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Finland

  • 1. GENERAL INFORMATION

    Finland’s efforts to combat human trafficking focus mainly on assistance and protection of victims and bringing traffickers to justice. The government emphasises that trafficking in human beings is also a human rights question and not only a question of security and organized crime.

    Finland is a country of both transit and destination for women and girls trafficked for sexual exploitation. Traditionally, they have mainly come from the Baltic States and Russia. Recently, however, there has been an increasing amount of men and women trafficked from countries like China, Thailand, India, and Pakistan for forced labour. These victims are exploited mainly in the construction industry, in the agricultural sector, in restaurants and as domestic servants. Also Nigerian trafficking networks have reached Finland. It is estimated that the number of victims might reach hundreds each year.

    In her newest report issued to the Government in October 2011 (to be found in English at the website of the Rapporteur), the National Rapporteur reminds again that trafficking in human beings and the related exploitation of persons are more common in Finland than we often tend to think: victims of trafficking remain unidentified, however, and even when actually dealing with victims of human trafficking, authorities often fail to respond to the victims’ need for help. The report demonstrates that the valid legislation and operating practices of the authorities do not yet adequately support the identification of human trafficking and a way of referring the victims to the system of victim assistance, established officially in 2007. Especially the share of victims of human trafficking who have been subjected to sexual exploitation in Finland has remained surprisingly low in the system of victim assistance. In her role as a protector of human rights, the National Rapporteur is particularly concerned by the fact that the rights of human trafficking victims do not always seem to be implemented as required by international obligations that are binding to Finland and as intended by the legislator. As a result of non-identification, possible victims of trafficking or related exploitation may be removed from the country, exposing them to continued exploitation and revictimisation.

    Positive development in work against trafficking in human beings continued in 2011. For example, the assistance system for victims of human trafficking has been developed and functions better. This can also be seen in the customer figures for the official victim assistance system, with a 52 customers included in the system in 2011, the number has increased and is already more than 90 in 2012. Responsible for the assistance system for victims of human trafficking, the State Reception Centres employ the assistance system as a tool for the identification process more clearly than before. People are also included in the assistance system to examine victimization. The National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings welcomes this trend as it strengthens the victim-oriented approach of the system and keeps the threshold of referral to and seeking access to the assistance system low.

    Awareness in society and among the various actors has increased. This is thanks to efforts including sustained training and information provision. The fact that human trafficking also occurs in Finland is now acknowledged, and many authorities are more capable of identifying its victims. Despite this, the Ombudsman must point out in her capacity as the National Rapporteur that the identification of victims still remains Finland’s biggest challenge in action against trafficking in human beings.

    Attachments

  • 2. INSTITUTIONAL AND LEGAL FRAMEWORK

    Legislation

    All forms of trafficking in human beings are prohibited through Law no. 1889-39 of the Finnish Criminal Code. The specific offences of trafficking in human beings and aggravated trafficking in human beings were introduced in 2004. An Act criminalising the purchase of sexual services from victims of human trafficking entered into force in October 2006.

    The maximum penalty for trafficking in human beings is six years’ imprisonment, and the maximum penalty for aggravated trafficking in human beings is ten years’ imprisonment. There is also other legislation related to trafficking that can be used to convict traffickers, including laws against organised prostitution, dissemination of child pornography, coordination of illegal entry into the country, and marketing of sexual services.

    The European Union Council Directive 2004/81/EC (on residence permits issued to third-country nationals who are victims of trafficking and who cooperate with the competent authorities) has been transposed into national legislation in July 2006 by an amendment to the Aliens Act (301/2004).

    According to the Aliens Act, authorities may provide victims with a reflection period varying from 30 days up to six months. Victims of human trafficking are entitled to a fixed-term residence permit issued for six months to one year when there are well-founded reasons to believe that they are victims of human trafficking, provided that they have broken contact with the criminals and are willing to help the authorities to solve the crime.

    Victims in a particularly vulnerable position are issued a fixed-term residence permit. Cooperation with the authorities is not required but the victim may no longer have ties with those suspected of trafficking in human beings.

