Iceland gives impetus to the global effort against forced labour

July 6, 2017

It becomes the latest European country to ratify the Forced Labour Protocol, bringing the total in the region to nine.

Photo: Oxararfoss falls, Iceland (©Claude Attard)


With Iceland’s ratification of the Forced Labour Protocol, a total of fifteen countries worldwide have now committed to this international treaty since it was adopted at the International Labour Conference in 2014.

The ILO estimates that 21 million people are victims of forced labour around the world, generating approximately US$150 billion a year in illicit profits. Forced labour takes different forms, from forced sexual exploitation to debt bondage or even trafficking in persons and slavery.

The Protocol requires States to adopt effective measures to prevent forced labour and to provide victims with protection and access to effective remedies, including compensation.

Thorsteinn Víglundsson, Iceland’s Minister of Social Affairs and Equality with ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.

“The importance of the Protocol lies in the fact that it tackles new and more sophisticated forms of forced labour,” said Thorsteinn Víglundsson, Iceland’s Minister of Social Affairs and Equality.

“The victims of forced labour and trafficking in persons are often migrant workers. Many of them are women and girls, primarily in domestic work and commercial sexual exploitation. During the last years, Iceland has experienced an increased influx of migrant workers who need protection. The Protocol is a good instrument for governments and the social partners to form their policies in this respect,” he added.

Iceland has been engaged in combatting forced labour for a long time. It has developed a strong legislative framework to combat trafficking in persons, with the adoption, as early as 2003, of amendments to the Penal Code and the launch of a campaign against trafficking in women.

In April 2013, the Government adopted its second Action Plan to combat trafficking in human beings for the period 2013-2016, which covers four main areas: prevention and training; assistance and protection of victims; investigation and prosecution of cases; co-ordination, co-operation and evaluation.