The government marginally increased efforts to protect trafficking victims. In 2021, authorities identified 68 trafficking victims (26 sex trafficking, 31 labor trafficking, 11 other or unspecified), compared with 64 in 2020. Of these victims, 34 were female, 33 were male, and one identified as transgender. The vast majority of identified victims were adult foreign nationals; five were children (11 in 2020). Previously, the government’s perspective that trafficking was a sex-based phenomenon with primarily female victims limited the number of identified adult male victims in forced labor; however, in 2022, labor trafficking victims outnumbered sex trafficking victims, and men represented nearly half of all identified victims. Experts noted the trend toward online advertisement of commercial sex made identifying sex trafficking victims more difficult. For years, NGOs reported the identification process was complicated and involved multiple government and law enforcement agencies, requiring several interviews of victims, who at times remained in detention before referral to NGOs. In an effort to streamline the process, in January 2022, the Department for Gender Equality assigned CMM and the Danish Immigration Service (DIS) as the only authorities with responsibility to formally identify trafficking victims—an initiative outlined in the new NAP to ensure uniform case management and data protection. Several NGOs worried the new process was not victim-centered, lacked continuity, and limited their role working with victims as they could no longer conduct interviews to formally identify trafficking victims. In March 2022, CMM hosted a workshop for NGOs to discuss the new process and ways to share information. CMM was responsible for formal identification of victims of Danish or EU origin or who were documented migrants, and the DIS was responsible for formal identification of undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers. DIS screened potential victims during the asylum interview; however, according to NGOs, the DIS interview was often too brief to make an accurate identification. CMM, DIS, and the courts assessed whether a victim was eligible for assistance, which was not conditional on cooperation with law enforcement or whether there was an ongoing investigation.
In 2021, all 68 identified trafficking victims received some form of government assistance (64 in 2020). As a standard practice during reflection periods, CMM assigned a contact person to identified victims to inform them of relevant services and coordinate assistance. As part of the new NAP and to ensure safety and quality services, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Senior Citizens approved accommodations for trafficking victims and conducted inspections of shelters for adequate services. Victims under DIS’ care received accommodations in asylum centers, shelters, or safe houses based on their individual needs. Asylum centers provided health care services, social services, educational activities, and vocational training for trafficking victims throughout the duration of their stay. CMM and the Ministry of Immigration and Integration’s Return Agency offered financial and legal counseling and reintegration assistance. CMM also offered educational activities, health care, and psychological care through private clinics and received 10.8 million DKK ($1.65 million) from the government. A government-funded NGO provided two shelters for female trafficking victims and received 19 million DKK ($2.9 million) for operational expenses over the course of four years. There was no specialized shelter for male victims, but accommodation was available if necessary. Municipal child protection authorities assisted child victims and placed them in municipal accommodation or in residential care institutions. The Danish Red Cross assisted unaccompanied children in facilities partially funded by the government and screened all unaccompanied children in asylum centers for trafficking indicators. Observers continued to express concern over the disappearance of unaccompanied children from asylum centers and reports of unaccompanied children, particularly Moroccan boys living in asylum centers, being forced into commercial sex, forced labor, and petty criminality. Regional experts reported shortcomings, such as a lack of clear procedures, in the identification of child victims, especially among unaccompanied children, and recommended developing a specialized framework for identifying and assisting children and providing safe accommodations.
Stricter immigration policies and guidelines increased vulnerability among asylum-seekers and refugees, particularly those the government returned to their country of origin who could face retribution or hardship. The Aliens Act allowed the government to grant residence permits to refugees and family members, including trafficking victims, for temporary stay only, and to revoke residence permits if the need for protection no longer existed, contrary to Denmark’s international obligations. For the first time in four years, the government granted two trafficking victims temporary residence permits. Regional experts reported it was “nearly impossible” for victims to receive a residence permit, noting since 2015 the government had granted only six new residence permits. Experts also reported the difficulty for victims to receive work permits. NGOs contended authorities primarily treated victims as undocumented immigrants subject to arrest or deportation, especially if victims were previously detained by law enforcement. Officials had the authority to detain potential victims for 72 hours and could extend this period when they needed more time to determine victim status or immigration status or to identify traffickers. As part of procedure, the government granted identified, undocumented trafficking victims a 30-day reflection period to stay in Denmark and receive support and assistance—regardless of their cooperation with police—with the potential to extend another 90 days. The government required victims who accepted the subsequent 90 days extended departure deadline to leave voluntarily within 120 days. As a result of the pandemic and related movement restrictions, the government extended the 30-day reflection period up to eight months. Nonetheless, regional anti-trafficking experts, including the Council of Europe, contended this period did not refer to a period of reflection and recovery necessary to determine whether victims would cooperate in the investigation of their cases; rather, it was a period of time the victims had to cooperate in their repatriation. The Return Agency processed voluntary returns of foreigners who received rejected residency requests, including trafficking victims, to their country of origin. Predictably, some victims chose not to participate in a voluntary return because they viewed it as preparation for deportation. Additionally, traffickers’ use of debt-based coercion and victims’ lack of protection in their home countries served as significant deterrents from accepting the return. The government allowed victims who assisted in the prosecution of a trafficker to remain in Denmark for the duration of the investigation or court proceedings. However, NGOs reported the threat of deportation prevented victims from coming forward and led some identified victims to leave shelters before the conclusion of police investigations or court proceedings in order to evade deportation. Additionally, observers noted that many victims saw no benefit to being identified and that there was little to no incentive for victims to serve as witnesses since there were limited long-term residency options, the compensation process remained complex, and above all else, the government prioritized returning victims to their countries of origin. In 2021, NGOs reported multiple instances when DIS officials responded to trafficking reports, which typically fall within the National Police’s jurisdiction, to intimidate and ultimately repatriate foreign nationals, including trafficking victims, to their home countries.
While the government provided guidelines on not imposing penalties upon trafficking victims, Danish law lacked a non-punishment provision ensuring victims were not inappropriately incarcerated, fined, or otherwise penalized solely for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. Observers noted incidents in which authorities prosecuted victims, including children, for crimes their traffickers compelled them to commit. Courts issued reduced sentences in cases where evidence was found proving victims were compelled to commit crimes by their traffickers. In 2021, authorities charged 11 victims for criminal activities who served time in prison before being deported. For victims who testified in court, the government did not offer witness protection but assigned a contact person, typically a police officer, to provide guidance and information about the case. Danish law entitled trafficking victims to request restitution from traffickers as part of criminal proceedings, as well as file civil suits for financial compensation.