    An amendment to the Act on the Integration of Immigrants and Reception of Asylum Seekers (493/1999) to set up a system of measures to help victims of human trafficking entered into force in the beginning of 2007.

    In order to prevent trafficking for sexual exploitation, an Act criminalising the purchase of sexual services from victims of trafficking entered into force in October 2006. Hence, Finnish legislation differs from that of Sweden, where purchasing sexual services has been criminalised in general.

    National Strategy / National Action Plan

    The Finnish government approved its first National Plan of Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in 2005. A revised Action Plan was approved in June 2008. 

    The revised National Action Plan outlines various goals, including developing support programs for repatriated victims, enhancing outreach work, victim identification and referral training. It targets law enforcement personnel, teachers, social workers and medical personnel, as well as others who may have contact with victims of trafficking. 

    The plan adopts a human rights-based and victim-oriented approach. Moreover, it aims to take the child perspective and gender aspects more closely into account in the implementation phase. Furthermore, a specific section is devoted particularly to trafficking for labour exploitation, information and preventive measures

    Coordination of anti-trafficking actions at a national level

    The implementation of the National Plan of Action against Trafficking in Human Beings is coordinated by the Ministry of the Interior. In other respects, each key ministry is responsible for the implementation of measures in their respective administrative sectors. Monitoring of the implementation of the Plan of Action is undertaken by a cross-discipline steering committee. The committee is comprised of actors from various ministries, the Border Guard, the police, National Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the Prosecutor General, and NGOs.

    National Rapporteur or equivalent mechanism

    The Finnish government appointed the Ombudsman for Minorities to serve as the National Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, beginning in January 2009. The National Rapporteur is an independent actor, administratively situated within the Ministry of the Interior, and thus participates in the national steering committee as an observer.   

    The tasks of the National Rapporteur include:

    • Monitoring phenomena relating to human trafficking, the fulfilment of international obligations and the effectiveness of national legislation
    • Issuing proposals, recommendations, statements and advice relevant to combating human trafficking and to promoting and ensuring the rights of victims
    • Keeping in contact with international organisations
    • Providing legal advice and assisting victims as necessary
    • Reporting regularly to the Government and Parliament on human trafficking and related phenomena.

    The office of the National Rapporteur is staffed with one Senior Officer.

    The first report from the national rapporteur was given to the Parliament in June 2010. The report was well received and the Parliament gave a statement where it endorsed the measures and recommendations made by the Rapporteur. The Parliament stated that Finland should take action in making necessary  law changes e.g. preparing a separate law for the system of victim assistance. The parliament alsosupported the suggestion to set up a special national police task force to battle human trafficking.

    In addition to our national report the Rapporteur is preparing a recomemndation on what measures are necessary in order to ratify of the council of Europe convention. The Rapporteur is also preparing for setting up an advisory body for information gathering with stakeholders, NGOs and front line officials. This body will meet on a regularly basis. In educating we are especially focusing on educating prosecutors and judges.

    The National Rapporteur considers that the low share of sexually exploited victims in the system of victim assistance is particularly worrying because, also in 2010, pre-trial investigations were conducted on several aggravated procuring offences which contained clear indications of human trafficking or other serious violations of the rights of the procured prostitutes. However, the procured prostitutes were usually not referred to the system of victim assistance, and the potential trafficking victims were not necessarily even informed about the existence of the system by the authorities. As procured prostitutes as a rule are involved in the criminal procedure in the role of witnesses, they do not have legal aid attorneys to ensure that their rights are implemented.

    The National Rapporteur also reported that labour trafficking and the related exploitation of labour can be found in several sectors of working life. Particularly high-risk industries appear to include the construction, catering, cleaning and horticultural sectors. Some of the exploitation cases are so serious that they challenge society to reconsider the preventive powers of existing legislation and the adequacy of official action. Presumably, the situation in the labour market will deteriorate in the future, and intervening in the grey economy must not be society’s only response: we must also intervene in the violations of rights encountered by workers and help and protect the victims, even when they are illegal residents in the country or working without a permit. The possibilities and ability of the occupational safety and health authorities to intervene in labour trafficking and the related exploitation of workers should thus be reinforced, and more close-knit official cooperation with, for instance, the tax authorities is needed.

