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. The assistance system admitted 163 potential trafficking victims in 2018, of which 10 were children; most were exploited prior to their arrival in Finland. Comparably, the assistance system admitted 127 victims in 2017 (14 were children), most of whom were sex trafficking victims exploited in a foreign country; Nigerian women continued to account for the majority of sex trafficking victims. Authorities noted a growing number of sex trafficking victims exploited within Finland. Authorities registered 18 such victims in 2018 (eight in 2017); however, observers reported there were more victims who went unregistered, misrepresenting the real scale. Finnish law required police to pursue domestic cases specifically as trafficking crimes in order for victims to receive services through the assistance system beyond the initial emergency. A study commissioned by the government revealed mandatory police involvement in domestic cases strongly deterred victim cooperation due to fear of consequences, distrust with authorities, or belief that the police would not keep them safe from their traffickers. Additionally, assistance system personnel lacked guidance regarding referrals of victims who were trafficked domestically and did not wish to contact the police. Furthermore, according to the national rapporteur, the placement of the assistance system within immigration services misrepresented trafficking as a crime requiring migration and reduced the focus on trafficking committed within Finland.
Multiple actors within the government and civil society could identify trafficking victims. Although police and immigration officials used written guidelines for identification and referral, the government recognized these guidelines as inadequate. To address this shortcoming, the government created a national referral mechanism for victim identification and assistance, but the government neither implemented nor dedicated funding toward the mechanism. Once referred to the assistance system, consultants evaluated cases and decided on the victim’s course of care, which could include transportation to a safe house, psychological, medical, and legal assistance, or shelter. There was one government-funded shelter specifically for trafficking victims, though it accepted only women and their children. Care providers sheltered most trafficking victims in private accommodations. Child services assigned unaccompanied child victims a guardian to serve as a legal representative. Authorities placed Finnish children who could not return to their families in foster care, while authorities placed unaccompanied migrant children in a migrant reception center specifically for children. There was no dedicated shelter for male victims. In 2018, the government spent approximately €1.2 million ($1.38 million) on trafficking victim assistance and protection, compared with €955,000 ($1.1 million) in 2017. In addition, the government allocated €257,000 ($294,720) for services to multiple organizations.
To receive long-term assistance, Finnish law requires victims to either cooperate with police to commence a criminal investigation or receive a specialized residence permit from Finnish Immigration Services. 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 recovery period of up to three months. 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. Authorities provided temporary residence permits to five victims and renewed five 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.