Last Updated: Friday, 25 July 2014, 12:52 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Finland

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Finland, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30ccac.html [accessed 25 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

FINLAND (Tier 1)

Finland is a source, transit, destination, and limited source country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking, and for men and women subjected to conditions of forced labor. Female sex trafficking victims originate in Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, the Caucasus, and Asia, and the Caribbean. Sex trafficking victims were sometimes forced into prostitution through debt, threats of violence, or voodoo. Forced labor victims come from a variety of countries including India, China, Thailand, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, and are exploited in the construction industry, restaurants, agriculture, in berry picking fields, and as cleaners and domestic servants. There were reports that migrants who have voluntarily traveled to Finland are coerced to work long hours for minimal wages through threats of violence, deportation, and other means of control; some are forced to sleep at work sites and to surrender their passports. Finnish authorities believed there are likely small numbers of trafficked workers in most major Finnish cities. Recruitment agencies allegedly are involved in labor trafficking cases, extracting high fees from migrant laborers. Some Finnish teenagers reportedly are exploited in prostitution.

The Government of Finland fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Concerted efforts by law enforcement officials led to a near doubling of the number of trafficking investigations under the trafficking statute in 2011. Offenders convicted under the trafficking statute received serious sentences, up to twelve years in prison. The Finnish anti-trafficking national rapporteur continued exemplary self-critical reporting on trafficking in Finland. Although Finnish legislation allowed the granting of residence permits to trafficking victims, in practice these permits were rarely given. The government also cared for trafficking victims in mixed-use shelters, which put trafficking victims at risk of being re-victimized.

Recommendations for Finland: Continue making greater use of the trafficking statute to investigate and prosecute cases; continue training for investigators, prosecutors, and judges on human trafficking and the rights of trafficking victims; examine why so few residence permits have been granted to trafficking victims; encourage victims to participate in the criminal process by consistently offering victims the benefits of the reflection period and employing victim-witness safety procedures in all trafficking prosecutions; ensure that victims of trafficking are offered appropriate housing and specialized care, taking into consideration the risks of secondary trauma inherent in mixed-use shelter; consider establishment of a specialized anti-trafficking police or prosecutorial unit; encourage officials to proactively identify potential sex and labor trafficking victims and refer them to services to which they are entitled under Finnish law; examine the vulnerabilities posed by residence permits that are valid only for one employer; investigate labor recruitment agencies for involvement in human trafficking; and explore increased cooperation between different labor entities, including labor inspectors, the police, the tax authorities, and the safety and health administrations, to prevent and identify labor trafficking.

Prosecution

The Government of Finland significantly improved its anti-trafficking law enforcement activities over the previous year, nearly doubling its investigations under the trafficking statute and awarding serious sentences. Law 1889-39 of the Finnish penal code prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes up to 10 years' imprisonment for convicted offenders, penalties sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Other non-trafficking criminal statutes which prescribe lower penalties, such as pandering, continued to be used frequently to prosecute sex trafficking offenders. In 2011, the Government of Finland reported initiating 21 trafficking investigations under the trafficking statute, including seven sex trafficking investigations and 14 labor trafficking investigations. This was a significant increase from 2010, when the government investigated 11 trafficking investigations under the trafficking statute. The police reported that the increase in investigations derived from an improvement in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts rather than an increase in crime. The government also claimed that it investigated several trafficking offenses under non-trafficking statutes such as pandering and usury. The government prosecuted at least seven alleged trafficking offenders under a variety of statutes. In 2011, Finish courts convicted two trafficking offenders under the trafficking statute, and sentenced one of them to two and half years' and the other to twelve and a half years' imprisonment; the government convicted no offenders under the trafficking statute in 2010. In trafficking cases charged under an aggravated pandering statute, courts sentenced convicted offenders to sentences ranging from a suspended one year in jail to three years' and five months' imprisonment. In 2010, sentences averaged three years in prison. Police and investigators often investigated potential sex trafficking cases as pandering offenders because pandering was easier to prove and because of possible bias against women in prostitution. In cases not investigated and prosecuted as trafficking cases, victims did not have the same rights and benefits during investigations. The Finish national rapporteur concluded that trafficking victims in labor cases were more readily identified as trafficking victims than were sex trafficking victims. The Finnish government provided several anti-trafficking trainings for police, border guards and prosecutions to enhance victim identification and prosecutions. Law enforcement authorities collaborated with other governments on trafficking investigations. The Finnish government did not report the investigation, prosecution, or conviction of any government employees complicit in trafficking in persons.

