Main Menu
Street Children

Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                              


Iceland's Scandinavian-type social-market economy combines a capitalist structure and free-market principles with an extensive welfare system, including generous housing subsidies. Prior to the 2008 crisis, Iceland had achieved high growth, low unemployment, and a remarkably even distribution of income.

A protracted recession is expected in 2009 and 2010 with GDP likely to contract and unemployment likely to surpass 10%.

Iceland's coalition government collapsed in January 2009 following protests over growing joblessness and losses to personal savings.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Description: Iceland

Iceland is primarily a destination country and, to a lesser extent, a transit country for men and women from the Baltic states, Poland, Russia, Bulgaria, Equatorial Guinea, Brazil, and China trafficked to and through Iceland to Western European states for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor in the restaurant and construction industries. - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009    Check out a later country report here or a full TIP Report here


CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Iceland.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


In Iceland, Our Long-Sought Victory in Battling Human Trafficking

Gudrún Jónsdóttir, Women's Media Center, April 21, 2009

[accessed 17 April 2012]

[accessed 30 January 2018]

On April 17, the last day before Iceland’s parliament adjourned to prepare for elections on April 25, members passed a bill criminalizing the act of buying individuals for purposes of prostitution. Patterned on the Swedish law that addresses the demand fueling the commercial sex industry, the action was hailed as an historic moment in the international struggle against human trafficking.

The entire women´s movement in Iceland joined forces. In 2003 and again this year some 15 NGOs urged members of parliament and the government to consult seriously with women’s groups. An opinion poll taken in 2007 showed that 70 percent of the nation wanted to criminalize the buying of prostitution—including a majority of both women and men and within every political party. Parliamentarian Kolbrun Halldorsdóttir of the Left-Green party took the lead in the debates. When the Left-Greens came into the government two months ago, she became minister of environmental affairs and brokered her power to get the legislation passed.


*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Iceland

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 9 June 2021]


Some instances of forced labor occurred. Traffickers subjected men and women to forced labor in construction, tourism, and restaurants. Foreign “posted workers” were at particular risk of forced labor because traffickers paid them in their home countries and contracted them to work for up to 183 days in the country under the guise of avoiding taxes and union fees, limiting tax authorities’ and union officials’ ability to monitor their work conditions and pay.


The government effectively enforced applicable laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes. Inspection capacity was sufficient to enforce compliance.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 8 July 2020]


Citizens generally enjoy fair access to economic opportunity. However, the systematic exploitation of migrant workers, including underpaying employees and denying overtime, has become a significant problem in recent years, especially in the tourism industry. Employers who exploit workers have largely acted with impunity due to an inadequate government response. Wage theft is not punishable by law. There are reports of forced labor, primarily involving migrants, in the construction and service industries, and of forced sex work in nightclubs.

Iceland criminalized human trafficking in 2009. In its 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, the US State Department reported that law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking remained weak, and that no one has been prosecuted or convicted of human trafficking since 2010.

Woman Arrested for Human Trafficking in Iceland

Iceland Review, 25.02.2009

[accessed 9 February 2011]

[accessed 9 February 2019]

A woman, who is suspected of human trafficking, having organized prostitution in Iceland and profited from it, was arrested at Keflavík International Airport last week and has been taken into custody until Friday.

Iceland’s Capital Region Police have been monitoring the woman for some time.   She is suspected of having operated brothels both in central Reykjavík and in Hafnarfjördur, a neighboring town …

Red Cross Reacts to Human Trafficking in Iceland

Iceland Review, 04.02.2008

[accessed 9 February 2011]

[accessed 30 January 2018]

Margrét Steinarsdóttir, a lawyer at Ahús who has assisted victims of human trafficking, said it has different forms but what all victims have in common is that they are in a desperate situation which criminals take advantage of.

They may come to Iceland on their own accord and agree to marriage to obtain a residence permit, but once they are here they are deprived of their freedom and their passports are often taken away, Steinarsdóttir said.

Actions Against Human Trafficking

Iceland Review, 11 June 2008

[accessed 9 February 2011]

[accessed 30 January 2018]

The Icelandic government is preparing a plan on how to act on human trafficking. The plan will be ready in the fall.   Current Icelandic laws include no clauses on how to protect the victims of human trafficking. Those who have been sold to slavery cannot file for residence or work permits on the grounds of human trafficking. Morgunbladid reports.   The Icelandic police are also not equipment to deal with those circumstances. According to Hildur Jónsdóttir, a member of the task force which is creating the plan, there is a huge task to be done.   The police must be capable of recognizing human trafficking and make those involved in it stand trial. The welfare system must also be fit enough to receive the victims. The operation plan calls for co-operation between the police, the welfare system as well as health institutes and organizations that work for human rights.

The Protection Project - Iceland [DOC]

The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University

[accessed 2009]

FORMS OF TRAFFICKING – In February 2002, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concern that Iceland might be a destination country for trafficking in women.  The Icelandic government has also admitted that it is aware that trafficking in women exists in Iceland.   Every year foreign women arrive in Iceland to work in strip clubs. Research commissioned by the Icelandic Ministry of Justice confirmed a link between strip clubs in Reykjavik and prostitution. Some of the foreign women may have been forced into prostitution.  The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, part of the Council of Europe, reported that some of the women currently employed in Icelandic strip clubs, especially those from Eastern and Central Europe, have been trafficked there.   Local police also believe that most of the North American women who work in strip clubs in Iceland have been trafficked into the country ...


Human Rights Reports » 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 25, 2009

[accessed 9 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – Cases fell into several categories, none of which included more than a few documented victims: undocumented Asian and eastern European workers in construction and manufacturing who were underpaid and forced to live in substandard employer-provided housing; "mail-order" or "Internet" brides from eastern Europe and Asia trapped with abusive husbands, with some reports of forced prostitution; and underpaid or mistreated prostitutes and workers in nightclubs and massage parlors. In March labor authorities and union representatives reported that a Chinese restaurant in Reykjavik was suspected of having trafficked several of its kitchen staff to the country. The restaurant was investigated for labor code violations and subsequently closed. No prosecutions resulted. The Directorate of Labor investigated other cases throughout the year involving undocumented workers who were potentially victims of trafficking. In some cases employers were fined for noncompliance with labor laws but none were charged with trafficking.

All material used herein reproduced under the fair use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.  PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS OF COMPONENT ARTICLES.  Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery - Iceland",, [accessed <date>]