Published November 12, 2009
Human trafficking in Iceland has finally managed to gain more than a passing mention in the media. The subject now appears almost daily in the news, and in turn, the police and government officials have pledged to step up operations against the buying and selling of human beings. How strange it is, then, that almost the entirety of the dialogue and effort with regards to human trafficking revolves around the suppliers while ignoring the demand.
To go solely by the coverage in the media, one would think the problem is completely one-sided: foreign gangs, almost always eastern European, are trying to import women into Iceland for the purpose of prostitution. Period.
What is being ignored by much of the media and the police force is the fact that human trafficking is never a one-sided problem. Human traffickers rarely provide a supply where there is no demand. Clearly, there exists a demand in Iceland to buy women. Iceland’s strip clubs show this to be the case, as do the growing arrests for soliciting prostitution.
Where, then, are the information campaigns, informing the public that the woman you hire for sex, or to strip at your bachelor party, or who dances for you in one of the numerous strip clubs in Iceland, may have been brought to this country against her will, may have been beaten, raped, and threatened with her life, forced to engage in this miserable occupation? The police have been very hard-working when it comes to information campaigns regarding drug use. Do they perhaps think there are no clients for human traffickers in this country? Doubtful. Why, then, are their public efforts almost entirely one-sided?
Minister of Justice Ragna Árnadóttir is planning on putting together a work group to see just how much supervision the police can lord over foreigners in this country without overstepping the law. This group, as reported by Vísir, appears to be comprised exclusively of policemen. No representatives from human rights groups, nor representatives from immigration specialists. Merely policemen, trying to find a way to legally supervise the foreigners more closely. Additionally, Chief of Police Stefán Eiríksson told Fréttablaðið recently that the police and the Directorate of Immigration intend to step up enforcement of a law which allows authorities to deport someone suspected of intending to commit a crime.
Is this how the police plan to tackle this problem, by making all foreigners in this country feel as though they are regarded as potential criminals? By deporting people whom the police feel may be thinking of committing a crime? How does this solve anything?
Human trafficking is our problem. It’s about how we regard women, regardless of national origin. Just as we cannot ignore those who would come to this country with the purpose of importing women for sale, we cannot ignore those who intend to buy them. Rather than cast all foreigners under a shadow of suspicion, we need to seriously inform and educate the public on what the human toll of this horrible practice really is.