The government maintained efforts to protect victims, but did not make improvements concerning detention of potential victims or the forced repatriation of undocumented victims. Authorities identified 98 trafficking victims in 2017, compared with 121 victims in 2016. Of these, 86 were sex trafficking victims, one was labor trafficking, five were forced to commit crimes, three were trafficked for other forms of exploitation, and three were not registered. Eight victims were men, 86 were women, and four identified as transgender. Three of the identified victims were minors (one of sex trafficking, one of forced criminal activity, and one of which the type of trafficking was not registered), compared with eight in 2016. Of those identified, one was Danish, compared with zero in 2016. Government guidelines for identifying victims required the involvement of multiple government and law enforcement agencies, requiring several interviews of victims who were kept in detention before referral to NGOs. The government maintained a list of indicators for police to reference for initial identification and procedures to guide officials in proactive victim identification. Each police district appointed a trafficking expert, and when police suspected they had a victim in custody, they were required to call CMM to interview suspected victims. CMM was responsible for formal identification of victims of Danish or EU origin or who were documented migrants, and immigration services were responsible for formal identification of undocumented migrant victims following the initial CMM interview. Officials had the authority to detain potential victims for 72 hours and could extend this period when more time was needed to determine victim status or immigration status, or to identify traffickers. NGOs continued to note the onus of victim identification remained on trafficking victims rather than officials’ proactive identification and highlighted that many victims came from communities that distrust law enforcement, making them unlikely to voluntarily identify themselves. NGOs also reported language barriers and a lack of cross-cultural understanding during the interview and judicial processes, which resulted in the alienation of many victims, particularly among an increased number of victims from Nigeria. NGOs stated victim identification methods were convoluted and involved NGO partners too late in the process, and authorities were incentivized by current laws and the complex identification process to treat trafficking victims as illegal immigrants subject to penalization. In 2016, 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. The government continued to distribute guidelines to the police and prosecution service on the withdrawal of charges against victims for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; some observers reported increased willingness by prosecutors to drop charges against trafficking victims.
Following identification, CMM offered assistance to all victims, including information on undocumented victims’ options for voluntary return, asylum, or humanitarian residence. In 2017, 88 victims accepted support and were referred to government care facilities. Government-operated and government-funded NGO facilities provided trafficking victims medical and psychological care, shelter, and financial, legal, and reintegration assistance, regardless of gender, disability, origin, or immigration status. Shelter provided was separated by gender and age, with adults able to leave shelters unaccompanied and at will. Although these trafficking-specific services existed, victims were sometimes housed with asylum-seekers and refugees. The Danish Red Cross assisted unaccompanied children and child victims in another facility partially funded by the government. Victims were not permitted to seek employment while receiving assistance, but they could apply for compensation through a state fund and through civil suits against their traffickers; the government did not report if victims pursued these in 2017.
The government provided undocumented trafficking victims a 30-day “extended time limit for departure” (with extension up to 120 days) 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 did not refer to a period of reflection and recovery necessary to determine whether victims will cooperate in the investigation of their cases; rather it was a period of time the victims had to cooperate in their repatriation. In 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. The government provided those who accepted the prepared return with up to six months temporary residency and training to prevent re-trafficking. The reflection period and prepared return did not provide means for victims to seek employment, but also did not prevent victims who were legally allowed to work from seeking employment. Victims who participated in the prepared return also had freedom of movement, and largely remained in shelter accommodations provided after their formal identification. In 2017, 13 trafficking victims accepted a prepared return (12 in 2016). Regardless of whether foreign victims accepted the prepared return, the government provided 50,000 kroner ($8,060) to victims when they were deported. Authorities deported undocumented victims who did not accept a prepared return unless they were assisting in the prosecution of a trafficker. In 2017, immigration services granted temporary residency permits to two identified victims and one potential victim under section 9(c)5 of the Danish Aliens Act, based on their cooperation with police on ongoing investigations and prosecutions. The government also granted one victim an asylum residency permit in 2017. 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. 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.