Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September 2014, 12:53 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Sweden

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Sweden, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee45c.html [accessed 18 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Sweden (Tier 1)

Sweden is a destination, source, and, to a lesser extent, a transit country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking. Women, men, and children are also subjected to forced labor and forced criminal behavior, including begging and stealing. Swedish police have estimated that 400 to 600 persons are subjected to human trafficking, primarily in sex trafficking, in Sweden annually. Foreign victims of sex trafficking originate from Romania, Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Albania, Estonia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Thailand, China, Uzbekistan, and Mongolia; in 2010, one third of identified victims were children. Among Swedish nationals, some mentally or physically handicapped individuals reportedly were exploited in sexual servitude. According to a government report, 12 percent of Swedish girls and four percent of Swedish boys placed in state-run youth care homes sold sex for drugs or money. Although sex trafficking has been the dominant type of human trafficking in Sweden, forced labor and forced criminal behavior also increased this year. Victims of forced labor originated from Romania, Thailand, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Latvia, and Estonia. Government officials and NGOs report that forced labor occurs in domestic service, the hospitality industry, and in the gardening, construction, and seasonal agriculture sectors. Some foreign migrants recruited for berry-picking reportedly experience conditions indicative of forced labor, including substandard working and living conditions, low or withheld pay, confiscation of passports, and imposition of large debts by labor intermediaries. Eastern Europeans, many of Roma origin, have been subjected to forced begging and stealing in Sweden. The approximately 2,400 unaccompanied foreign children who arrived in Sweden in 2010, primarily from Afghanistan and Somalia, were vulnerable to human trafficking; some have gone missing since their arrival in Sweden. Child sex tourism offenses committed by Swedish nationals traveling abroad remain a problem; Swedish citizens traveling abroad commit an estimated 4,000-5,000 acts of child sexual exploitation annually.

The Government of Sweden fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. It produced new guidelines for combating trafficking, produced awareness raising campaigns, made new efforts to stem labor trafficking, and developed specialized trainings responsive to trafficking trends in the country. The government proactively identified more trafficking victims. It also funded studies of its own anti-trafficking policies and activities and produced reports on labor trafficking. Nevertheless, the judiciary continued to award light sentences for trafficking in persons offenses, including in cases involving very aggravated circumstances. Furthermore, the government's anti-trafficking program remains overwhelmingly oriented toward the combating of sex trafficking to the exclusion of the growing trend of individuals exploited for labor in the country.

Recommendations for Sweden: Vigorously prosecute, convict, and punish labor and sex trafficking offenders using Sweden's anti-trafficking statute; ensure that trafficking offenders receive sentences commensurate with the gravity of this serious crime; continue training judges, particularly appellate judges, on the application of the anti-trafficking law; continue efforts to identify and provide trafficking-specific assistance to child trafficking victims in Sweden, including Swedish victims of trafficking; implement measures to improve the protections for children in state-run youth homes who are vulnerable to trafficking in persons; consider proactive measures to prevent unaccompanied foreign minors from being subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor; formalize victim identification mechanisms; ensure that labor trafficking is explicitly included in the mandate of the National Coordinator and any national action plan; ensure that victims of labor trafficking are provided with full information about their rights and that they are empowered to testify against their exploiters; provide longer term residency options for victims who may face retribution or hardship in their country of origin; consider a national anti-trafficking awareness campaign to address forced labor in addition to forced prostitution; continue to provide human trafficking awareness training to all Swedish peacekeepers; continue regular, self-critical assessments of Sweden's anti-trafficking efforts.

Prosecution

Sweden demonstrated mixed anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period, increasing its investigations, but reversing convictions upon appeal. Sweden's 2002 anti-trafficking law prohibits trafficking for both sexual exploitation and forced labor and prescribes penalties of two to 10 years' imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2010, the government revised its anti-trafficking law to clarify that evidence of a victim's initial consent does not override evidence of subsequent coercion in the context of trafficking prosecutions.

In 2010, the government investigated 32 sex trafficking cases, one more than in 2009, and nearly doubled its investigations of labor trafficking cases from 28 in 2009 to 52 in 2010. Twenty-nine of all trafficking cases investigated involved the exploitation of children. Authorities prosecuted 37 suspected trafficking offenders under Sweden's trafficking statute and related statutes, an increase from 2009, in which approximately 24 offenders were prosecuted. The courts dismissed 10 of those cases, and convicted 27 offenders, including three for sex trafficking, five for trafficking for other purposes, one for assisting trafficking, four for aggravated procurement, and 14 for procurement. This compared with at least four sex trafficking offenders convicted under the trafficking statute and 20 sex trafficking offenders convicted under the procurement law in 2009. The sentences for sex trafficking ranged from three to six years' imprisonment, averaging four years. The sentences for trafficking for other purposes ranged from three months' to one year's imprisonment. Nevertheless, these convictions were often reversed or the sentences were reduced by the appellate courts. In one high-profile case, involving the drugging and aggravated sex trafficking of a 14-year-old mentally handicapped girl residing in a state-run youth home in Malmo, the appellate court reversed the sentences of several offenders and reduced the sentence of the ringleader to only three months in prison, ruling that the exploitation was not a sufficient invasion of the victim's integrity to warrant damages. The Swedish government funded training for police officers, border officials, judges, and prosecutors on trafficking in persons, including offering advanced training courses for police officers. For example, selected police officers received special training on interacting with victims under the psychological coercion of voodoo. The government also facilitated the extradition of a trafficking offender from Bulgaria to Sweden. The government did not report the investigation, prosecution, or conviction of any government officials complicit in trafficking.

