s also common, to see, for example, someone accompanying the person,” he said.
Few trafficking cases reach the courts in Iceland. According to Snorri, it is necessary to bring a foreign judge to Iceland to have them share their experience. “We need to have a judge from the Nordic countries assist us and educate the judges here about trafficking. There needs to be a real change in attitude.”