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2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Sweden

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Sweden, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 18 February 2018]
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 and a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor. Women, men, and children are 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 in Sweden annually. Although in previous years forced prostitution has been the dominant type of trafficking in Sweden, in 2011 the number of reported labor trafficking victims was larger than the number of reported sex trafficking victims. Foreign victims of sex trafficking originate from Central and Eastern Europe (Romania, Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Albania, Estonia, Lithuania, and Armenia), Africa (Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Kenya), and Asia (Thailand, China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia). Swedish girls were also vulnerable to sex trafficking within the country, which mostly occurs in apartments, houses, and hotels. Other sex trafficking victims are exploited in massage parlors. Both victims and perpetrators of forced begging and stealing originate primarily in Romania, Belarus, and Bulgaria.

Other labor trafficking victims have originated in Thailand, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Latvia, and Estonia. The proportion of EU citizens who are labor trafficking victims has increased following the Swedish government's reduction of work permits issued to non-EU citizens and a subsequent rise in the number of migrants from other EU states working in Sweden. Labor trafficking occurs in the domestic service and hospitality sectors, as well as in seasonal labor, when workers travel to Sweden to pick berries or perform construction or gardening work. Approximately one-third of identified victims were children. Authorities report that organized crime groups are increasingly involved in leading trafficking schemes in Sweden. Mentally or physically disabled men, women, and children, members of minority groups, and the indigent were particularly vulnerable to trafficking. The approximately 2,657 unaccompanied foreign children who arrived in Sweden in 2011, primarily from Afghanistan, were also 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.

The Government of Sweden fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Although the government's anti-trafficking program was still formally limited by the scope of the Action Plan against Prostitution and Human Trafficking for Sexual Purposes, the Government of Sweden identified a greater number of labor trafficking victims by voluntarily addressing labor trafficking outside of the mandate of the action plan. The Swedish government employed creative methods to encourage all relevant actors in the government to address trafficking in persons, involving non-traditional actors, such as the tax authorities to investigate trafficking crimes. New regulations established to prevent forced labor in berry picking yielded some results. Nevertheless, Swedish courts repeatedly rejected trafficking cases under an interpretation of Swedish trafficking laws that requires proof of intent to subject the victim to servitude at the outset of the criminal scheme.

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; ensure that migrant and seasonal laborers receive education about their rights in Sweden; ensure that trafficking victims are offered a reflection period in accordance with Swedish law; continue efforts to identify and provide trafficking-specific assistance to child trafficking victims in Sweden, including Swedish victims of trafficking; 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; ensure that municipal authorities, charged with implementing trafficking victim protection, are educated on anti-trafficking norms; 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; vigorously prosecute Swedish child sex tourism offenders; continue regular, self-critical assessments of Sweden's anti-trafficking efforts.


The Government of Sweden improved its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period, increasing sex trafficking investigations and expanding efforts to investigate labor trafficking. 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 2011, Swedish law enforcement investigated 35 sex trafficking cases, in contrast to 32 sex trafficking investigations in 2010. Law enforcement investigated 62 cases of labor trafficking and of forced begging or criminal behavior, an increase from 52 cases in 2010. Thirty percent of all trafficking cases involved the exploitation of children. Prosecutors initiated prosecutions of 43 suspected trafficking offenders under Sweden's trafficking statute and related laws, in contrast to 37 prosecutions initiated in 2010. The courts dismissed eight cases, down from 10 dismissals in 2010. The authorities convicted the remaining 27 offenders, delivering sentences up to four and 2 half years in prison. In 2010, the courts also convicted 27 offenders, with sentences of up to six years in prison. Many of these cases were reversed on appeal, or sentences were reduced. 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. Implementation of this amendment has been inconsistent. Prosecutors report that it can be difficult to obtain convictions in otherwise strong trafficking cases when there is insufficient proof of intent to force the victim into servitude at the outset of the case. Instead, they sometimes manage to obtain convictions on parallel charges, such as assault or fraud. For example, in a high profile case involving the alleged labor trafficking of a mentally disabled Bulgarian man, the defendants had forced the victim to return to a labor camp by tying a rope around his neck and forcing him to run behind their car. Despite these facts, the court acquitted the defendants of trafficking charges. Both the government and NGOs opined that judicial understanding of trafficking is often low. In 2011, the police and prosecution service convened a series of working meetings to increase effectiveness of trafficking investigations. At the meetings, the group disseminated trafficking indicator cards. The Swedish police, border officials, immigration authorities, and tax authorities all received specialized trafficking training. The tax authority has been an active partner in anti-trafficking investigations. Fifteen thousand individuals have received anti-trafficking training under the auspices of Sweden's anti-trafficking plan since 2008. Sweden collaborated with foreign governments, including the United Kingdom, Estonia, and Finland to investigate trafficking. The government did not report the investigation, prosecution, or conviction of any government officials complicit in trafficking.


