What is labor exploitation?

Labor exploitation is when someone, most often a supervisor, benefits from the work effort of another person. It can be when a person is tricked to accept a job with false information about wages and work hours, circumstances, and housing. Perpetrators use deceit and threats to prevent the victim from seeking help or stop working for them.

Labor exploitation is the most common manifestation of human trafficking in Iceland and it can happen anywhere. The most common places are in construction, cleaning, and other service jobs, such as hotels and restaurants. Labor exploitation can be the case if:

  • Your supervisor makes you work long hours without having a choice.
  • You live in unacceptable housing with several individuals.
  • Your supervisor threatens to have you deported if you don’t do as he says.
  • Your supervisor threatens you or your family with violence if you don’t do as he says.
  • You don’t get paid for cleaning the house or other service jobs you do extra.
  • Your supervisor adds a location tracking app into your phone to watch your every step, against your will.

Labor exploitation can be difficult to spot. It is easy to get help. Start the conversation with 112 to find out.

Labor rights

ASÍ is the head organization for labor workers in Iceland and provides the website labour.is, where workers can seek information on duties and rights in the work market in 11 languages: English, Polish, Lithuanian, Romanian, Spanish, Farsi, Ukrainian, Arabic and Icelandic.

ASÍ also has the goal of workplace surveillance to fight labor exploitation and inform workers on their rights. Inspectors visit workplaces and often they are the first contact of a worker being exploited. You can email them at asi@asi.is, where full confidentiality is promised.

In Icelandic

How can you spot human trafficking?

It can be tricky to spot whether a person’s circumstances indicate human trafficking or not. When a person is exploited in any way to benefit from it, it is human trafficking.

Do you recognize abuse?

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Huang-Kai was hired to work as a chef at a restaurant in Reykjavik. His supervisor provided him with housing nearby and promised to send a part of his wages to his family abroad.

When the Covid pandemic started the attitude towards Huang-Kai changed, all of a sudden his passport was taken from him and he did not get any pay. Huang-Kai’s supervisor placed a location app on his phone to track his movements, then forbid him to leave the restaurant and made him sleep on the kitchen floor.

Is this abuse?

Available support

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Multicultural Information Centre

Immigrants in Iceland can get information about their rights and obligations at the Multicultural Centre.

Icelandic Human Rights Centre

At the Icelandic Human Rights Centre, immigrants can get free legal counsel.


The police in Iceland help people who have suffered abuse of any kind. Police see abuse in close relationships as a very serious matter.

Your online safety

To prevent someone from watching your every move online and use that information to control you, you can implement the following instructions for your online safety.

Manneskja horfir á símann sinn sem sýnir ólæsileg skilaboð. Hún snýr baki í okkur svo við sjáum á símann í höndunum á henni. Mikið liðað hár sveiflast í vindinum.

Sexual exploitation

Sexual exploitation is when a person benefits from selling access to another person's body.