Finland is a 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 Estonia, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Nigeria, West Africa, and Southeast Asia. Forced labor victims come from a variety of countries including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, India, and Belarus, and are exploited in the construction industry, restaurants, agriculture, and as cleaners and domestic servants. Finnish teenagers are reportedly vulnerable to sex trafficking. Officials believe that most labor trafficking is connected to ethnic businesses like restaurants and massage parlors. Ethnic Roma from other countries are vulnerable to forced begging in Finland.
The Government of Finland fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period, authorities secured more convictions under the trafficking statute, as well as the first conviction for labor exploitation affirmed on appeal, and all convicted offenders were sentenced to time in prison. The government also improved issuance of residence permits to foreign trafficking victims. Authorities created new guidelines for victim identification and referral for police, although identification of sex trafficking victims remained low. The Finnish independent anti-trafficking national rapporteur continued exemplary self-critical reporting on trafficking in Finland, and there was cooperation between labor inspectors and police.
Recommendations for Finland: Continue making greater use of the trafficking statute to investigate and prosecute cases; encourage officials to proactively identify potential sex and labor trafficking victims and refer them to services to which they are entitled under Finnish law; continue training investigators, police, border officials, prosecutors, labor inspectors, and judges on human trafficking and the rights of trafficking victims; further explore the establishment of a national trafficking coordinator who can facilitate cooperation among different governmental entities; provide training on victim identification and referral for health care and social services employees; evaluate how NGOs can obtain secure funding, so more grassroots organizations can thrive and provide assistance to trafficking victims; continue to encourage victim participation in the criminal process; examine the possible vulnerabilities posed by residence permits that are valid only for one employer; improve the provision of social services by lessening bureaucratic obstacles; ensure trafficking victims are thoroughly explained their rights at the outset of identification, in a language they understand; and ensure advocates are available to assist victims in navigating the social services system.
The Government of Finland improved its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts through increased convictions under the trafficking statute, including the first post-appeal confirmation of a conviction for forced labor offenses. 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 a statute prohibiting pandering, continued to be used frequently to prosecute sex trafficking offenders. From April 2012 to January 2013, the Government of Finland reported initiating five sex trafficking investigations and nine labor trafficking investigations, compared to seven sex trafficking investigations and 14 labor trafficking investigations in 2011. The government prosecuted at least eight alleged trafficking offenders in 2012. In 2012, Finnish courts achieved their first convictions for labor trafficking under the human trafficking statute. The government convicted seven offenders for labor trafficking and one for sex trafficking, with sentences ranging from 18 to 82 months’ imprisonment; this marked an increase from the two convictions in 2011. The Finnish government continued to integrate trafficking awareness into its formal classroom training for the police and border guard, and the rapporteur provided training to police, the border guard, prosecutors, and judges. Law enforcement authorities collaborated with other governments on trafficking investigations. There were no reports of government officials’ complicity in trafficking during the reporting period.
The government sustained its protection efforts in 2012, showing improvements in the issuance of residence permits and providing guidance for police; however, it struggled to identify sex trafficking victims. 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 through an asylum reception center that offered shelter, psychological assistance, medical care, and other services to identified victims of trafficking. The staff of the reception center 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. Despite the center’s efforts, some victims, particularly sex trafficking victims, faced stigma as trafficking victims, making them vulnerable to re-victimization. The reception center also maintained a hotline and a website in multiple languages exclusively for trafficking victims. In 2012, the government asylum reception center reported spending the equivalent of approximately $1,807,200 on the care of trafficking victims and operating expenses. Officials identified 46 victims during the reporting period, in contrast to 41 victims identified in 2011. In total, 60 potential trafficking victims asked for assistance in 2012. Victims of labor trafficking continued to comprise the bulk of the referrals to Finland’s victim assistance program, and there were reports of insufficient identification of sex trafficking victims. Finnish courts required three convicted trafficking offenders to pay compensation to victims.
In 2012, the government produced guidelines for police on the identification and assistance of victims of human trafficking; the border guard continued to use guidelines developed by the immigration service. The government encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders. During the reporting period, approximately 50 victims assisted law enforcement in pre-trial investigations and at least 20 victims participated in the prosecutions of offenders. 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. No victims utilized the reflection period during the year, although most victims already had a form of legal residence. The government offered an extended residence permit for victims of trafficking wishing to stay longer than six months, and it approved 32 applications associated with human trafficking in the reporting period, a significant increase from the two permits issued in 2011. Although the government made efforts to ensure that identified victims were not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, there were reports that some potential trafficking victims, especially women of African descent, were deported without attempts made to ascertain whether they were trafficking victims.
The government improved its anti-trafficking prevention activities in 2012, particularly through support of the rapporteur and increased collaboration between labor inspectors and the police. The rapporteur continued her analysis of the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and advocated for specific changes through its public report. The Government of Finland does not have a national trafficking coordinator, and such a coordinator could improve management and integration of action between government agencies and NGOs. The Finnish government collaborated with Finnair to train the airline’s ground staff to identify potentially trafficked persons. A government official reported that labor inspectors have begun to report suspected labor trafficking cases to the police. New legal requirements came into force in September 2012 that obligated employers in the construction industry to ensure its sub-contractors were registered with various government agencies in order to increase oversight by regulating authorities. The government continued to provide assistance to other governments for counter-trafficking programs and to a regional expert group on trafficking. To prevent child sex tourism by Finnish citizens traveling abroad, the government distributed brochures at a travel show to thousands of potential travelers, highlighting the harm child sex tourism causes to children. The government also demonstrated efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts by issuing fines to individuals attempting to purchase commercial sex. The Finnish government provided anti-trafficking training to Finnish forces prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.