Protection

The government demonstrated strong victim protection efforts during the reporting period, identifying a greater number of victims during the reporting period. The government identified 84 victims of trafficking in 2010, an increase from 59 victims identified in 2009. Thirty-two victims were sex trafficking victims; 52 were victims of labor trafficking. In progress from prior years, the government identified a Swedish citizen who was a victim of trafficking. The government funded victim care through NGOs both in Sweden and abroad to provide female and male victims with rehabilitation, health care, vocational training, and legal assistance. In 2010, the National Support Operations team published a handbook on human trafficking in Sweden and developed national guidelines for combating prostitution and human trafficking. The government provided temporary residence permits to trafficking victims who cooperate in the criminal investigation of trafficking offenders. The prosecutor also had the discretion to file for permanent residency after the conclusion of the criminal case. A provision of the Swedish Alien's Act allowed trafficking victims to apply for permanent residency as a person in need of protection in their home country, which could offer a legal alternative to removal of victims facing retribution or hardship at home. The Swedish government issued 40 temporary residence permits this year, an increase from 19 permits issued in 2009; in at least one of these cases, the prosecutor succeeded in obtaining a permanent residency permit for a victim in a case in which there was no conviction. The government offered incentives to trafficking victims to participate in prosecutions by appointing legal counsel to victims of trafficking during the course of criminal proceedings. The government inconsistently provided counsel in human trafficking offenses that were charged as pimping, rather than under the trafficking statute. Although there is no formal victim restitution program, the Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority sometimes awarded compensation to trafficking victims. There were no reports of the government punishing identified victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.

Prevention

The Swedish government improved its prevention efforts during the reporting period. It began to incorporate labor trafficking into anti-trafficking programs, while still continuing work on sex trafficking. In an extension of the 2008-2010 National Action Plan, the Government of Sweden designated the Stockholm County Administration as the coordinating body of the government's anti-trafficking activities. Under the official mandate of the Action Plan, the Stockholm County Administration only addressed sex trafficking, not labor trafficking, although the coordinator has voluntarily chosen to incorporate labor trafficking into its activities. In 2010, Sweden launched an awareness raising campaign, "Safe Trip," to distribute information on human trafficking for sexual exploitation through posters and brochures in transfer places. It also continued other information campaigns on sex trafficking such as television ads, and targeted campaigns to hotels and taxi drivers. There was no equivalent awareness raising program for forced labor, and an expert report concluded that there was a general lack of awareness on labor trafficking in Sweden. However, the government funded a study on labor trafficking and labor exploitation in Sweden, which illuminated several systemic problems: the under-reporting of forced labor as human trafficking, poor controls over the registration of abusive labor recruiting companies, and a lack of a clear mandate to investigate labor trafficking cases. The National Police published an annual report on trafficking in persons, analyzing trafficking statistics, trafficking legislation, and trends in the crime. The Government of Sweden made efforts to improve data collection on trafficking by developing a standard data collection form for authorities to use when they come into contact with potential victims of trafficking. The Swedish government gave significant funds in foreign aid to support anti-trafficking activities throughout the world. For example, it allocated approximately $143,000 to start a transnational project to counter labor trafficking in the Baltic Sea Region. The Government of Sweden also funded regional study visits on anti-trafficking activities to representatives of 11 countries in North Africa and the Middle East. The government continued to conduct robust activities to reduce the demand for commercial sex, including by establishing a social services group that addresses individuals arrested for purchasing commercial sex under the 1998 Act Prohibiting the Purchase of Sexual Services. The appellate court in the Malmo case, however, overturned the sentences for at least two men who had been convicted of purchasing sexual services or the aggravated pimping of a child. A former senior police officer and principal of Sweden's police training college, who was regarded as an expert on gender equity and the 1998 Act Prohibiting the Purchase of Sexual Services, was investigated and charged with multiple sex offenses, including rape of a minor and pimping. Swedish authorities convicted him on several charges and sentenced him to six years in prison. Sweden also has strong policies against child sex tourism, including facilitating anonymous reporting of sexual abuse of children abroad, designating a special police unit to investigate charges of child sex tourism, and collaborating in the prosecutions of three Swedish citizens engaged in child sex tourism in Cambodia and Thailand. The government provided anti-trafficking training to Swedish troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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