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.