A lawyer for two women freed from slave labour has criticised the government for offering insufficient assistance to them.
Vísir reports that the two women from Sri Lanka who were freed from slave labour conditions in South Iceland have left the country. They did this of their own accord, although the lack of assistance they were given by the state may have helped them make their decision.
The Ministry of Welfare bears responsibility for taking care of survivors of human trafficking in Iceland. However, Icelandic law only grants a six-month residence permit to survivors to remain in the country – no work permit is issued. Further, they only received 5,000 ISK per week to live off of while staying at the Women’s Shelter.
Kristrún Elsa Harðardóttir, the legal counsel for the women, has criticised the government for providing inadequate protections for them. Leaving the country, she said, puts them in danger of ending up in the same situation all over again. Because of her warnings, the Ministry of the Interior made a point to take statements from both women on the conditions they endured.
Numerous experts on the subject of human trafficking have pointed out that while Iceland has made strides to help survivors of sex work trafficking, little protections are given for other forms of slave labour.
Cases of human trafficking and worker exploitation have increased in Iceland in recent years, and the victims are more often than not foreigners. These cases, which have long been a concern amongst labour unions, stretch from everything from the tourism industry to construction.
Workers who are new to the job market, wherever they may hail from, should be sure to inform themselves of their rights and, if an employer will not meet demands to honour those rights, seek recourse from a labour union.