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Alleged Victims of Forced Labor Left Iceland

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Alleged Victims of Forced Labor Left Iceland

Vík í Mýrdal

From the beach in Vík í Mýrdal. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Two sisters from Sri Lanka, who are strongly suspected of being victims of forced labor in Vík í Mýrdal, have left the country, RÚV reports. Their legal advisor, Kristrún Elsa Harðardóttir, who was interviewed on Kastljós news program last night, claims the system totally failed them and sent them from bad to worse. According to Kristrún, the women left the country out of fear and due to lack of money.

When police arrested the women’s employer in February, the sisters were brought to the Women’s Shelter in the capital area. There exists a plan for a course of action to be taken in such instances, Kristrún claimed, “It’s an excellent plan in itself, but it simply doesn’t work, because it hasn’t been implemented; it has no budget. There is an emergency team in this plan, meant to take action within 24 hours and to take care of these victims, but this emergency team doesn’t exist.”

The women received ISK 5,200 (USD 41, EUR 37) a week; they had no work permit, limited service and were terrified, Kristrún stated. She took the case to the Ministry of the Interior, met apparent understanding, but no action.

It’s unclear what effect their departure will have on the case against their former employer. But why did they decide to leave? Kristrún responded, “They just couldn’t stay here penniless. It’s just that they have a boss. They need to return something. They fear for their family.”

Kristrún fears they’ve gone from bad to worse. Because they came from a country outside the European Economic Area, there was no way for them to obtain a work permit, although they had already been offered jobs. Thus, they couldn’t have any income, and there was no option for them but to leave.

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