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.