UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 REYKJAVIK 000049
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/NB, G/TIP, G (ACBLANK), INL, DRL, PRM, AND
STATE PASS USAID
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KCRM KWMN ELAB SMIG KTIP KFRD PREF IC
SUBJECT: NINTH ANNUAL ANTI-TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS (TIP) REPORT FOR
ICELAND (PART 1 OF 2)
REFS: A) STATE 5577
B) 08 STATE 132759
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED -- ENTIRE TEXT
Â¶1. (SBU) Embassy point of contact on the trafficking in persons
(TIP) issue is Political Officer Brad Evans, tel.
+354-562-9100x2294, fax +354-562-9139, unclassified e-mail
Hours spent on preparation:
- Pol Officer (FS 02) 18 hrs
- Pol Assistant 50 hrs
- DCM 1 hrs
Total: 63 hrs
Â¶2. (SBU) Part 1 of Embassy's submission follows, keyed to reftel
format. Part 2 will follow septel.
Begin text of submission:
THE COUNTRY'S TIP SITUATION:
-- A. Sources of information:
The only information presently available on TIP is anecdotal in
nature, though government officials' and NGOs' accounts of the
problem are largely consistent. As in years past, post's sources -
especially NGOs - maintain that they have seen several concrete
examples of trafficking. There are no current government plans to
undertake comprehensive documentation of trafficking.
Official reporting on the problem of TIP is limited to a brief
discussion in the February 2009 annual report by the National Police
Commissioner on threats to Iceland from organized crime and
terrorism. The report noted the existence of (illegal) organized
prostitution rings in Iceland and speculated that these rings may
traffic women to Iceland for the purposes of prostitution.
Government officials have confirmed to post that they believe
trafficking exists in Iceland and have shared anecdotal information
on the issue, but have reiterated that no comprehensive reporting
There has been some limited media reporting on TIP, generally
related to specific cases. During the reporting period two cases of
alleged trafficking in persons received media coverage.
The Icelandic Red Cross began an investigation in January 2009 to
measure the scope of the trafficking problem, and expects to issue a
report on it in June 2009.
-- B. Is the country a country of origin, transit, and/or
destination for internationally trafficked men, women, or children?
Internal trafficking? Outline of victims and changes to situation?
Summary: Estimates by police sources and NGOs put the number of
victims during the reporting period between 5-20. Iceland is a
country of destination and likely a country of transit for
trafficked women (primarily in the sex industry) and to a lesser
extent for men (restaurant and construction industry). One NGO
source reported knowledge of a woman resident in Iceland who was
trafficked from the country during the reporting period. There are
no indications of trafficking within Iceland; post sources agree
that with rare exception victims are trafficked internationally to
the greater Reykjavik metropolitan area. The situation with regard
to sex trafficking to and through Iceland appears unchanged.
Reports of labor exploitation of foreign construction workers (in
rare cases, possibly trafficked to Iceland) have decreased
dramatically. Individual cases of alleged trafficking received
greater attention in the media than in previous years. End
The government did not officially identify any cases of trafficking
during the reporting period. However, estimates by police and NGO
sources agree that there were likely 5-20 alleged victims, most if
not all female. There were isolated cases of origin and destination.
For the current reporting period, post considers 5-20 victims to be
a credible estimate of the scope of the problem, though we are
concerned over the lack of a formal, comprehensive study of TIP in
Iceland. Even the harshest critics of government policy concede
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that there are likely only a handful of victims each year.
Most alleged cases include underpaid and/or mistreated workers in
nightclubs and massage parlors as well as prostitutes trafficked
from Eastern Europe, Africa, Brazil, and Southeast Asia. Nightclub
and massage parlor workers -- who are alleged to be forced to work
as prostitutes -- may stay for several months before being
trafficked onward, while other prostitutes may spend only a few days
in Reykjavik before being moved abroad.
A Metropolitan Police source said that there had been five possible
TIP cases during the reporting period, all involving foreign
prostitutes and most likely linked to European-based organized crime
rings. An NGO representative said that she had seen as many as 13
possible TIP victims who had been involved in prostitution or
One of Post's sources claimed at least one woman had been trafficked
into prostitution from Iceland to a Pacific island, a direct
consequence of the economic crisis that hit Iceland beginning in
October 2008. The woman's nationality is unknown, but she is not of
Icelandic origin and does not have Icelandic citizenship. Post has
been unable to independently confirm this case.
