The US Department of State’s yearly human trafficking report states Iceland could be doing more to combat the practice. RÚV reported first.
The US Department of State 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report ranks Iceland as a Tier 2 country, stating it “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.” The reports adds, however, that “it is making significant efforts to do so.”
Iceland was listed as a Tier 1 country from 2012-2016, falling to Tier 2 in 2017. The report listed several improvements which accounted for Iceland keeping its Tier 2 spot this year. The country investigated more trafficking cases and added a staff member to the specialised investigative unit, as well as identifying more potential victims and increasing resources for overall victim protection. According to the report, however, “the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas,” including failing to convict any suspected traffickers in the past seven years. The report says trafficking investigations in Iceland are often hindered by the inability of victims to get work permits and thus leaving the country for employment.
Drífa Snædal, general secretary of the Federation of General and Special Workers in Iceland (SGS), a federation of trade unions, says Iceland’s workers’ unions have made the same criticisms for years. “Nothing is happening. This is the same criticism we received a year ago when we dropped down a category. Improvement was promised, we haven’t seen an increase in funding, we haven’t seen a new action plan, the team of specialists which the Ministry of Justice put together a few years ago hasn’t met at least not this year, I think for two years,” Drífa remarked in an interview on morning radio today. She added that change is needed not just in individual cases, rather in the system as a whole.
The Ministry of Justice has since responded to the report, stating they are prioritising the drafting of a new action plan against trafficking which will be presented in the fall. “The US government’s assessment and report do not surprise me as they are in full accordance with their findings last year,” stated Minister of Justice Sigríður Andersen. She adds, however, that the report’s criticism of the number of convictions is based on “their ignorance of the Icelandic justice system,” stating that in Iceland charges are not made unless there is a high likelihood of conviction.