2021 Trafficking in Persons Report: Norway

NORWAY: Tier 2

The Government of Norway does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included investigating more trafficking cases; allocating more funding to NGOs for victim assistance; and providing significant financial support to campaigns and projects aimed at combating sex and labor trafficking, including securing trafficking-free supply chains in selected industries. Additionally, a 2020 amendment to the immigration law permitted residency to foreign victims who testified in a criminal case regardless of whether the government prosecuted the case as trafficking. However, these efforts were not serious and sustained compared to the efforts during the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on the government’s anti-trafficking capacity. Authorities prosecuted zero trafficking cases for the first year ever, convicted only one trafficker—the fewest since 2005, and continued to charge traffickers with non-trafficking crimes, such as pimping. Victim identification and assistance data remained unreliable. For the fourth consecutive year, the government did not report an official number of identified and assisted victims and continued to delay development of a comprehensive statistical system for collecting data, formal identification procedures, and a national referral mechanism (NRM). Moreover, authorities did not consistently identify potential child trafficking victims and did not report identifying or assisting any child victims despite their involvement in trafficking cases. Finally, authorities’ sole focus on an individual’s lack of residence permit or immigration documentation resulted in the deportation of victims without screening for trafficking indicators. Therefore Norway was downgraded to Tier 2.


Significantly increase efforts to investigate trafficking cases under the trafficking statute and prosecute and convict suspected traffickers. • Enhance efforts to proactively identify and assist trafficking victims, particularly children. • Report annual data on the number of victims identified and assisted by the government. • Screen all foreign nationals and asylum-seekers for indicators of trafficking and stay deportation of potential victims prior to screening. • Develop and implement a reliable comprehensive statistical system for collecting and collating data, including on child trafficking, victim identification and assistance, and investigations, prosecutions, and convictions. • Establish and implement an NRM and victim identification procedures that receive adequate input from NGOs, and define processes and roles of all relevant government agencies and front-line actors. • Improve efforts to understand the demand for forced labor and identify victims of labor trafficking and refer them to assistance. • Increase training for investigators and prosecutors on applying trafficking laws and understanding different aspects of trafficking. • Develop and implement a national action plan for 2021.


The government decreased law enforcement efforts. Sections 257 and 258 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to six years’ imprisonment for offenses involving adult victims and up to 10 years’ imprisonment for those involving child victims. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. Police investigated 38 trafficking cases (17 sex trafficking, 20 labor trafficking, one uncategorized), compared with 36 cases in 2019 and 45 in 2018. Five of those cases involved 13 child trafficking victims. The government reported zero prosecutions, a significant decrease from 19 in 2019 and 13 in 2018 and the lowest number of reported prosecutions since the government has been reporting trafficking data. Courts convicted one trafficker for sex and labor trafficking, continuing a multi-year decline from four in 2019 and 13 in 2018 and marking the lowest number of convictions since 2005. The convicted trafficker received a sentence of two years and 10 months’ imprisonment. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes. The Norwegian government regularly collaborated with other European governments at national and local levels to pursue investigations and prosecutions of traffickers. In one case, authorities from Norway and Romania cooperated to extradite a Romanian trafficker.

During the reporting period, all 12 police districts maintained dedicated anti-trafficking units. Experts reported enhanced police awareness and willingness to pursue trafficking cases but noted limited investigative capacity in some districts. As in previous years, investigators and prosecutors continued to charge traffickers with non-trafficking crimes, such as narcotics and pimping, which subsequently barred victims from access to specific rights. Officials noted doing so when it was difficult to meet the burden of proof for a trafficking charge under the law, citing cases of online exploitation as particularly difficult to prosecute because traffickers hid traces of their crime via anonymous servers and other technological backroads. Officials noted the need to revise current trafficking laws to adapt to increasingly digital and globalized forms of the crime. Officials also noted the need to increase efforts to investigate and prosecute forced labor cases. Most forced labor cases resulted in prosecutions on lesser social dumping charges because the burden of proof was difficult and officials did not have a good overview of the forced labor market. The government defined social dumping as the act of offering foreign workers unacceptably low wages and unreasonable working conditions, such as working hours and living quarters, compared with what Norwegian workers normally received. Experts assessed more systematic training could enhance competence among investigators and prosecutors. In 2020, the Norwegian Police Academy conducted an online mandatory course for all investigators and prosecutors to increase knowledge and awareness about trafficking-related offenses and victim identification. The National Criminal Investigation Service, which maintained a national police group of experts aimed at increasing the understanding and knowledge about trafficking within the Norwegian Police Authority, conducted a one-day seminar and organized regular meetings for the group throughout 2020. The group’s responsibilities included knowledge-sharing between police and prosecutors, development of working methods and anti-trafficking efforts, and advancing cooperation with relevant stakeholders. The Coordination Unit for Victims of Trafficking (KOM), which coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, hosted a seminar for 350 participants focusing on strengthening anti-trafficking cooperation among various stakeholders from national and municipal levels as well as civil society and academia.