Undocumented foreign workers - mostly Baltic and Eastern European -
in Iceland's construction and manufacturing sector may be exploited,
but most sources opine that these are cases of immigrant and
employment law violations rather than trafficking in persons. Post
agrees with this assessment. Press accounts of such cases have
drastically decreased during the reporting period compared to the
previous year; post's contacts in the government confirm a decline
in reported violations. Furthermore, size of the immigrant labor
force has been reduced drastically as a result of Iceland's
financial and economic collapse beginning in fall 2008..
There was one reported case in February 2008 that came to light
during the reporting period alleging that at least two and as many
as five workers at a Chinese restaurant were trafficked to Iceland
and forced to work under substandard conditions.
There was no evidence of trafficking in children.
-- C. What kind of conditions are the victims trafficked into?
With regard to sex trafficking, most alleged cases include underpaid
and/or mistreated workers in nightclubs and massage parlors as well
as prostitutes trafficked from Eastern Europe, Africa, Brazil, and
Southeast Asia. Nightclub dancers and massage parlor workers -- who
are alleged to be forced to work as prostitutes in addition to their
stated job duties -- may stay for several months before being
trafficked onward, while other prostitutes may spend only a few days
in Reykjavik before being moved abroad.
Legal measures to reduce the number and operations of strip clubs in
the Reykjavik Metropolitan Area -- the predominant loci of TIP
cases, according to post sources -- have been somewhat successful.
Beginning in 2007, police and municipal governments strengthened the
licensing requirements for such establishments, leading many to go
out of business. At the end of the reporting period only three
strip clubs remained in operation in the whole country, all in the
Reykjavik Metropolitan Area. The owners were apparently able to
exploit loopholes in the law on the operations of entertainment
establishments to remain in operation, although this legislation had
in effect outlawed strip shows as well as lap dances in 2007. NGO
representatives and police say that rumors continue to circulate
regarding prostitution and illegal nude shows and lap dances in the
handful of the remaining establishments.
Nightclub dancers are allegedly encouraged, and sometimes obligated,
to provide sexual services during performances in private rooms as
well as to make prostitution calls outside the clubs. Foreign
prostitutes brought to Iceland for shorter periods of time are often
required to provide sexual services in hotels or private apartments,
where they stay during their time in the country. In one case, the
head of a prostitution ring seized the passports of four foreign
women resident in Iceland and forced three of them to work as
prostitutes in order to earn money in exchange for the return of
their documents. The women worked as prostitutes in apartments in
the greater Reykjavik area but were not forced to live there
full-time. [See Overview E, below.]
Media reports of undocumented foreign workers living in industrial
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space and less-than-optimal living conditions -- having mostly
vanished from news reports during 2007 -- did not resurface during
the reporting period. The inflow of Eastern European and Baltic
citizens who have been coming to Iceland in search of employment,
virtually stopped and many have returned to their home countries in
wake of the financial and economic collapse that hit Iceland in
October 2008. In the case of Chinese restaurant workers allegedly
trafficked to Iceland, the workers were reportedly forced to live in
the same building as the restaurant and were paid grossly
substandard wages. Their travel documents were falsified by the
traffickers, who seized the documents upon the victims' arrival in
-- D. Vulnerability to TIP: Are certain groups of persons more at
risk of being trafficked (e.g. women and children, boys versus
girls, certain ethnic groups, refugees, IDPs, etc.)?
Women from Eastern Europe, Russia, Africa, Brazil, and Southeast
Asia appear to be the primary victims of TIP in Iceland.
-- E. Traffickers and Their Methods:
A February 2009 report by the National Police Commissioner on
organized crime and terrorist threats in Iceland confirmed the
existence of organized prostitution involving international
organized crime rings, who traffic foreign women to Iceland for the
purpose of prostitution. Traffickers are often connected with
dealers of illegal narcotics. Icelandic criminal elements serve as
local agents for the foreign organized crime rings, according to the
report and the 2008 edition of the same report.
Iceland is in the Schengen Zone as well as the European Economic
Area (EEA), which allows for the free flow of travelers and workers
between Iceland and other European countries. Workers from EEA
countries may come to Iceland visa-free for up to three months to
seek employment. Traffickers reportedly use this provision to bring
prostitutes to the country and then move them again before the
expiration of the three-month period, thereby removing the need for
false documents or fraudulent work permit applications.
