Sex-linked human trafficking in Sweden mapped

20 January, 2009
In order to gain an overall perspective of the sex-linked human trafficking, the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) has mapped the entire trafficking chain.
In order to gain an overall perspective of the sex-linked human trafficking, the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) has mapped the entire trafficking chain, from the men who buy sex, the recruitment of the women, the criminal gangs behind the trafficking and the helpers who facilitate the business. Each link in the chain is important in order to fight the problem.

Within human trafficking, there are many actors, both illegal and legal. They have different roles and tasks; everything from recruiting the women in their home countries, arranging housing in Sweden, drafting advertisements and transporting them to the customers.

“Human trafficking would not work if not all the actors in the chain participated", says Malin Forsman, author of one of the reports. “We have seen that the larger the criminal network behind the operation is, the more resources it needs, and the more actors must collaborate to operate the logistics. By mapping the whole chain, we can see where we should introduce crime prevention measures.“

In the report, a differentiation is made between profiteers and promoters. The profiteers are the pimps, the traffickers or the recruiters, who make a profit from the operation. The promoters are people who consciously or unconsciously take part in the process, and can be anyone from taxi drivers, bus drivers, restaurant and hotel staff, letting agents, etc.

“One way of fighting trafficking is to make more people within the legal market become aware of what trafficking looks like", explains Malin Forsman. “They are often involved without knowing, but if they learn to be more observant, this might lead to more tip-offs to the police.“

Supply meets demand

The mapping consists of two reports, one Swedish and one British. The British report, 'The Organisation of Human Trafficking' was made in collaboration with researchers in Finland and Estonia. Estonia's role in particular is as a recruitment country. The women who are exposed to trafficking usually come from countries with a low level of welfare, where a social safety net is lacking. They are often part of a marginalized group in their home country, and have grown up in poor family circumstances.

“They are usually recruited through social networks in their home countries“, says Cecilia Englund, author of the report. “Friends and colleagues tempt them with promises of a comfortable life in the west, but once they arrive, the reality is different. It is also common for the woman to be told she has to pay for the cost of their travel, and she is therefore indebted to the seller right from the start.“

The transport from the country of origin is done in the cheapest possible way. A common route is via Finland, which is therefore regarded as a transit country. From Finland, they take the ferry over to Sweden, where controls are rare. In Sweden, sellers and buyers meet, and two entirely different worlds collide. While the women lack education and money, the men are often well educated, with work and a regular income.

Trafficking — the true picture

One problem with sex-linked human trafficking is that many have a skewed picture of what it looks like, and therefore do not recognize the problem. Many think of visible violence, or of women locked up in flats. The reality is different, and the coercion is much more subtle. The sellers are keen to make the women appear as self-confident, independent businesswomen to the sex buyers, as the sellers know that the sex buyers would not like to participate in trafficking.

“The abuse is expressed in a different way. The women do not know the language, and cannot make themselves understood, they have no contact with Swedish society and they cannot find their way about, as they do not know where they are, they become indebted to the organizers and thus completely dependent on them“, says Malin Forsman.

Spreading information about the true face of human trafficking and increasing the knowledge within different professions, such as taxi, hotels, restaurants and landlords, may be one way of stopping human trafficking, in Brå's opinion.

Note: the report: “Sexuell människohandel" (“Sex-linked Human Trafficking", is only available in Swedish).

For further information

Please contact: Lars Korsell, Staff Legal Officer, +46(0)8-401 87 11.