The head of Iceland’s work supervisory authority says there is no law which can shut down an establishment for human trafficking.
Vísir spoke with Eyjólfur Sæmundsson, the Director of the Administration of Occupational Safety and Health (AOSH), regarding a case of suspected forced labour at Adam Hótel in Reykjavík. Gísli told reporters he finds the case regrettable, and that more should be done to combat human trafficking in the workplace. He added that in his experience, a workplace with a major problem in one area – such as forced labour – usually has problems in other areas, such as operating without a valid license, or not paying all their taxes.
However, Gísli points out that legislation about human trafficking in the workplace – or rather, the lack thereof – does not give AOSH or similar agencies the authority to close the establishment once and for all.
While an establishment that has not paid its taxes can be shut down swiftly, he said, “I believe we might strengthen our provisions in our laws, where human trafficking is not specifically mentioned, and we are not mandated by law to look out for it in our quality controls.”
As it stands now, a person found guilty of human trafficking can face up to 12 years in prison if found guilty, and the law also provides protections to foreign workers who have been subjected to it, but Icelandic authorities pertaining to the issue believe more needs to be done.
According to the details of this particular case, a woman of foreign origin who worked there was forced to remain in the hotel at all times, with her boss compelling her to live in his room. She reportedly was paid 60,000 ISK per month for the work, which is a fraction of the legal minimum wage for such work.
Human trafficking has been a growing problem in Iceland. Once considered solely the domain of so-called “champagne clubs”, the survivors 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.