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. These efforts include increasing investigations, referring more victims to care, and allocating more funding for victim assistance. Although the government meets the minimum standards, four of five convicted traffickers received probation without serving any time in prison. A lack of specialized government personnel handicapped the enforcement of existing legislation, leading to some trafficking cases being investigated and prosecuted under less serious offenses. Additionally, implementation of the national referral mechanism and development of a national action plan remained slow in the absence of a permanent national anti-trafficking coordinator to lead the country’s anti-trafficking efforts.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS

Sentence traffickers with adequate sentences, with the majority of convicted traffickers serving significant prison terms. • Investigate and prosecute sex trafficking and labor trafficking cases using the trafficking statute. • Increase efforts to train law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and judges on applying the trafficking law. • Appoint a permanent national anti-trafficking coordinator to lead anti-trafficking efforts. • Increase the number of government officials, such as police, who specialize in trafficking cases and allocate sufficient resources to and create dedicated law enforcement units for trafficking investigations. • Expand access to victim services regardless of whether a suspected trafficker is prosecuted and irrespective of the statutes under which a suspected trafficker is being prosecuted. • Implement the national referral mechanism for all sectors of the government, allocate sufficient funding for implementation, and train officials on its use to identify proactively potential victims and refer them to services. • Develop clear guidance for national victim assistance system personnel to follow on treating victims exploited within Finland who do not want to involve the police. • Develop, publish, and implement a national action plan for 2019.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Law 1889-39 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed sentences of between four months and six years’ imprisonment for offenses involving an adult victim and between two and 10 years’ imprisonment for those involving a child victim. 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 2018, the government reported initiating 88 investigations of trafficking cases (38 sex trafficking, 20 labor trafficking, and 30 unconfirmed), compared with 77 cases in 2017 (30 sex trafficking, 22 labor trafficking, and 25 unconfirmed). Authorities prosecuted six cases involving 21 suspected traffickers (11 cases involving an unknown number of suspected traffickers in 2017). Finnish courts convicted five traffickers (six in 2017); one trafficker received a two-year prison sentence and the other four received probation. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Romanian police cooperated on a sex trafficking case involving a Romanian man exploiting five Moldovan women in Finland; Finnish courts convicted the man to five and a half years in prison. Law enforcement expressed increased concern regarding Romanian and Moldovan criminal organizations trafficking individuals from their home countries in Finland.

Despite the NBI’s appointment of a second investigator dedicated to investigating trafficking, a lack of specialized government personnel strained law enforcement anti-trafficking effectiveness and implementation of existing legislation. Experts raised concerns that the lack of specialized police anti trafficking units led to law enforcement investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases under less serious offenses. Nearly 750 law enforcement and border guard personnel received training on recognizing and investigating trafficking. The government, in conjunction with an international organization, sponsored a training for more than 300 health care professionals and social workers to identify the characteristics of trafficking in clients whom they encounter. The prosecutor’s office held an annual training course for prosecutors throughout the country regarding trafficking trials.

PROTECTION

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.

PREVENTION

The government increased prevention activities. During the reporting period, the government lacked a national action plan; however, various agencies continued to implement initiatives from the 2016-2017 plan. The government appropriated €500,000 ($573,390) for implementation in 2018. After the national coordinator departed his position in February 2018, the government failed to appoint a permanent coordinator. Experts criticized the vacancy and reported it hindered progress and effectiveness. The non-discrimination ombudsman, in her capacity as the national rapporteur, submitted a report to parliament with recommendations for legislative reforms, official referral procedures for occupational safety and health authorities, and enhanced cooperation between law enforcement and authorities coordinating the victim assistance system. In conjunction with Bulgaria, Estonia, and Latvia, the government participated in a multi-year project profiling trafficking in regional supply chains. The government allotted €20,000 ($22,940) for the development of guidelines for private sector employers to detect labor trafficking. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Finland’s laws against child sex tourism had extraterritorial reach, although the government did not investigate or prosecute any perpetrators. The national assistance system maintained a hotline and website in multiple languages exclusively for trafficking victims.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Finland, and, to a lesser extent, traffickers exploit victims from Finland abroad. Traffickers operate from abroad using threats of violence, debt leverage, and other forms of coercion. Victims originate primarily in Eastern Europe, Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. Authorities report a surge in victims among asylum-seekers and other migrants, most of whom are exploited prior to their arrival in Finland, such as Nigerian women who account for the majority of sex trafficking victims; however, experts note a growing number of sex trafficking cases within 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, rather than larger criminal syndicates. Seasonal berry pickers, many of whom are Thai, are especially vulnerable to labor exploitation.

U.S. Department of State

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