1. The problem
The number of reported labour trafficking cases was larger than the number of reported sex trafficking cases
Modern slavery in Sweden affects both foreigners and, to a lesser extent, Swedish citizens.5 According to the 2013 US TIP Report, sexual exploitation has been the dominant type of modern slavery but “in 2011 the number of reported labour trafficking cases was larger than the number of reported sex trafficking cases.” Forced criminal behaviour (begging and stealing) has also been detected, and is primarily thought to affect nationals of Eastern European countries. Men, women and children have been identified, with approximately one third of all victims being under the age of 18.6
The reported labour trafficking cases concern victims originating from Eastern Europe and Asia. They have been detected in “domestic service and hospitality, as well as in seasonal labour, when workers travel to Sweden to pick berries or perform construction or gardening.”7 In 2012, Swedish law enforcement investigated 21 trafficking cases involving sexual exploitation, a decline from 35 in 2011. Law enforcement investigated 48 cases of forced labour, forced begging, or forced criminal activities, in contrast to 62 in 2011.8
According to Eurostat data in 2010, 74 victims of trafficking were identified, 44 in 2009 and 21 in 2008.9 There were 8 convictions for human trafficking in 2010, 4 convictions in 2009 and 0 in 2008.10 In 2012, Sweden initiated prosecutions of 35 suspected offenders, and 33 were convicted and received penalties of up to five years in prison.11
Notable aspects of the problem
In 2011, police estimated the number of people trafficked annually – which may be lower than the number of people in modern slavery – ranged from 400 to 600 per year.12 Poverty, migration or minority status and disability are thought to increase vulnerability to trafficking in Sweden, reflecting regional and global trends. The Swedish Migration Board states that the current migration legislation is such that it provides loopholes that facilitate the exploitation of migrant workers, and recommends that trade unions should be granted more oversight.
2. What is the government doing about it?
Sweden has ratified all key treaties in relation to modern slavery except the Domestic Work Convention.
|Supplementary Slavery Convention||Yes|
|UN Trafficking Protocol||Yes|
|Forced Labour Convention||Yes|
|Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention||Yes|
|CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children||Yes|
|Domestic Work Convention||No|
Sweden has comprehensive human rights protections, strong workplace laws and robust institutions. Migrant rights are well protected and migrants are supported by a strong NGO sector. The 2008 Swedish Immigration Law reinforces that all workers have equal rights to fight exploitation. Sweden is in the early stages of undergoing evaluation by GRETA who conducted a country visit in May 2013 and with
findings expected by 2013.
increased number of forced labour cases identified shows that Swedish authorities are paying greater attention to this issue
Sweden has a National Action Plan (NAP), under which 214 million SEK (approx. US$33.3 million) was spent between 2008 and 2010. The current response still exists under the 2008-2010 NAP, which was due to be updated in 2011. The NAP focuses on sexual exploitation and does not in a formal sense adequately address modern slavery outside the sex industry, however, the increased number of forced labour cases identified shows that Swedish authorities are paying greater attention to this issue. While a new NAP and corresponding mandate has not been drafted, an extension of the 2008-2011 plan was established in April 2013 and is currently being implemented. Interventions addressing issues not covered in this NAP, such as labour trafficking and protecting male trafficking victims, are being established. Data is collected and published by the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings in the form of Annual Situation Reports with recommendations for improving the country’s response. The last available report is from 2012.13
Modern slavery is comprehensively criminalised under Sweden’s Penal Code and penalties for such conduct are severe. The US TIP Report however, has raised concerns about the standard of proof in relation to intent in modern slavery cases, even after recent Swedish Government efforts to address inconsistencies.
Victim assistance is decentralised so that local municipalities provide direct and immediate assistance to referred parties. Direct services are provided by local stakeholders including municipal bodies, county administrators and NGOs. The Stockholm County Administration has taken charge of providing support, training, provision systems, and a protocol for victim services, especially coordinating assisted returns with the International Organisation on Migration (IOM). The National Support Method Team is a multi-stakeholder group that works with the Stockholm County Administration to coordinate the sharing of information.