Suspected trafficking victims from non-EEA states most commonly hold
valid visas from other Schengen countries, according to police
officials. Police officials tell post that as these travelers most
commonly are arriving from elsewhere within the Schengen zone,
police and customs officials at the port of entry (i.e., the
country's sole international airport) have limited authorization to
detain them for further questioning unless they are suspected of
involvement in narcotics trafficking.
There are no reports of travel or employment agencies or marriage
brokers acting as fronts for traffickers.
Two cases during the reporting period shed further light on
traffickers' methods. In the first, in March 2008, labor
authorities and union representatives reported that the Chinese
owners of a Chinese restaurant in Reykjavik were suspected of having
trafficked several of its kitchen staff to the country. Two Chinese
individuals were allegedly forced to live above the restaurant --
while being registered as living in an apartment elsewhere in
Reykjavik -- and were not paid according to union contracts. The
Chairman of the Icelandic Union of Food and Restaurant Workers said
that the restaurant applied for work permits for five Chinese chefs
in 2007. The qualifications of the workers submitted by the
restaurant were not adequate. The owners left Iceland in the fall
of 2007, perhaps for Belgium and France where they had their legal
address. At that time, the Icelandic immigration authorities were
alerted to the case. However, it was not until March 2008 that
police got the information about alleged human trafficking.
In this case, the union discovered that payments to the five workers
were not in accordance with union contracts. The union chairman
claims that the employers had at least two of the Chinese workers
pay them money to come to work in Iceland, and then give ten percent
of their wages to them under threat of violence. The workers were
brought to Iceland using false documents procured by the traffickers
and which were seized by the traffickers upon arrival in the
country. The union chairman said that at least two of the workers
had never seen their hiring contracts, and had only received 50-100
thousand Icelandic kronur ($443 - $885) per month. The other three
workers did not comment on their pay or working conditions, and
police and union officials suspect they were in fact relatives of
the restaurant's owners. The union chairman complained to post that
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police resources -- and perhaps priorities -- were insufficient to
see the case to its conclusion. No charges were filed by the victims
in the case, but police started the investigation on their own
accord. The police finished the investigation in September and sent
the case to the Metropolitan Police Prosecution Division where it
remains as of the end of the reporting period.
The second, more prominent case during the reporting period involved
a female Icelandic citizen of Equatorial Guinean descent, who is
suspected of having operated brothels in apartments in central
Reykjavik and in the neighboring town of Hafnarfjordur. The woman
forced four other Equatorial Guinean women into prostitution. In a
television interview, the alleged madam confirmed that the women
were "entertaining men" but denied that anything improper had taken
place. Police officials confirmed to post the substance of media
reports alleging that in September 2008 the woman employed had three
Icelandic men, who had connections to the narcotics world, assault
the four victims and seize their money and passports. All four
women had a Schengen area residence permit and were resident in
Iceland at the time of the assault.
The madam then told the victims that in order to retrieve their
passports, they would have to prostitute themselves and use the
proceeds to pay 100,000 kronur ($885) each. All four were
subsequently forced into prostitution. One of the victims, who had
suffered a miscarriage as a result of the assault, made claims in
the media that the madam did not successfully force her into
prostitution. Police, however, told post that these claims were
incorrect. The women eventually sought temporary shelter at the
country's sole Women's Shelter, but their stay was short-lived.
[See PROTECTION, B.] The victims were still present in Iceland at
the end of the reporting period and were assisting in the case
investigation. Their passports were recovered by police and
returned to them.
In February, the madam was arrested at Keflavik International
Airport on arrival from Amsterdam on drug-related charges both in
Iceland and abroad. She was additionally charged with sexual
violence offenses stemming from the prostitution-related
allegations. She was held in police custody for questioning for one
week, and has subsequently been released while the investigation
SETTING THE SCENE FOR THE GOVERNMENT'S ANTI-TIP EFFORTS:
-- A. Does the government acknowledge that trafficking is a problem
in the country? If not, why not?
