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 creating a national referral mechanism and allocating funds for its implementation. The government also prosecuted more suspected traffickers. Although the government meets the minimum standards, a shift in focus to terrorism and immigration depleted law enforcement anti-trafficking resources and led to the pursuance of some trafficking cases under non-trafficking statutes, which affected victims’ access to services and residency benefits.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FINLAND
Vigorously investigate and prosecute sex and labor trafficking cases using the trafficking statute and impose strong sentences on convicted traffickers; expand access to victim services regardless of whether an alleged perpetrator is prosecuted and irrespective of the statutes under which an alleged perpetrator is being prosecuted; increase the number of judges and police who specialize in trafficking cases and allocate sufficient resources to law enforcement units for trafficking investigations; expand efforts to train law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and judges on applying the trafficking law; implement the national referral mechanism for all sectors of the government and train officials in its use to proactively identify potential victims and refer them to services; develop, publish, and implement a national action plan for 2018; and expand worker protection laws to include seasonal workers on commission.
The government increased law enforcement efforts. Law 1889-39 of the penal code criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed sentences of up to six years imprisonment with fines. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, 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 were generally far less severe than those for trafficking crimes. In 2017, the government reported initiating 77 investigations of trafficking cases (including 22 labor and 30 sex trafficking cases), compared with 74 cases in 2016 (including 16 labor and 35 sex trafficking cases). Authorities initiated prosecution of 11 cases (approximately two thirds labor and one third sex trafficking) involving an unknown number of suspected traffickers in 2017 (four and eight, respectively, in 2016). Finnish courts convicted six traffickers, five for labor and one for sex trafficking, (six in 2016); sentences ranged from 12 months to 29 months imprisonment. Finnish authorities collaborated with Spanish police to prosecute and convict a Finnish resident, who coordinated the transport of Nigerian women through Spain to Finland for the purposes of sexual exploitation. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses.
A shift in focus to combating illegal immigration and terrorism strained law enforcement anti-trafficking resources and effectiveness. Consequently, there was one law enforcement official dedicated to investigating trafficking, compared with three in previous years. Experts called for specialized anti-trafficking law enforcement units and for further training for judges. The government designated four special prosecutors from different regions to handle serious crimes, including trafficking cases, and provided annual training for prosecutors. Law enforcement and border guard personnel received anti-trafficking instruction as part of their basic training; law enforcement personnel received additional trafficking awareness training throughout their careers. Furthermore, a law enforcement working group composed of the prosecutor’s office, border guard, police, and other government agencies met every second month to share best practices on combating trafficking. The national network of anti-trafficking experts participated in regional meetings to discuss anti-trafficking efforts.
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 assistance system immediately upon identification, where they were eligible for emergency assistance. The national victim assistance system admitted 127 potential trafficking victims in 2017 (including 58 labor and 46 sex trafficking victims), of which 14 were children; most were exploited prior to their arrival in Finland. Comparably, the assistance system admitted 130 victims in 2016 (21 were children). The majority of victims who sought assistance were subjected to work-related exploitation. The assistance system experienced a surge in the number of asylum-seekers referred, most notably Nigerian women, who account for the majority of sex trafficking victims. The government created a national referral mechanism for victim identification and assistance and allocated €505,000 ($606,240) for implementation and related programs, including trainings, victim support services, and research. The government also allocated €125,000 ($150,060) for the development of separate referral guidelines for health professionals and social workers. Despite these measures, law enforcement and immigration officials noted victim identification remained a challenge for the government.
Finnish law required law enforcement to pursue the cases of victims subjected to trafficking within Finland specifically as trafficking crimes in order for victims to continue receiving services through the assistance system beyond the initial emergency. Services offered include psychological, medical, and legal assistance and shelter. There was one government-funded shelter specifically for trafficking victims, though it accepted only women and their children. Most trafficking victims sheltered in private accommodations. Child services assigned unaccompanied child victims a guardian to serve as a legal representative. Finnish children who could not return to their families were placed in foster care, while unaccompanied migrant children were placed in a migrant reception center specifically for children. In 2017, the government spent €955,000 ($1.1 million) on trafficking victim assistance and protection, compared with €815,800 ($979,350) in 2016. In addition, the government allocated approximately €515,000 ($618,250) for services and projects to multiple organizations. Local municipalities provided additional funding for victim services for Finnish citizens.
Finnish law allowed foreign victims a six-month reflection period during which they could receive care and assistance while considering whether to assist law enforcement, and the law allowed legal residents a three-month reflection period. Victims could receive renewable temporary residence permits, which were valid for six to 12 months and allowed victims to seek employment. The government offered continuous residence permits to three victims in particularly vulnerable positions in 2017 (six in 2016). Authorities provided temporary residence permits to one trafficking victim and renewed 13 permits. In instances where victims did not possess a national passport, the government could grant a temporary alien passport. According to officials, all victims accepted into the assistance system consented to cooperate with police in the prosecution of their traffickers; however, in cases where victimization occurred outside of Finland, which was the case for the majority of victims identified, and the conditions of the relevant jurisdiction made law enforcement cooperation unlikely, police did not open a criminal investigation. Although there was no formal witness protection program, courts had the authority to conceal witnesses’ identities and police could place victims in temporary safe locations.
The government increased prevention activities. The national anti-trafficking coordinator implemented the national action plan for 2016-2017; the government provided €280,000 ($336,130) for implementation. The national coordinator maintained a government-wide coordination structure of trafficking prevention offices within each ministry and engaged regularly with NGOs. The national coordinator departed his position in February 2018; the government was in the process of filling the position at the end of the reporting period. The non-discrimination ombudsman, in her capacity as the national rapporteur, began a new research project assessing trafficking cases in Finland to evaluate how victims use the assistance system. With government funds, an international organization created an anti-trafficking curriculum for educational organizations and guidelines for trafficking victim identification for passenger ferry personnel in the Baltic Sea and employers of seasonal workers. The government allotted €20,000 ($24,010) for the development of guidelines for private sector employers to detect labor trafficking. 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. The government convened with representatives from the private sector and NGOs to share risk assessment tools that could expose labor trafficking within subcontracting supply chains. Finland’s laws against child sex tourism had extraterritorial reach, although the government did not investigate or prosecute any perpetrators. The government provided anti-trafficking training 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. Traffickers operate from abroad using threats of violence, debt leverage, and other forms of coercion. Victims originate primarily in Eastern Europe, West Africa, and Asia. Authorities report a surge in potential trafficking victims among rejected asylum-seekers returning to Finland under the Dublin Agreement, including a rise in the number of individuals exploited prior to their arrival in Finland, such as Nigerian women who account for the majority of sex trafficking victims. Reports indicate new victims entering the system include young men who had been subjected to the practice of bacha bazi in their home countries prior to moving to Finland. Foreign-born workers and immigrants, many of whom arrive in Finland legally, are especially vulnerable to exploitation in the construction, restaurant, agriculture, metal, and transport industries, and as cleaners, gardeners, and domestic workers. 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.