    The National Rapporteur reported that many persons who have become victims of human trafficking in other European Union member states arrive in Finland to seek asylum. The number of such persons in the system for victim assistance increased last year. It has been claimed in the media that the large number of asylum seekers in the assistance system is an indication of attempts to abuse the system. In this connection we should note, however, that asylum seekers as a rule always have a legal aid attorney to ensure that their clients’ rights are implemented. It is part of the legal aid attorneys’ professional competence to identify human trafficking and, if necessary, refer trafficking victims to the system for victim assistance. The legislation does not limit the help and protection provided by the assistance system exclusively to those who have been victimised in Finland.

    The National Rapporteur was also worried about the fact that sometimes human trafficking is seen where it does not exist. Groundlessly using the phenomenon of human trafficking as a tool or justification for more stringent immigration policy, for example, is worrying. The fact that combating human trafficking may also be used as a justification when seeking approval for political and other objectives, such as a more stringent immigration policy, which have little to do with the actual action against trafficking or for protecting the rights of victims and which may even be counterproductive to these objectives. As an example of this type of a situation, the proposals of the Finnish Immigration Service concerning stricter family reunification policy can be cited. It is, thus, particularly important to ensure that action against trafficking in human beings is not lost in other political cross-currents and that victim-centredness will remain the foremost aim of the action.

    Please, see the statistics of the number of pre-trial investigations and the number of victims in the system of victim assistance:

    http://www.ofm.fi/intermin/vvt/home.nsf/files/Ihmiskaupparaportti_englanti/$file/Ihmiskaupparaportti_englanti.pdf

    Challenges at national level

    1. Identifying victims. Victims of trafficking and related exploitation may not be found or identified at all or they are not identified as victims of human trafficking by the law enforcement.
    2. The process of helping, protecting and empowering victims.
    3. The gender perspective
      • Women as victims are often sexually abused not only in prostitution
      • Victims of sexual THB in Finland are stigmatized and criminalized. Consent to engage in prostitution is wrongly taken into consideration.
    4. Dublin act. The best interest of the child is not taken into consideration in cases with minors.
  • 3. IMPLEMENTATION OF ANTI-TRAFFICKING POLICY

    Prevention

    Finlands’s efforts to prevent human trafficking have focused on awareness-raising. A national website (www.ihmiskauppa.fi, www.människohandel.fi, www.humantrafficking.fi) was jointly launched in May 2010 by authorities and NGOs. It provides information on trafficking and the national referral system. Training sessions related to this are arranged nationwide in co-operation between authorities and NGOs.

    Authorities also monitor immigration patterns and screen immigration applicants at Schengen ports of entry for evidence of trafficking. Finnish troops deployed on international peacekeeping missions receive intensive anti-trafficking training aimed at providing deployed forces with the ability to identify potential trafficking victims.Persons coming to work in Finland are informed of their rights and responsibilities by embassies and other authorities.

    The National Bureau of Investigation has produced human trafficking related film material together with the US Department of Homeland Security (the Immigration and Customs Enforcement). This material has been shown on Finnish national television and can also be seen on the Finnish Police´s and the Ministry of the Interior´s websites. The Police College of Finland has created training material related to human trafficking.

    Assistance and support provided to victims

    An assistance system for victims of trafficking was established in Finland in 2005 and is now placed under the Ministry of the Interior.  Services and support measures are organised for the victims and coordinated by two government-run reception centres for asylum seekers: Joutseno (adults and families) and Oulu (unaccompanied minors).

    The system was formalised by an amendment to the Act on the Integration of Immigrants and Reception of Asylum Seekers (493/1999) in the beginning of 2007.

    The two reception centres provide legal counsel, crisis therapy, social services, health care, interpretation and other forms of support, such as accommodation and support for a safe return to the country of origin. Services and support measures may also be outsourced by the centres to a public or private service provider. Non-governmental organisations can also claim government subsidies for outreach and counselling work with victims of trafficking.

    The system for victims’ assistance is currently re-considering the purchase of services from NGOs. Currently, non-governmental service providers have to request an authorisation for each service rendered in order to obtain a reimbursement from the government.

