Human trafficking for forced labour - facts and legislation

Almost all EU countries have seen an increase in the number of cases involving forced labour in recent years. This is also true for Denmark, where 36 persons have been identified as victims of human trafficking for different types of forced labour, fromt 2009-2014.

It is expected that this trend will continue as more people become aware of this issue and report their suspicion to the authorities including the Danish Centre against Human Trafficking. The rising number of cases abroad and in Denmark stress that this issue may potentially present a risk to the Danish companies.

What is human trafficking for forced labour?
You will find the definition of human trafficking and forced labour in the Danish Penal Code section 262a(1) and the ILO Convention 29, but in real life, a person is often misled and deceived into accepting working conditions which subsequently prove to be different and worse than originally promised. Thus, the person has not offered himself/herself voluntarily as he/she did not know the real working conditions. When the person wants to leave this job, he/she is not able to do so without threats of punishment, reprisals and negative consequences for the individual worker if the work is not carried out.

For example, direct physical threats or threats of not receiving wages already earned etc. These are all conditions which make the person feel threatened into continuing an employment relationship and a situation of exploitation which he/she would normally have left.

Human trafficking for forced labour

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 20.9 million people are carrying out forced labour globally. Of these, 68% are being exploited in various private sectors, while 22% are being exploited in prostitution.

In the EU, ILO estimates that there are 880,000 victims of forced labour. Approx. 70% of these (610,000) are assessed to be exploited in various private sectors.

In Denmark, 33 persons were assessed to be victims of human trafficking for forced labour during the period of 2007-2013

Section 262a(1) of the Danish Penal Code:

The maximum penalty for human trafficking is 10 years in prison. A person who conduct human trafficking by recruiting, transporting, transferring, housing or subsequently receiving another person is guilty if one or more of the following circumstances has occured a) unlawful coercion under Section 260, b) illegal restraint under Section 261, c) threats under Section 266, d) unlawful inducement, encouragement or exploitation of a mistake or another manner of taking unfair advantage in order to exploit the person in question for prostitution, taking or recording of pornographic photographs or films, pornographic conduct, forced labour, slavery or slavery-like conditions, criminal acts or removal of organs.

ILO Convention


Forced labour It is also stated in the preparatory work for Section 262a that the expression 'forced labour' should be interpreted according to ILO Conventions 29 and 105 on forced labour:

All work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.

(ILO Convention 29, Article 2(1), 1930)