The government decreased protection efforts. In 2020, the government continued to delay development of a comprehensive countrywide statistical system on trafficking, including victim identification and assistance data, which originally commenced in 2017. At the time of commencement, KOM and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) decided to withhold the number of identified and assisted victims until after the government had set up a more formal and reliable system. Subsequently, for the fourth consecutive year, the government did not report an official number of victims identified or assisted, rather it estimated identifying 100 victims in 2020, the same number as in 2019 (the last reported official statistic was 262 victims identified and assisted in 2016). A government-funded NGO reported identifying 116 potential victims in 2020, compared with 118 in 2019. Restrictions imposed during the pandemic, such as lockdowns and border closures, reduced the government’s ability to identify and refer potential victims to NGOs and other actors who provided assistance, which experts noted underscored the need for an NRM. NGOs reported the pandemic intensified the shift toward online commercial sex and made identifying and assisting sex trafficking victims more difficult. Furthermore, experts noted deficiencies in identifying labor trafficking victims citing the government’s lack of understanding of the demand in certain sectors for forced labor. Although the government had neither formal identification procedures nor an NRM, authorities utilized informal guidelines to identify and refer potential victims. The MOJ and KOM continued to develop an NRM and established a working group to facilitate the process, which began in 2018. The working group’s initial proposal received wide criticism from various stakeholders expressing concern the proposed NRM would reduce the reflection period for victims from six months to 45 days, which could result in fewer victims assisting authorities in investigations and authorities deporting more victims while they were still recovering from their abuse. Consequently, the development of the NRM stalled.

The government provided victim assistance through municipal crisis centers and government-funded NGOs, including Re-establishment, Organizing safe places to stay, Security, Assistance (ROSA), the largest project exclusively assisting trafficking victims in Norway. These NGOs provided foreign and domestic victims with shelter, legal aid, stipends for food, psychological care, medical assistance, fitness facilities, and Norwegian-language classes. NGOs reported social distancing regulations due to the pandemic dissuaded victims from seeking assistance, particularly sex trafficking victims, for fear that violating those regulations would result in deportation or imprisonment. Additionally, civil society reported when authorities investigated and prosecuted a trafficking crime as another crime, victims were unable to access assistance granted to trafficking victims under Norwegian law. In 2020, ROSA reported assisting 46 victims (39 in 2019), and the government estimated assisting 100 victims. Parliament allocated 35 million kroner ($4.1 million) to NGOs specifically for assistance services, an increase from 30 million kroner ($3.52 million) allocated in both 2019 and 2018. Oslo’s Labor and Social Affairs Department established Human Trafficking Support Oslo to assist and support adult victims, including foreign victims in a reflection period, and hired 23 employees to support victims in the capital region. Human Trafficking Support Oslo received 4 million kroner ($468,930) from the government in 2020. The Directorate for Children, Youth, and Family Affairs maintained a coordinating unit for service and assistance to child trafficking victims and received 5 million kroner ($586,170) from the government in 2020. The unit worked to improve procedures to identify child victims, provide training and capacity building activities, and support coordination between government authorities. There were no reported cases of identified child victims in 2020 despite authorities investigating five trafficking cases involving 13 child victims. Municipal child welfare services assisted zero child victims, a decrease from three in 2019 and eight in 2018. Authorities placed identified child victims in state-run institutions, such as orphanages, for up to six months. According to officials, authorities did not consistently identify child victims and maintain statistics. To assist with the identification and investigation of trafficking cases involving children, the government developed procedures for cooperation among police, immigration authorities, and child welfare authorities.

A 2020 provision to the immigration law permitted residency to victims who testified in a criminal case regardless of whether it was prosecuted as a trafficking case or another crime. Victims under a reflection period received legal assistance through an appointed lawyer funded by the government, access to health care services, lodging, and other necessary support. In 2020, authorities granted a six-month reflection period to 16 victims and limited residence permits of up to 12 months to three victims, compared with five and 14 in 2019. Authorities granted six possible victims residence permits due to compelling humanitarian considerations (six in 2019). Observers raised concerns that police focused more on an individual’s lack of residence permit or immigration documentation than screening them for trafficking indicators, resulting in the deportation of potential victims. In January 2021, police deported more than 10 individuals in commercial sex for violating pandemic-related infection control measures. Civil society criticized the National Police Immigration Service for deporting the individuals before screening for trafficking indicators. Furthermore, the continued closure of the Storskog border crossing with Russia to anyone seeking protection prevented the screening of trafficking victims along the northern border. During the reporting period, an amendment to the law entered into force allowing trafficking victims from countries within the European Economic Area (EEA) candidacy for full financial reintegration support to their country of origin. However, NGOs expressed concern that ineligibility for financial support to victims from outside the EEA, such as asylum-seekers who received rejected asylum applications, exposed them to the risk of re-victimization.

