Viewing cable 09REYKJAVIK49, NINTH ANNUAL ANTI-TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS (TIP) REPORT FOR
Every cable message consists of three parts:
- The top box shows each cables unique reference number, when and by whom it originally was sent, and what its initial classification was.
- The middle box contains the header information that is associated with the cable. It includes information about the receiver(s) as well as a general subject.
- The bottom box presents the body of the cable. The opening can contain a more specific subject, references to other cables (browse by origin to find them) or additional comment. This is followed by the main contents of the cable: a summary, a collection of specific topics and a comment section.
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol). Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #09REYKJAVIK49.
|09REYKJAVIK49||2009-03-06 16:04||2011-01-13 05:05||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy Reykjavik|
VZCZCXRO2379 OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG DE RUEHRK #0049/01 0651625 ZNR UUUUU ZZH O 061625Z MAR 09 FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4006 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHDC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 REYKJAVIK 000049 SENSITIVE SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/NB, G/TIP, G (ACBLANK), INL, DRL, PRM, AND EUR/PGI STATE PASS USAID E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PHUM KCRM KWMN ELAB SMIG KTIP KFRD PREF IC SUBJECT: NINTH ANNUAL ANTI-TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS (TIP) REPORT FOR ICELAND (PART 1 OF 2) REFS: A) STATE 5577 B) 08 STATE 132759 SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED -- ENTIRE TEXT ¶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 EvansBR@state.gov. 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: THE COUNTRY'S TIP SITUATION: -- 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 exists. 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 summary. 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 REYKJAVIK 00000049 002 OF 006 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 REYKJAVIK 00000049 003 OF 006 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 Iceland. -- 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 REYKJAVIK 00000049 004 OF 006 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 continues. SETTING THE SCENE FOR THE GOVERNMENT'S ANTI-TIP EFFORTS: -- 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 Protocols. 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? REYKJAVIK 00000049 005 OF 006 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. REYKJAVIK 00000049 006 OF 006 End text of submission Part 1 of 2. VAN VOORST 1 SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED