Finland is preparing to face the challenge of fighting human trafficking on a large scale. And it is doing so when the country has seen the number of victims of this illegal activity tripled in the last three years.
During the year 2018, a total a 228 persons were referred in Finland to the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking. Of them, 163 were admitted into the system as clients, as reported by the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri), who remarks that on December 31 there were still 13 proposals pending for a decision.
The numbers show a remarkable increase compared to previous years. For example, in 2015 only 75 persons were referred to the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking, 52 out of whom were accepted. This means that the number of people referred to this program has more than tripled in three years.
In parallel to this increase, the number of new experts trained in the fight against this phenomenon has also tripled.
750 new experts
During the autumn of 2018 the IHME project coordinated by the National Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking trained nearly 750 members of the police and Border Guard –as well as police and border guard students- in human trafficking issues, said Migri on a release.
The Finnish Immigration Service remarked that “the original goal of the training was roughly 200-300 people, but due to the high demand during the autumn, the number nearly tripled”.
The Finnish Government foresees that “the number of trained persons will increase further, because the training will continue during 2019”. As a whole, this is the most extensive human trafficking training programme for pre-trial investigation authorities carried out ever in Finland.
11 police departments involved
According to the information published by Migri, training events have been arranged at 11 police departments, four administrative units of the Border Guard, the Police University College, and the Border and Coast Guard Academy.
The training is run by anti-human trafficking experts representing the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking, as well as police officers and border guards with experience of human trafficking investigations.
At the training events, the participants have been instructed in issues such as human trafficking as a phenomenon as well as how to identify it and meet its victims.
Government and organisations involved
Authorities have been encouraged to consult colleagues working in various departments, as well as other experts when support or advice during an investigation is needed.
Another aim was to increase co-operation between pre-trial investigation authorities and other anti-human trafficking organisations, such as the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking, the Office of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, which acts as Finland’s National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings, and non-governmental organisations.
"Based on feedback from the participants, the training has been considered interesting, practical, easily understandable and quite necessary. The training has opened up human trafficking as a crime to the participants in a new way. The increased awareness has also affected the number of clients of the assistance system rising again during 2018," said Project Manager Veikko Mäkelä.
Child trafficking in Finland
One of the key goals of the IHME project during the last six months has been to foster discussion on human trafficking in children. To promote this aim, the assistance system has drawn up a report on the status of human trafficking in children in Finland together with the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, affiliated with the United Nations (HEUNI). The report will be published in a seminar on 21 March 2019.
Based on the statistics of the assistance system alone, “it is clear that child trafficking and the exploitation of children also occurs in Finland”. “Finnish children are not safe from different forms of exploitation, either”, Migri’s statement reported.
"Exploitation may start with small things and change step-by-step over time into activities that resemble the definition of human trafficking in the Criminal Code. The question is how exploitation of children and thereby also human trafficking may be prevented in Finland? This and other issues related to the topic will be discussed further during the spring," Veikko Mäkelä said.
If you are a victim of human trafficking and you are in search for help, you can learn how to report your case by clicking HERE