Victims benefited from state compensation through the Compensation for Victims of Violent Crimes Act. During the reporting period, the government proposed amendments to the Act, which, according to civil society, would make restitution contingent on a conviction and, if a case did not result in a conviction, require victims to file a civil suit against their alleged trafficker to receive compensation—a costly, self-funded process most victims could not afford. Civil society claimed the requirement contradicted Norway’s obligations under international law and conventions, such as the European Council’s Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. The amendment also would restrict access to free legal aid until after victims filed an official report with the police. Under the existing law, victims could access free legal aid in the early stages of their case when considering reporting the crime to the police. Civil society expressed grave concern regarding the government’s consideration of these amendments.


The government increased prevention efforts. During the reporting period, the government continued to implement measures from the national action plan and provided 190 million kroner ($22.27 million) total for the four-year period of 2016-2020 to support the work of civil society organizations focused on trafficking. Various government agencies and ministries responsible for implementation provided financial resources toward the plan’s activities but did not report the amount of funding allocated in 2020. KOM published an annual report providing an overview on victim identification, challenges relating to trafficking, and relevant agencies’ anti-trafficking activities. The Department of Children and Families conducted an awareness campaign informing children about the dangers of trafficking. The government invested 40 million kroner ($4.69 million) in project proposals for Norwegian civil society organizations to combat trafficking. ROSA managed a 24-hour hotline for potential trafficking victims available in Norwegian, English, Spanish, Arabic, and Thai. The government allocated 3 million kroner ($351,700) for the hotline, an increase from 1.7 million kroner ($199,300) in 2019. In collaboration with other Baltic Sea Region countries, the government participated in a project establishing long-term cooperation between stakeholders and academia to educate future journalists on trafficking issues through workshops, panel discussions, and competitions. Authorities of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden facilitated international policing efforts and information-sharing, including on trafficking-related issues, through Nordic liaison officers stationed at 20 Nordic embassies and consulates around the world. The government provided international development assistance to protect vulnerable groups by contributing 150 million kroner ($17.58 million) to trafficking victim assistance. Other international projects led by Norway included supporting girls and women exploited in commercial sex in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a center for child trafficking victims in Malawi, and information campaigns and victim reintegration and psychological support in Burma. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.

As part of its strategy against work-related crime, including labor trafficking, in 2020, the government proposed amendments to the penalty provision and framework of work-related crimes, including stricter regulations for the recruitment of temporary workers. Norwegian law prohibited recruitment agencies from charging fees to job seekers for placement services and required the labor inspectorate to monitor agencies for compliance. In 2020, the government provided 2 million kroner ($234,470) to the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority for an initiative to end severe labor exploitation; the initiative included an awareness campaign educating foreign workers on their rights. The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) contributed 50 million kroner ($5.86 million) in 2020 to the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery to combat trafficking with a particular focus on securing trafficking-free supply chains in selected industries and preventing trafficking in connection with migration. Additionally, NORAD released a call for proposals for its Development Program to End Modern Slavery, which sought to reduce the prevalence and scope of trafficking in selected partner countries and sectors and to cooperate with multilateral and civil society organizations. Separately, NORAD pledged 190 million kroner ($22.27 million) for a three-year project (2020-2023) targeting countries in the Sub-Saharan region of Africa, with a focus on forced labor and child labor. The government also participated in a regional project to support stakeholders in combating and disrupting labor trafficking by analyzing and consolidating information, improving assistance to victims, and increasing prosecution of traffickers. In an effort to establish better oversight and access to government services for potential labor trafficking victims, the government issued new passports and national identification cards to foreign citizens working in Norway.


As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Norway, and, to a lesser extent, traffickers exploit victims from Norway abroad. As a result of the pandemic, traffickers increasingly shifted recruitment methods from in-person to online settings, mainly through social media. Trafficking victims identified in Norway primarily originate from Eastern and Southern European countries, such as Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine, with the vast majority being adult women exploited in sex trafficking. Authorities report a greater variety of nationalities among trafficking victims than in previous years, noting victims from South America and Uganda. Additional reports indicate an increase in victims from Thailand who come to Norway to reunite with their Norwegian spouses, and, once in the country, traffickers exploit them in labor or commercial sex. Traffickers exploit women and girls in sex trafficking and men and women in labor trafficking, specifically in domestic service and construction. Traffickers subject children to forced criminal activities and other forms of forced labor, including illegal employment in car washes and private housekeeping. Authorities reported a slight increase in labor trafficking cases in 2020.