FINLAND: Tier 1
Finland is a transit, destination, and limited source country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking and for men and women subjected to forced labor. Forced labor victims come from several countries, primarily in Eastern Europe and Asia. Many victims arrive in Finland legally and are exploited in the construction, restaurant, agriculture, metal, and transport industries, and as cleaners, gardeners, and domestic servants. Seasonal berry pickers, many of whom arrive from Thailand, are especially vulnerable to labor exploitation. Female sex trafficking victims originate primarily in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and West Africa. Finnish women and children, mostly girls, are vulnerable to sex trafficking. In its 2015 report, GRETA highlighted forced begging and forced criminality as emerging problems.
The Government of Finland fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period, the government implemented changes to the victim assistance system clarifying how victims enter, exit, and receive services within it. Victim identification, especially of children, was inadequate; no children were admitted to the victim assistance system in 2015. The government increased the number of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of trafficking cases compared to the previous reporting period, although courts continued to issue weak sentences for convicted traffickers. It continued to provide training for prosecutors and law enforcement personnel and designated police officers in each region to serve as a national network of anti-trafficking experts. The national coordinator began drafting a new national anti-trafficking action plan. The government appointed a new non-discrimination ombudsman, who also served as the national rapporteur on trafficking. The national rapporteur’s annual report on trafficking was discontinued; the government planned to incorporate trafficking into a broader non-discrimination report.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FINLAND:
Vigorously investigate and prosecute sex and labor trafficking cases using the trafficking statute; increase the number of prosecutors, judges, and police that specialize in trafficking cases; train and encourage officials to identify potential sex and labor trafficking victims proactively, especially children, and refer them to services to which they are entitled under the law; offer all victims appropriate housing and specialized care; train investigators, police, border officials, prosecutors, labor inspectors, and judges on applying the trafficking law and respecting victims’ rights; issue proportionate and dissuasive sentences to convicted traffickers; increase efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor; encourage greater victim participation in the criminal process; develop an updated national strategy against trafficking, including mechanisms to monitor its implementation; and conduct assessments on the effectiveness of awareness campaigns.
The government increased law enforcement efforts. Law 1889-39 of the penal code prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes sentences of up to 10 years’ imprisonment—penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Amendments to the penal code clarifying the differences between trafficking and procuring offenses entered into force during the reporting period, although the government also continued to use laws against pandering, discrimination, and usury to investigate and prosecute suspected traffickers. The government reported initiating 32 investigations of trafficking cases (including at least 12 sex trafficking cases and 19 labor trafficking cases) in 2015, compared with 20 cases (15 sex trafficking and five labor) in 2014. Authorities initiated prosecution of four cases in 2015. Finnish courts convicted four traffickers (two each for labor and sex trafficking) in 2015, compared with two convictions in 2014. Courts issued sentences of 32 and 46 months’ imprisonment for the sex trafficking convictions; the convicted labor traffickers were sentenced to 12 and 20 months’ imprisonment. The government designated police officers in each of the 11 regions to serve as a national network of anti-trafficking experts and trainers; the designated officers met twice annually to share best practices. The government provided annual training for prosecutors; law enforcement personnel received anti-trafficking instruction as part of their basic training, as well as continued trafficking awareness training throughout their careers. The government designated five prosecutors from different regions to handle trafficking cases. GRETA noted, however, that further specialization among law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges was needed to increase the government’s capacity to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government demonstrated mixed progress in protection efforts. In July, amendments to the law governing the victim assistance system, which increased transparency and clarified how victims enter, exit, and receive services, entered into force. The government provided both direct care and funding for third-party care through an asylum reception center that coordinated the national victim assistance system. In 2015, the government earmarked 1 million euros ($1.1 million) for the national assistance system. The national assistance system spent 540,000 euros ($588,000) of that budget on trafficking victim assistance, a decline from 830,000 euros ($903,000) in 2014 due to changes in housing and the number of victims referred to the national assistance system