Police are investigating the case of a woman who appears to have been the victim of human trafficking at Adam Hotel in Reykjavík. That hotel first made headlines this winter when it was found to be selling bottled water to guests and advising them to drink it rather than water from the tap, although the bottles turned out to contain water from that same tap. Later, the hotel was found to have paid its staff less than minimum wage and to have required ten-hour working days. Finally, 11 rooms were sealed by police at the hotel, when it was discovered that 20 rooms had been rented out although a permit had only been given to rent out nine.
This time, according to RÚV, a foreign woman was forced to work at Adam Hotel and to share a bedroom with her boss. She received less than ISK 60,000 (USD 480, EUR 429) a month, which is way below the minimum wage. She was led to believe she was in the country illegally, and that if she were caught, she would be arrested and expelled from the country where punishment awaited her.
Not until she received a pamphlet from the Icelandic Confederation of Labor (ASÍ) did she realize that she was indeed a victim of human trafficking. The woman has left the country, but is expected to return in the coming days.
Harpa Ólafsdóttir, director of the payroll and benefits department at Efling Union, claims the union can’t do anything about the case since the woman didn’t seek the their help to begin with: “This particular individual has not come to us in search of justice, and, therefore, we have no grounds to take up this particular case. In a way, we would be breaking the rule of equality if we took on individual cases and discriminated against other union members. We have 24,000 members, and each and everyone needs to have the initiative to come to us in search of his or her rights.”
Harpa notes that oftentimes, victims of human trafficking neither speak Icelandic nor English; they are unaware of their rights and have no idea where to go for help. Therefore, she urges citizens to assist individuals they suspect to be such victims.