The government of Iceland has acknowledged that trafficking is a
worldwide problem, including Iceland. That said, the government's
focus on TIP issues remains on victim protection and assistance as
in the previous year. Iceland is a signatory to the Palermo
Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime as well as the two
Palermo Protocols on TIP and Migrant Smuggling. However, despite
the parliament's approval of ratification of the Palermo Convention
in May 2008, the government has yet to deposit its instruments of
ratification. The parliament has yet to ratify the two Palermo
The greatest commitment to dealing with the problem of TIP has come
from the current Prime Minister, who for most of the reporting
period was the Minister of Social Affairs and only assumed her
current position in February 2009. As Minister of Social Affairs,
she requested in the fall of 2007 that her ministry become the lead
agency on TIP, and announced plans to develop a government-wide
action plan on prevention of trafficking in persons and support to
TIP victims (see PREVENTION: D)
Police reports (such as the National Commissioner of Police
assessment referred to in Overview A and E above) note the existence
of prostitution connected to international criminal organizations
and utilizing foreign prostitutes, and assume that Iceland is a
destination and transit country for TIP as a result. During the
reporting period, police officials -- such as the District
Commissioner for Sudurnes, which includes the country's sole
international airport -- also frankly stated in media interviews and
in interviews with Post that TIP exists in Iceland, though only in
-- B. Which government agencies are involved in anti-trafficking
efforts and which agency, if any, has the lead?
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The following agencies are involved in anti-trafficking efforts:
-- Ministry of Social Affairs (including the Equal Rights Office and
Directorate of Labor): lead agency.
-- Ministry of Justice (including the Directorate of Immigration,
State Prosecutor's Office, and National Commissioner of Police and
local police forces.
-- Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
-- C. What are the limitations on the government's ability to
address this problem in practice?
Government efforts to address TIP face two major limitations. The
first is the lack of a detailed understanding of the problem. As
noted above, there has been no detailed official
information-gathering on the scope of the problem. Post concurs
with the Icelandic government and NGO community's anecdotal
assessment that the problem affects 5-20 victims per year, but has
consistently noted the lack of hard statistics.
Post's assessment is that the lack of detailed official study of the
problem ties into the second major obstacle: a shortage of
available police assets in Iceland. For example, the country's
entire local and national police forces have fewer than 800
personnel, including administrative and support staff. The National
Police Commissioner's Office, which has primary responsibility for
organized crime and narcotics investigations at the national level,
has only three officers in its national security division (which
covers both international organized crime and counterterrorism
issues) and six officers in its narcotics division. Given these
limitations it is on some levels unsurprising that the police are
unable to devote assets exclusively to the problem of TIP.
The collapse of the Icelandic financial system in October 2008 and
the ramifications of that required police to focus their energies on
providing public order and crowd control at political protests that
in their scope, number, and intensity were unlike anything the
country had seen in the last half-century. Allocation of manpower
and funds to other fronts, including TIP, thus became very limited,
exacerbating previous resource issues. Post anticipates that
government-wide budget cuts and already-announced police layoffs
will only worsen this situation over the coming year.
Previously, funding for police and other institutions that handle
TIP issues was adequate for a reactive approach but inadequate to
fund active measures to prevent potential new cases. The January
2007 launch of an intelligence and analytical unit within the office
of the National Police Commissioner, intended to strengthen
proactive measures to combat international organized crime, has
improved National Police and Ministry of Justice awareness of
organized crime problems. However, some local police commissioners
have in the past noted to post that they have seen little direct
benefit from the intelligence and analytical unit, and that
cooperation between national and local levels on TIP and other
organized crime issues could be improved greatly. The Reykjavik
Metropolitan Police say they have a close relationship with other
police districts, and this would also apply in the case of possible
Programs to provide emergency shelter and crime victim compensation,
which in theory could be used to help TIP victims, have rarely been
tested in the trafficking context.
Given this resource shortage, police are likely directed to focus
their limited assets elsewhere. NGO sources observed to post that
Icelandic police do not question possible TIP victims - such as
foreign prostitutes purportedly employed by a third party - to find
out if they are trafficking victims, but instead quickly deport them
on other grounds. Police sources confirmed this claim.
-- D. To what extent does the government systematically monitor its
There is no systematic government monitoring of anti-trafficking
efforts as such - i.e., none beyond ordinary recordkeeping as to
laws proposed and passed. Primary responsibility for
anti-trafficking work currently lies with the Ministry of Social
Affairs, which oversees victim protection and assistance.
Post expects that the national anti-TIP action plan currently being
drafted (see PREVENTION D) will include measures to systematically
monitor government anti-TIP efforts.
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End text of submission Part 1 of 2.
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED