The Government of Denmark fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, Denmark remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by continuing to implement its 2015-2018 national action plan against human trafficking and passing a spending resolution that increased funding through 2020 for counter-trafficking efforts. For the first time, the government offered trafficking victims temporary residence under section 9(c) of the Danish Aliens Act, which gives authorities the ability to stay deportation for victims to assist in an investigation. The government identified more trafficking victims and continued to fund victim service providers. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it continued to focus on foreign trafficking victims' illegal immigrant status, often incarcerating them while pending review of their status and repatriating non-EU resident victims to their countries of origin without proper screening. This impeded the ability of law enforcement to pursue traffickers and left victims vulnerable. Victim identification methods were convoluted and involved NGO partners too late in the process. In the last five years, only four victims had been granted asylum, despite the government officially identifying more than 400 victims; no victims were granted asylum during the reporting period.


Increase incentives for victims to cooperate in the prosecution of traffickers, including by permitting temporary residency for victims while they assist law enforcement; more vigorously prosecute trafficking offenses and convict sex and labor traffickers; sentence traffickers in accordance with the gravity of the offense; cease penalization of victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, such as migration offenses, including assessing if new guidelines concerning withdrawal of charges against trafficking victims prevent their penalization and detention; strengthen and streamline victim identification procedures, including expanding law enforcement efforts to proactively identify and expeditiously transfer potential trafficking victims, especially those without legal status, from police or immigration custody to crisis centers or care providers to facilitate trust among this vulnerable group.


The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Section 262(a) of the criminal code prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes punishments of up to 10 years imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Authorities investigated 25 trafficking cases in 2016, an increase from three in 2015. The government initiated prosecutions of three trafficking suspects, compared with 58 in 2015, when the Danish National Police conducted two major anti-trafficking operations. The government reassigned a large number of police units to border security duties due to the refugee crisis, which hindered the number of officers available to conduct trafficking investigations. Courts convicted 17 traffickers in 2016 (16 in 2015), all of whom received the full prison sentences permitted by law. Sentences ranged from 3 years to 7 years, 11 months imprisonment. Experts reported few trafficking cases were brought to trial because of the lack of incentives for victims to participate in the investigation of their traffickers, such as residence permits for victims. In 2016, however, the government offered a family of two trafficking victims (one adult and one minor) temporary residence under section 9(c) of the Danish Aliens Act, which the victims accepted. This was the first time the government implemented the 2013 amendment to the Aliens Act, allowing authorities to issue temporary residency to trafficking victims without legal status in Denmark assisting law enforcement and testifying in a trial. Authorities cooperated in one transnational investigation and began extradition proceedings against three individuals wanted for human trafficking violations in Romania. In February 2015, authorities arrested 26 individuals during a nationwide human trafficking sting. Ongoing investigations and court cases continued through the end of the reporting period. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. Police received instruction on trafficking at the police academy and again after their first year on the job.


The government maintained efforts to protect victims. Authorities identified 121 trafficking victims in 2016, compared with 93 victims in 2015. Eight of the identified victims were minors (five of sex trafficking, one of forced criminal activity, and two trafficked for "other" purposes), compared with six in 2015. Authorities did not identify any Danish trafficking victims in 2016. The government provided a list of indicators for police to reference for initial identification and procedures to guide officials in proactive victim identification. When police suspected they had a victim in custody, they called government anti-trafficking experts to assist in questioning and explain the victim's rights; each police district appointed a trafficking expert. NGOs noted the onus of victim identification remained on trafficking victims rather than officials' proactive identification. Government guidelines for identifying victims required shuffling victims between law enforcement and government agencies before referring them to NGOs. NGOs stated victim identification methods were convoluted and involved NGO partners too late in the process. NGOs contended authorities primarily treated trafficking victims as illegal immigrants subject to the justice system. The Danish Institute for Human Rights stated victims had been incarcerated pending review of their immigration status and as part of the process for identifying their traffickers. According to NGOs, the current laws and identification process incentivized police officers to treat victims as illegal immigrants. A third-party audit of the identification process revealed the government did not effectively disseminate current statistics and reports or manage its long-term planning.