The government improved its protection efforts during the reporting period, identifying more trafficking victims. The government identified approximately 141 victims of trafficking during the reporting period, an increase from 84 victims identified in the previous reporting period. Approximately 66 victims were sex trafficking victims; 75 were victims of forced labor. The government funded the provision of victim services through municipal authorities, regional operative teams, and NGOs to provide female and male victims with shelter, psychological care, rehabilitation, health care, vocational training, and legal assistance. NGOs reported that municipal authorities had an uneven understanding of victim protection protocols, but that the authorities worked well with the Stockholm County Administration victim coordinator to ensure appropriate care. During the year, the government provided temporary residence permits to trafficking victims who cooperate in the criminal investigation of trafficking offenders; there were no reports of immigration relief given to victims who chose not to cooperate. The prosecutor also had the discretion to file for permanent residency after the conclusion of the criminal case. Furthermore, a provision of Aliens Act allowed a number of trafficking victims to apply for and receive permanent residency as a person in need of protection. The Swedish government issued 39 temporary residence permits this year to trafficking victims who assisted in the criminal investigation of the trafficking cases; it issued 40 residence permits in 2010. Victims also had the right to a reflection period of at least thirty days in which they could decide whether to participate in the criminal process. Police and NGOs both have noted that victims were rarely informed of their right to a reflection period. The reflection period was invoked in a few cases; two victims of trafficking declined to participate in the criminal proceedings at the conclusion of the reflection period. NGOs observed that the thirty-day period was too short. In at least one case, the prosecutor succeeded in obtaining a permanent residency permit in a case in which there was no conviction. The government offered incentives to trafficking victims to participate in prosecutions. It appointed legal counsel to victims of trafficking during the course of criminal proceedings and, although there was no formal victim restitution program, the government's Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority sometimes awarded compensation to trafficking victims. There were no reports that the government penalized identified victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.


The Swedish government improved its prevention efforts during the reporting period, appointing an anti-trafficking ambassador, continuing to strengthen efforts to prevent labor trafficking, and engaging in international outreach to prevent trafficking in persons. The Swedish government's anti-trafficking program was still formally guided and funded by an extension of its 2008-2010 Action Plan against Prostitution and Human Trafficking for Sexual Purposes. Under this plan, the Government of Sweden designated the Stockholm County Administration as the coordinating body of the government's anti-trafficking activities. Recognizing that forced labor has expanded in the country, Swedish authorities have voluntarily acted, in the absence of a formal mandate, to combat this additional form of trafficking in persons. Nevertheless, the government recognized that the lack of a formal mandate to address labor trafficking sometimes hindered its efforts to address the crime. The Swedish police National Rapporteur enhanced transparency by publishing reports describing trafficking in the country. The government convened an Interagency Working Group to ensure communication on trafficking issues across agencies. The Swedish Migration Board imposed stricter regulations and better background checks on companies applying for foreign work permits, leading to a reduction in the exploitation of non-EU citizens in traditionally exploitative sectors. The Government of Sweden provided extensive foreign assistance to support anti-trafficking efforts abroad through its embassies and through foreign funding. Swedish authorities gave bilateral training to a variety of foreign government delegations on anti-trafficking.

The Government of Sweden continued to fund study visits on anti-trafficking activities to representatives of other European countries. 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; some regions of the country have seen double the number of commercial sex purchasers voluntarily turn to the social services group for help. Sweden's law prohibiting child sexual offenses has extraterritorial effect, allowing the prosecution of suspected child sex tourists for offenses committed abroad. Swedish police identified 50 Swedish citizens suspected to be involved in child sex tourism. The National Criminal Police staffed a unit focused on combating child sex tourism with two intelligence officers and two full-time investigators, who assisted foreign and Swedish authorities with criminal cases of child sex tourism. In December 2011, a Swedish court convicted a 45-year-old Swedish citizen for sexually abusing four children in the Philippines in 2010, sentencing the offender to five years in prison. The government provided anti-trafficking training to Swedish troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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