NGOs suggest that the reflection period is inadequate, and that not all victims are informed of their options
NGOs and regional agencies are funded by the Government to provide shelter, legal assistance, and social services to victims of modern slavery. These services are coordinated by the Stockholm County Administration. NGOs have raised concerns about inconsistency in victim services and there is considerable difference in the services provided between males and female victims.14 Temporary visas are available to victims who cooperate with law enforcement after a 30 day reflection period, however, the reflection period is only granted to victims whose cases law enforcement decide to pursue. NGOs suggest that the reflection period is inadequate, and that not all victims are informed of their options with police not widely aware of the operation of the reflection period.153 Victims who opt not to assist with the investigation, or whose cases are not investigated may be allowed to stay in Sweden or to move within the Schengen Area, but they must find gainful employment or seek asylum. They may also opt to participate in the assisted return programme by the IOM. Permanent visa options are available to victims who have assisted with law enforcement activities. While there is no specialised compensation scheme for victims of modern slavery, the 2012 US TIP Report noted that the Government’s Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority had awarded compensation to victims of modern slavery. Compensation to victims of any crime can range from 10,000 – 325,000 Swedish kronor (approx. US$1,500 – $48500). Human trafficking cases in 1999-200916 received compensation awards ranging from 75,000 – 125,000 Swedish kronor (approx. US$11,200 – $18,700).
The Swedish Work Environment Authority (SWEA) is the administrative authority for issues relating to the working environment and carries out inspections at workplaces. It has a broad mandate although information is not available in relation to the frequency of detection of modern slavery by the SWEA.
Notable aspects of the response
The 2012 US TIP Report praised Sweden’s “creative methods to encourage all relevant actors in the Government… involving non-traditional actors such as the tax authorities to investigate trafficking crimes.” Training on modern slavery is provided to police, customs and immigration officials and tax authorities.
Purchasing (but not selling) sexual services is criminalised under the 1998 Act Prohibiting the Purchase of Sexual Services, which was a unique approach at the time of its introduction and was justified as an anti-trafficking measure. A 2010 Swedish Government report claimed that “criminalisation of the purchase of sexual services has helped to combat prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes,”17 at the same time noting “that it is difficult to assess the exact extent of human trafficking for sexual purposes in Sweden.” The effectiveness of the ban specifically as a counter-trafficking measure has not as been confirmed by independent research. Critics of the ban have argued that it has pushed the sex industry into the informal economy beyond the reach of labour laws, and that it has made sex workers more vulnerable to HIV, violence and exploitative practices.18 There are conflicting accounts of the size of the illicit sex industry in Sweden, and the proportion of migrant sex workers.
A number of local governments in Sweden include social requirements in contracts, such as compliance with fundamental ILO conventions. These terms are consistent with Swedish procurement law. To address the requirement for effective practices and tools to control a supplier’s compliance with the requirements, the Swedish Association for Local Authorities and Regions produce a sample code of conduct, and a note on the procedure for incorporating socially responsible public procurement.19
3. What needs to happen?
- Update its National Action Plan to reflect current conditions and adequately address all forms of modern slavery.
- Evaluate its legislative response to modern slavery, especially in relation the standard of proof required to demonstrate intent and to how it deals with forced marriage.
- Conduct an evaluation of the effectiveness and appropriateness of its victim support programmes, including a survey of users to better understand their experience.
- Ensure that law enforcement authorities are widely familiar with the reflection period provisions.
- Ensure that victims who are unwilling or unable to assist law enforcement have appropriate visa options.
- Ensure that the rights of migrant workers are protected, especially where visas are linked to the employer.
- Commission an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of its ban on the purchase of sexual services as an anti-slavery measure, and its effects on the safety of sex workers.
- Conduct targeted outreach and awareness raising to vulnerable groups.