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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.

One right - no cheating

ASÍ is the head organization for labor workers in Iceland where workers can seek information on duties and rights in the work market. ASÍ provides information in Icelandic, English, and Polish.

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, where full confidentiality is promised and read more here.

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 coronavirus pandemic started the attitude towards Huang-Kai changed, all of a sudden his passport was taken from him and he didn’t 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?

Stop The Traffik: Iceland

Stop The Traffik: Iceland is an independent organization working towards educating human trafficking victims and the public about the nature of human trafficking, symptoms, and resources.

New in Iceland

If you have recently moved to Iceland or are still adjusting and have any questions, you can contact the consultation service New in Iceland.

Icelandic Human Rights Centre

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