FINLAND: Tier 1
The Government of Finland fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, Finland remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by developing and publishing a new national action plan for 2016-2017 and allocating funds for its implementation. The government identified significantly more victims than in the previous reporting period; investigations, prosecutions, and convictions also increased. Although the government meets the minimum standards, courts continued to issue weak sentences for convicted traffickers, several of whom did not serve time in prison. Law enforcement pursued some trafficking cases under non-trafficking statutes, which affected victims’ access to services and residency benefits. Victim identification among asylum-seekers remained a challenge and authorities applied laws and guidelines governing residency eligibility inconsistently, in some cases refusing entry to asylum-seekers despite trafficking indicators.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FINLAND
Vigorously investigate and prosecute sex and labor trafficking cases using the trafficking statute and impose sufficiently stringent sentences on convicted traffickers; develop and implement a national referral mechanism and train officials in its use to identify potential sex and labor trafficking victims proactively, especially children, and refer them to services to which they are legally entitled; offer all victims appropriate housing and specialized care and consistently notify them of available resources; increase the number of prosecutors, judges, and police that specialize in trafficking cases and consider creating specialized law enforcement units; train investigators, police, immigration officials, prosecutors, labor inspectors, and judges on applying the trafficking law and respecting victims’ rights; institute a formal witness protection program to encourage greater victim participation in the criminal justice process; increase efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor; and expand worker protection laws to include seasonal workers on commission.
The government increased law enforcement efforts. Law 1889-39 of the penal code prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons and prescribes sentences of up to six years imprisonment (up to 10 years for aggravated trafficking) with the possibility of additional fines—penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government continued to use laws against pandering, discrimination, and usury, among others, to investigate and prosecute some suspected traffickers; the penalties for these crimes are generally far less severe than those for trafficking crimes. The government reported initiating 74 investigations of trafficking cases in 2016 (including at least 16 labor and 35 sex trafficking cases), compared with 32 cases in 2015 (including at least 19 labor and 12 sex trafficking cases). The national rapporteur noted, however, the quality of investigations conducted throughout the country varied from region to region. Authorities initiated prosecution of four cases (two labor and two sex trafficking) involving eight suspected traffickers in 2016 (four in 2015). Finnish courts convicted six traffickers (four for labor and two for sex trafficking) in 2016 (four in 2015). In those cases, the courts issued sentences of one year’s imprisonment (suspended); 15, 12, and 12 months imprisonment (all suspended); 26 months imprisonment; and 11 years imprisonment.
Police officers in each of the 11 regions served as a national network of anti-trafficking experts and trainers and met twice annually to share best practices. The government provided annual training for prosecutors. Law enforcement and border guard personnel received anti-trafficking instruction as part of their basic training; law enforcement personnel receive additional trafficking awareness training throughout their careers. The government designated four special prosecutors from different regions to handle serious crimes including trafficking cases. GRETA’s most recent report, however, recommended further specialization among law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges to increase the government’s capacity to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses. NGOs recommended law enforcement agencies create specialized anti-trafficking units. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government increased protection efforts. The government provided both direct care and funding for third-party care through an asylum reception center that coordinated the national victim assistance system. Police were required to refer potential victims to the national assistance system immediately upon identification, where they were eligible for emergency assistance. 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 emergency care for most victims, even when law enforcement authorities did not identify a person as a trafficking victim; however, victims subjected to trafficking within Finland must have law enforcement pursue their cases specifically as trafficking crimes in order to continue receiving services through the national victim assistance system beyond the initial emergency. There were no shelters specifically for trafficking victims. In 2016, the government allocated €815,800 ($859,642) to the national assistance system, compared with €540,000 ($569,020) in 2015. Local municipalities provided additional funding for victim services for Finnish citizens. The government increased its funding for one NGO providing trafficking victim services and training for Finnish authorities. The national victim assistance system admitted 130 potential trafficking victims in 2016 (86 women and 44 men, of whom 21 were children); most were exploited prior to their arrival in Finland, many as migrants seeking asylum. Some admitted to the assistance system were victims of forced marriage or organ trafficking, crimes that fall outside the U.S. definition of trafficking. The assistance system admitted 52 victims in 2015 (of whom none were children). Authorities used a series of written guidelines to assist in victim identification and referral to care and to ensure protection of victims’ rights. Despite these measures, law enforcement and immigration officials noted victim identification remained a core challenge for the government; the increase in asylum applicants since 2015 continued to strain the government’s capacity to identify potential victims among the migrant population and may have resulted in refusal of entry for some particularly vulnerable individuals. The January 2017 reorganization of the Finnish Immigration Service (FIS) integrated the national assistance system with the agency’s overall operations; FIS assumed responsibility for asylum investigations, making it the primary actor in identifying trafficking victims among asylum-seekers. There were no reports the government penalized victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. NGOs reported the law allowing authorities to refuse entry into Finland to persons suspected of engaging in prostitution may have resulted in penalizing unidentified sex trafficking victims and deterred some victims from seeking help from authorities. NGOs continued to advocate further training for officials, especially social service and healthcare providers, on victim identification and protection. The government created a working group in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health to improve coordination between healthcare professionals on support and assistance for victims.
