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Iceland is Destination for Sex Trafficking Victims

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Iceland is Destination for Sex Trafficking Victims

Police car

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

The number of cases of human trafficking in Iceland is on the rise as the number of tourists increases, according to Alda Hrönn Jóhannsdóttir, chief legal officer for the greater Reykajvík police. She stresses the importance of increasing discussion on the subject.

“There are many reasons for this increase,” Alda told Vísir. “There is, for example, the increased influx of tourists, and there is mainly sex trafficking, because where there is demand, there is supply.”

According to a report by the US Department of State, published in June, Iceland is a destination and a transit country for women subjected to sex trafficking, and people of both sexes who are victims of labor trafficking. The report recommends that efforts be increased to fight such crimes.

“We always need to improve,” Alda admits. She wants to educate people and encourage them to be on the alert to crimes of this kind.

The document covers the problem of human trafficking worldwide. It reveals that women from Eastern Europe, the Baltic States, West Africa and Brazil are subjected to sex trafficking at night clubs and bars. Furthermore, men and women from Africa, Eastern Europe, South America and South and East Asia are, according to the report, subjected to forced labor in construction, tourism, restaurants, fish factories and as au pairs in private homes.

The report points out that foreign “posted workers,” who are people temporarily employed outside the country of their legal residence, are at a great risk of being the victims of forced labor. Human traffickers pay them in their home countries and make a deal with them to let them work in Iceland for up to 183 days in order to avoid paying taxes and union fees in Iceland. That limits the chance for authorities to monitor work conditions and wages. The victims leave the country before they have to register with local authorities.

Iceland is listed in the report as one of the countries whose governments fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards (classified as Tier 1 countries. It has increased investigations of suspected trafficking and identified more victims, although there have been no prosecutions or convictions of suspected traffickers for three consecutive years. The government has worked with non government officials to increase education and awareness among officials and professionals.

The State Department recommends that efforts be significantly increased to prosecute and convict traffickers. Training of investigators, prosecutors and judges on detecting and prosecuting trafficking crimes should be increased, and trust between law enforcement and victims built by providing services and shelters to victims.

So far, the report notes, funding for this area of law enforcement has been inadequate. You can read the report here.

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