Government-funded, NGO-operated facilities provided trafficking victims care services, including medical, psychological, and legal assistance; these facilities were dedicated to trafficking victims. The Danish Red Cross assisted unaccompanied children and child victims in another facility partially funded by the government. Victims could apply for compensation through a state fund and through civil suits against their traffickers; however, no victims pursued these in 2016. To help prevent trafficking victims from being penalized for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking, the director of public prosecutions distributed guidelines on the identification of victims and the withdrawal of charges against them to the police and prosecution service. Some observers reported increased willingness by prosecutors to drop charges against trafficking victims. The government did not implement efforts to provide alternatives to victims' removal, resulting in few protections for victims.

While the government reported asylum or humanitarian residence permits could be used as alternatives to removal for victims who lacked legal status in Denmark, trafficking victims could not qualify for these provisions or receive these protections solely on the basis of being subjected to trafficking crimes. The government required victims to prove they were persecuted in their home countries on the basis of Refugee Convention grounds. In 2016, the government offered a family of two trafficking victims (one adult and one minor) temporary residence under section 9(c) of the Danish Aliens Act, which the victims accepted. The government continued to offer trafficking victims a 120-day "extended time limit for departure" as part of its prepared return program for trafficking victims ordered to leave Denmark; the prepared return gave victims a specified period of time to receive services before their eventual deportation. Regional anti-trafficking experts, including the Council of Europe, emphasized this period does not refer to a period of reflection and recovery necessary to determine whether victims will cooperate in the investigation of their cases; rather it is a period of time the victims have to cooperate in their repatriation. During 2016, the Council of Europe criticized Denmark for failing to honor the required 120-day period of recovery and reflection prior to deportation of trafficking victims. In 2016, 12 trafficking victims accepted a prepared return (43 in 2015). Authorities deported victims without legal residency who did not accept a prepared return unless they were assisting in the prosecution of a trafficker. Some victims chose not to participate in the program, reportedly based on the perception it was merely a preparation for deportation. Victims' debt bondage to their traffickers and lack of protection in their home countries served as significant deterrents from accepting the prepared return. The effective lack of alternatives to removal impeded the ability of law enforcement to pursue traffickers and left victims vulnerable to re-trafficking.


The government increased prevention efforts. The government allotted 88.3 million Danish Kroner ($12.5 million) for its 2015-2018 national action plan for trafficking protection and prevention programs. In addition, parliament passed an omnibus social spending resolution in November 2016, which allocated 9.4 million Danish Kroner ($1.33 million) to counter-trafficking efforts through 2020; this initiative included provisions for identification, outreach, and shelter. As part of the 2015-2018 national action plan, the government provided anti-trafficking training to police, diplomats, and other government personnel. The government conducted training for health service providers at clinics, shelters, and hospitals on how to identify trafficking victims and notify authorities. In May 2016, a government-assisted NGO launched a public exhibit focused on human trafficking and forced prostitution. Authorities posted guidelines for the hospitality sector to assist employers in the prevention of labor exploitation. Authorities conducted public information campaigns aimed at curbing demand for trafficking, provided public education about the signs of possible trafficking, and publicized through social media a hotline for reporting trafficking cases. Authorities continued to train tax and labor inspectors on labor trafficking indicators. The government did not take measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex.


As reported over the past five years, Denmark is primarily a destination and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking from Eastern Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. Migrants are subjected to labor trafficking in agriculture, domestic service, restaurants, hotels, and factories through debt bondage, withheld wages, abuse, and threats of deportation. Unaccompanied migrant children are vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor, including theft and other forced criminality. Since 2009, 33 children have been identified as trafficking victims in Denmark: nine forced into pickpocketing, three into cleaning restaurants, six into forced criminal activity, 13 into sex trafficking, and two trafficking for uncategorized purposes. Copenhagen's relatively small red-light district represents only a portion of the country's larger commercial sex industry, which includes sex trafficking in brothels, bars, strip clubs, and private apartments. The rise in migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees entering and transiting Denmark has increased the size of the population vulnerable to human trafficking.


This 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.