    From 2005 until the end of April 2010, assistance has been given to 37 adult victims and 14 minor victims.

    According to the United States State Depatment Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report 2010, officials referred 13 victims to service providers in 2009.

    Residence Permits

    A reflection period may be granted before issuing a residence permit to victims of human trafficking. The length of the reflection period may range from 30 days to six months. During this period, victims must decide whether they intend to cooperate with the authorities.

    The reflection period may be terminated if victims of trafficking have re-established relations, voluntarily and on their own initiative, with persons suspected of trafficking. It may be similarly terminated if the person is considered a danger to public order, security or health or Finland’s international relations. The local police or a border control authority decides whether a reflection period should be provided or terminated. No appeal is permitted on decisions concerning the reflection period or its termination.

    A victim of trafficking in persons may also be granted a residence permit. As a rule, the residence permit granted to a victim of trafficking in persons is temporary and its requirements are that:

    • The victim’s residence in Finland is justified on account of the pre-trial investigation or court proceedings concerning trafficking in human beings;
    • The victim is prepared to cooperate with the authorities so that those suspected of trafficking in human beings can be identified;
    • The victim no longer has any ties with those suspected of trafficking in human beings.

    The residence permit allows victims to remain in the country temporarily while recovering and seeking employment. The victims also have access to healthcare and legal services, and have the opportunity to apply later for permanent residency. The residence permit may be renewed if the requirements are still valid.

    Victims of trafficking in persons who are in a particularly vulnerable position may be granted a continuous residence permit. The victim is not required to cooperate with the authorities, but must no longer have ties with those suspected of trafficking in persons.

    Supporting victims of human trafficking refers to the services and support measures provided by two reception centres of asylum seekers, the purpose of which is to look after victims of human trafficking and their livelihood, promote their recovery and integration, and support their functional ability and safe return. Under the law (748/2011), the provisions on supporting victims of human trafficking can be applied to a person: 1) to whom a reflection period referred to in section 52(b) of the Aliens Act, or a residence permit referred to in section 52(a)(1), has been granted; or 2) who, based on the circumstances, can otherwise be assumed to be a victim of human trafficking or in need of particular assistance when investigating an offence of human trafficking. The last mentioned persons may be, among others, witnesses of a human trafficking offence and other persons in need of particular assistance and protection. In section 3 of the Aliens Act (301/2004), a victim of trafficking in human beings means an alien who, on reasonable grounds, can be suspected of having become a victim of trafficking in human beings.

    Under the law, services and support measures may be provided for victims of trafficking in human beings, which may include legal and other advice, crisis therapy, social and health care services, interpreter’s services and other support services, accommodation or housing, social assistance and other necessary care, and support for safe return. When providing services and support measures, the special needs arising from the age, vulnerable position, and physical and psychological state of the victim of trafficking in human beings should be taken into account, as well as the security of the victim and the personnel providing services and support measures. Under the law, the decision to include or remove a person from the system for victim assistance is made by the director of the reception centre following a proposal by an authority, by the victim himself or herself, or by a provider of private or public services. Services and support measures may not, however, be provided against a person’s will. The decisions are made in writing, and according to the current interpretation, they are administrative decisions that can be appealed. Under the law, a representative must immediately be appointed for an unaccompanied minor who is a victim of human trafficking. Under the law, the director of the reception centre is supported in decision-making by a multi-disciplinary evaluation group which, in addition to the director, includes an expert of social and health care and a representative of the police and the border control authority. The evaluation group may, when necessary, hear municipal authorities, occupational safety and health authorities, labour market organisations, experts in psychiatry and child welfare, and other parties whose expertise is needed in each individual case to assist a victim of trafficking in human beings.

    The system for victim assistance also offers assistance to Finnish citizens and victims who have a municipality of residence in Finland. In these cases, the costs incurred in assisting the victims are mainly assumed by the municipalities, while the system for victim assistance may compensate certain special costs, such as therapy services and safe housing.

    Special protective measures for children

    Oulu reception centre can organise special protective measures for unaccompanied children when needed. These measures can be tailor-made depending on the case, for example special security arrangements to guarantee the safety of the child, special child protection action and different medical, psychological and social supportive measures.