for services in 2015. The center offered shelter and psychological, medical, and legal assistance to identified victims; the staff of the reception center was empowered to identify and authorize care for victims, even when law enforcement authorities did not identify a person as a trafficking victim. There were no shelters specifically for trafficking victims. The reception center maintained a hotline and a website in multiple languages exclusively for trafficking victims. One NGO reported it received increased funding from the government and the state-owned gambling monopoly for its trafficking victim services, which included social, health, and hotline services, as well as support during police interviews and training for Finnish authorities. The national victim assistance system admitted 52 potential trafficking victims (36 women, 16 men, and no children) in 2015, the majority of whom were subjected to labor exploitation, compared with 50 admissions in 2014. Authorities used a series of written guidelines to assist in victim identification and referral to care and to ensure protection of victims’ rights, although law enforcement and immigration officials noted victim identification remained a core challenge for the government. There were no reports the government penalized victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. GRETA reported authorities may have penalized unidentified sex trafficking victims through application of legal provisions allowing suspected non-resident persons in prostitution to be deported or refused entry into Finland. During the reporting period, authorities acknowledged the surge in migrants seeking asylum throughout Europe placed additional stress on the government’s capacity for victim identification despite increased staffing levels. According to GRETA, identification of child trafficking victims was especially challenging, which NGOs attributed to a lack of awareness.
The government encouraged victims to assist in the prosecution of their alleged traffickers. In 2015, 40 victims assisted law enforcement in pre-trial investigations concerning human trafficking or aggravated human trafficking, eight of whom participated in the prosecutions of alleged traffickers; 53 victims assisted in 2014. Approximately 10-15 additional victims assisted in pre-trial investigations of other trafficking-related crimes. In January 2015, legal amendments allowing courts to conceal witnesses’ identities for their protection in cases of severe criminal offenses, including trafficking, entered into force. Access to emergency shelter services was not contingent on victims’ cooperation in criminal proceedings against their alleged traffickers. Finnish law allows foreign victims a six-month reflection period during which they can receive immediate care and assistance while considering whether to assist law enforcement. Authorities estimated they provided five victims with a reflection period in 2015. The government offered continuous residence permits to nine victims in particularly vulnerable positions in 2015, compared with 11 in 2014. Victims may be eligible to receive renewable temporary residence permits, allowing them to seek employment. Authorities provided temporary residence permits to two victims of trafficking. In instances where victims do not possess a national passport, the government may grant a temporary alien passport, although GRETA noted victims whose cases were prosecuted under laws other than those against trafficking, such as pimping, were often treated solely as witnesses rather than victims, which affected their access to residence permits.
The government sustained robust prevention activities. The national anti-trafficking coordinator developed a new government-wide coordination structure that created trafficking prevention offices within each ministry. The national coordinator engaged regularly with NGOs and began work on a new national action plan for 2016-2017. Parliament adopted a resolution on the independent rapporteur’s quadrennial report to Parliament calling for long-term funding and measures to improve prosecution, protection, and prevention efforts. Changes to the national rapporteur took effect in January 2015, when the office was folded into that of the newly created Non-Discrimination Ombudsman. A new ombudsman, who also was to serve as the national rapporteur on trafficking, was appointed in May. The office plans to publish an annual report on non-discrimination issues that will include trafficking; however, the office discontinued the national rapporteur’s annual trafficking report. The government conducted an awareness campaign against sex trafficking that targeted vulnerable groups, including women in prostitution. GRETA reported the government did not conduct assessments to measure the effectiveness of its awareness campaigns. In response to the vulnerability facing berry pickers, who were not covered under worker protection laws, the government conducted assessments of berry industry companies to prevent labor exploitation and required companies to agree to a general code of conduct. The government assigned law enforcement personnel to its embassies to assist in trafficking prevention and potential victim identification during the visa application process. The government funded an anti-trafficking awareness campaign at a film festival in March 2016 and distributed brochures at an annual travel show to prevent sex tourism. The government did not make efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training to its forces prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions and to its diplomatic personnel.