Protection

The government sustained its protection efforts in 2011, although there were continuing reports that problems with victim identification resulted in victims being deported. The government fully funded victim protection efforts for trafficking victims, whether Finnish or foreign. The government provided both direct care and funding for appropriate third-party care for trafficking victims through two asylum reception centers that offer shelter, psychological assistance, medical care, and other services to identified victims of trafficking. The staff of these reception centers was also empowered to identify and authorize care for trafficking victims, even when law enforcement authorities did not identify a person as a trafficking victim. However, both international organizations and the Finnish national rapporteur claimed that the mixed population and lack of specialized care in reception centers posed risks for the re-victimization of some trafficking victims, particularly victims of sex trafficking. In 2011, the government asylum reception centers reported that they spent $1,535,738 on the care of trafficking victims and for the operating expenses. Officials identified 41 victims during the reporting period, in contrast to 52 victims identified in 2010. In total, 68 potential trafficking victims asked for assistance in 2011.

Finnish police and border guards employed written trafficking identification guidelines developed by the Finnish Immigration Service. These guidelines included a victim-centered protocol for law enforcement interviews. Nevertheless, government reports concluded that officials more readily identified asylum seekers as victims of trafficking than other potential trafficking victims, but that identifying trafficking victims has not taken root in the work of many authorities. The government encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders. During the reporting period, approximately ten victims participated in the prosecutions of offenders, with some court cases including multiple victims. Finnish law allowed identified trafficking victims a six-month reflection period, during which they could receive immediate care and assistance while considering whether to assist law enforcement. The rapporteur indicated, however, that the reflection period was not provided consistently. This year no victims received it. The government offered an extended residence permit for victims of trafficking wishing to stay longer than six months, and two trafficking victims received such extended permits during the reporting period. In practice, Finland's immigration service has only issued residence permits to the victims after the trafficking offenders have been convicted. Victims of trafficking who are waiting for their residence permit were unable to work legally and may have been vulnerable to trafficking. Although the government made efforts to ensure that identified victims were not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, the rapporteur reported that some potential trafficking victims were deported without attempts made to identify possible trafficking indicators.

Prevention

The government improved its anti-trafficking prevention activities in 2011, particularly through the continued strong reporting and awareness raising activities undertaken by the rapporteur. The government organized many of its anti-trafficking activities through its interagency National Steering Group. The national anti-trafficking rapporteur, an independent entity within the government, continued her analysis of the government's anti-trafficking efforts and advocated for specific changes through its public report; her office encouraged self-critical policy examination and positive momentum in the government's anti-trafficking policy. The Government of Finland does not have a national coordinator; in this absence, the national rapporteur performs many of the coordinator functions. The rapporteur's office also arranged a week-long anti-trafficking awareness raising campaign in October, including street signs at bus stops, radio, and newspaper articles. To prevent child sex tourism by Finnish citizens traveling abroad, the government also distributed brochures at a travel show to thousands of potential travelers, highlighting the harm child sex tourism causes to children. The government continued to provide assistance to other governments for counter-trafficking programs and to a regional expert group on trafficking. The Finnish government collaborated with Finnair to train the airline's ground staff to identify trafficking in persons. The Finnish government provided anti-trafficking training to Finnish forces prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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