Viewing cable 09REYKJAVIK49

09REYKJAVIK492009-03-06 16:25:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Reykjavik
DE RUEHRK #0049/01 0651625
O 061625Z MAR 09
E.O. 12958: N/A 
REFS: A) STATE 5577 
  B) 08 STATE 132759 
¶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 
¶2.  (SBU) Part 1 of Embassy's submission follows, keyed to reftel 
format.  Part 2 will follow septel. 
Begin text of submission: 
-- 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 
abusive marriages. 
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 
-- 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 
limited numbers. 
-- 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 
TIP issues. 
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 
anti-trafficking efforts? 
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.