SALT LAKE CITY — Human trafficking isn't often associated with Norway and Iceland.
But government leaders from those nordic nations were among officials from 23 countries in Europe, Africa and Central America in Utah on Monday to discuss the issue as part of a federal exchange program. All of them deal with human trafficking as part of their jobs.
Young Nigerian women are routinely brought into Norway through Italy and Spain to work as prostitutes, said Anette Berger, deputy chief of the national police. Norwegian authorities have also uncovered more labor trafficking recently.
"We see that as a huge problem as well," she said, noting a criminal case last year where 25 people from India were exploited on a farm. "It's more than we know about, and it's everywhere."
Berger said she learned there are many similarities between the kinds of exploitation in Norway and the United States as she traveled across the country the past two weeks with the State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and Ed Smart met with the group at the state Capitol. The Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy brought the visitors to the state through the federal professional exchange program.
"It's just critical to work together on an international level to stamp out this evil," Reyes said. "There's no way that a single country or a single state alone can address it given the demand."
Reyes made human trafficking one of his top priorities. Last fall, he traveled to Columbia with Utah-based Operation Underground Railroad to help rescue child sex slaves. Operation Underground Railroad merged with the Elizabeth Smart Foundation earlier this year to better help trafficking victims.
In Iceland, growing tourism has given rise to "sex tourism" and more prostitution, said Alda Johannsdottir, vice chief of the Surdunes Police Department. Women and children are being taken to the country from Eastern Europe, China and Nigeria, she said.
Though its population is only 300,000, she said, Iceland has about 5 million people passing through its airport every year.
Martina Matuskovicova, who heads the national anti-trafficking unit in Slovakia, said sex trafficking and labor trafficking are problems in her country. Victims come from poor social conditions where traffickers promise them lots of money. An 83-year-old woman, she said, was forced to beg for money in Germany.
"I would like to dedicate my work to the victim protection because this a very, very important issue and human trafficking is a horrendous violation of human rights," Matuskovicova said.1 comment on this story
In Zambia, human trafficking mostly consists of people being moved from rural to urban areas to work without pay, said Chinyanta Chikula, assistant labor commissioner. Some are also exploited for sex, he said.
The biggest challenge is that the government doesn't have sufficient resources to provide services and shelter for rescued victims, some of whom don't even know they're being exploited and that they have a right to fair wages and safe working conditions, he said.
Chikula said hopes to take back to Zambia the victim-centered approach he learned about on the trip.
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