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US Shines Spotlight on Human Trafficking in Iceland

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US Shines Spotlight on Human Trafficking in Iceland

fishermen at work

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Forced marriages are more common in Iceland than most people would like to believe, according to a new report on human trafficking around the world by the US Department of State.

The report also looks at people trafficked to work, saying that men and women from all over the world—especially Eastern Europe and China—are being forced to work under poor conditions in Iceland as au pairs, in massage parlors, fish factories, restaurants and on building sites. Women are trafficked into the illegal sex trade from Eastern Europe, the Baltic States, West Africa and Brazil.

The American report says that some traffickers use the rules of the Schengen Agreement to move people, saying that people are made to work in European countries, including Iceland, for three months or less, so they can avoid needing to register in the country.

Countries are grouped into four categories depending on how bad the situation is. Iceland is in the first category with most other European countries, the USA, Canada, South Korea, Australia and others. The fourth category, where the situation is considered worst, includes Yemen, South Sudan, Syria, Algeria, North Korea, Kuwait and Russia. The latest report has elevated Cuba and Malaysia out of this lowest category, RÚV reports.

Though Iceland is in the top category does not mean there is no human trafficking. The report’s authors write that Iceland is not among the countries people are trafficked from, but it is among the countries people are illegally trafficked to, or through, en-route to somewhere else.

On Iceland, the State Department report says that the country complies with all minimum requirements of international laws against human trafficking and that dozens of prostitution customers have been interrogated to find any ties to trafficking, though they have not led to any investigations against suspected traffickers. No survivors of trafficking have wanted to work with police, the report says, fearing retribution.

The report recommends that Iceland should concentrate on securing convictions in cases of suspected trafficking. This should involve improving knowledge and training for investigators, prosecutors and judges; as well as encouraging victims to work with authorities.

The American report comes out every year and Iceland used to be in category two between 2009 and 2011, when it was moved into the top category.

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