    If a child who is a victim of trafficking is in Finland without a guardian or other legal representative, the child will always be appointed a representative immediately. The representative exercises a guardian’s right to be heard in matters pertaining to the child’s person and assets, decides on the child’s living arrangements and manages the child’s assets.

    Investigation and prosecution

    Number of investigations and prosecutions

    In December 2008, the District Court in Kotka sentenced five persons for aggravated trafficking in human beings and in December 2009 Helsinki Court of Appeal sentenced two persons for trafficking in human beings.

    During 2008, five convicted traffickers (sentenced by the District Court in July 2006 and by the Court of Appeal in March 2007) served time in prison. Trafficking sentences in all cases ranged from 24 to 60 months' imprisonment. All 12 persons were convicted for sex trafficking offences. Law enforcement officials worked with counterparts from Estonia, Sweden, and Russia on approximately 10 trafficking cases.

    According to the US TIP report 2010, police reported conducting 59 human trafficking investigations during 2009. In 2009, the authorities prosecuted at least five people for sex trafficking offences and two for labour trafficking compared with nine prosecutions for sex trafficking in 2008. In 2009, two people were convicted for trafficking offences, down from nine in 2008.

    Latest initiatives/activities related to anti-trafficking policy

    The Law Drafting project in the Ministry of Interior has just been launched with the aim to enact a separate law on THB, which will regulate the assistance system for THB victims. The work of the assistance system is now based on the Alien’s Act and the Act on Integration but is affected by several other laws. The operation of the assistance system is being obstructed by the fact that the provisions of the relevant Acts are rather vague and its connections to the Administrative Procedure Act, for example, have not been clear to the actors of the assistance system. The Rapporteur has several times highlighted the need for coherent legislation in which context the problems referred to in the Report and their alternative solutions would be reconsidered and is therefore pleased with present law initiative. The need for a national coordinator for THB is also decided by the working team.

    The Finnish Police has, with the assistance of the Rapporteur, issued specific instructions on the identification and investigation of THB cases as well as on referral of the victims to the assistance system. The Border Guards will apply the same instruction whilst the Labor Inspectorate is soon about to issue their own instructions.


  • 4. EU AND INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

    Finland's international cooperation includes participation in co-operation and projects especially with other Nordic and the Baltic countries.

    Between 2005 and 2008, Finland participated in a regional initiative implemented under the auspices of the Nordic-Baltic Task Force against Trafficking in Human Beings. The Nordic-Baltic Pilot Project aimed to help build a network to facilitate the regional referral for women victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. Other countries involved were Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden.

    Finland is a member of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) Task Force against Trafficking in Human Beings. The activities vary from research to information and training. The Task Force includes members from all 11 Baltic Sea states.

    Finland is also a partner in the project Towards Global EU-Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings, implemented by the Swedish Ministry of Justice in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration. The project has financial support from the European Commission, 2008 Programme Prevention of and Fight against Crime. The objective of the Project is to contribute to the implementation of the Action Oriented Paper (on strengthening the EU external dimension on action against trafficking in human beings,which was endorsed by the Council on 1 December 2009) and to that of the 2009 October Declaration on trafficking in Human Beings.

    Finland also participates actively in EU, OSCE, Council of Europe and UN co-operation against trafficking.

    Ongoing work on the implementation of the Directive 2011/36/EU

    The Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice have launched two separate legislative projects aimed to increase the efficiency of action against trafficking in human beings and improve the status of victims and the fulfillment of victims’ rights. Current legislation and authorities’ practices do not yet appear to provide enough support to the identification of trafficking in human beings and guidance of victims for access to the victim assistance system. Existing legislation is somewhat contradictory, unclear and ambiguous. It is highly positive that legislation relating to human trafficking is now reviewed in accordance with the National Rapporteur’s recommendations.

    The law drafting project in the Ministry of Justice has also reviewed the Finnish Penal Code in relation to the Directive 2011/36/EU. The proposal puts forth several changes that will clarify the difference between THB and Procuring as well as between THB and Extortionate Work Discrimination. These are merely based the suggestions by the Rapporteur rather than required by the Directive.


  • 5. RESOURCES

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