The government encouraged victims to assist in the prosecution of their alleged traffickers. Courts had the authority to conceal witnesses’ identities for their protection in cases involving severe criminal offenses, including trafficking, and police could place victims in temporary safe locations; however, there was no formal witness protection program. Finnish law allows foreign victims a six-month reflection period during which they can receive care and assistance while considering whether to assist law enforcement. Victims may receive renewable temporary residence permits, which are valid for six to 12 months and allow victims to seek employment. The FIS estimated it provided three victims with a reflection period in 2016. The government offered continuous residence permits to six victims in particularly vulnerable positions in 2016 (nine in 2015). Authorities provided temporary residence permits to four victims of trafficking and renewed five permits. 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 non-trafficking laws, such as pimping, were often treated solely as witnesses rather than victims, which affected their access to residence permits. The national rapporteur conducted a case study of victims of Nigerian origin to evaluate the application of laws governing residence permits for trafficking victims; the study found FIS did not consistently grant residency to asylum-seekers with trafficking indicators due to a lack of sufficient guidelines.
The government increased prevention activities. The national anti-trafficking coordinator developed and published a new national action plan for 2016-2017. The plan included provisions to create a national referral mechanism for victim identification and assistance, as well as nine specific areas of focus spanning efforts for prosecution, protection, prevention, and partnerships. The government allocated €525,000 ($553,214) for implementation and related programs, including trainings, awareness campaigns, victim support services, and research. The national coordinator also maintained a government-wide coordination structure of trafficking prevention offices within each ministry and engaged regularly with NGOs. The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, in her capacity as the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings, published an annual report on trafficking in Finland as part of the ombudsman’s larger annual report. The national rapporteur also used its case study of victims of Nigerian origin to improve anti-trafficking cooperation with Italy. The government conducted a three-month awareness campaign against trafficking and smuggling aiming to reach smuggled migrants and trafficking victims and contributed funding and free airtime with the national broadcaster for an international organization’s anti-trafficking campaign. The national assistance system maintained a hotline and website in multiple languages exclusively for trafficking victims. 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. In September, law enforcement authorities opened an ongoing investigation into possible labor violations by companies that hire berry pickers. The government assigned law enforcement personnel to its embassies to assist in trafficking prevention and victim identification during the visa application process. Finland’s laws against child sex tourism have extraterritorial reach, although the government did not investigate or prosecute any perpetrators during the reporting period. The government did not make efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel and to its troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions.
As reported over the past five years, 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 originate primarily in Eastern Europe, West Africa, and Asia. Foreign-born workers and immigrants are especially vulnerable; many victims arrive in Finland legally and are exploited in the construction, restaurant, agriculture, metal, and transport industries, and as cleaners, gardeners, and domestic workers. Authorities reported a surge in potential trafficking victims among asylum-seekers, including a rise in the number of individuals who were exploited prior to their arrival in Finland. Law enforcement note most labor trafficking involves small-scale operations in businesses such as restaurants and massage parlors, rather than larger criminal syndicates. Seasonal berry pickers, many of whom are Thai, are especially vulnerable to labor exploitation. Most work on commission and, because they are not considered employees under Finnish law, are not covered by worker protection laws governing minimum wage and maximum working hours. Female sex trafficking victims originate primarily in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and West Africa, especially Nigeria; many were exploited in other countries, arriving in Finland after fleeing their traffickers. Finnish women and children, mostly girls, are increasingly vulnerable to sex trafficking. Although pimps cannot legally operate in Finland, they are able to operate from abroad using threats of violence, debt leverage, and other forms of coercion. In its 2015 report, GRETA highlighted forced begging and forced criminality as emerging problems.