The number of victims of human trafficking is raising in Finland "dramatically" compared to previous years, says the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri).
In its latest customer's bulletin, the Immigration authority explained that by the end of June 2019 a total of 143 people were referred to the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking. Of them, 115 were admitted to the system as clients, while other 15 proposals were still waiting for a decision on 30 June.
"The number has increased dramatically from previous years", remarked Migri, who also pointed out that in 2018, during the same period, 76 new clients were admitted to the system. In 2017 there were 55 persons accepted to the assistance system, and other 45 victims were assisted in 2016.
The figures quoted above speak for themselves: 115 new clients admitted to the Assistance System in the first half of this year means that the number of victims has increased by more than 50% compared to the same period of 2018.
These statistics were revealed during the latest semiannual review of the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking.
Trade in organs and forced marriages
It was estimated that slightly less than one-third of the new clients had become victims of exploitation indicative of human trafficking in Finland. Most of the new clients had become victims of human trafficking abroad. The most common cases involved sexual exploitation (33 victims), labour exploitation and forced marriages. Two persons had also become victims of trade in human organs and tissues. They were held captive in their home country and, during a process that lasted for several weeks, one of their kidneys was removed.
Regarding the cases that occurred specifically in Finland, the largest groups identified were victims of human trafficking related to labour exploitation (12 persons), and victims of forced marriage (other 12 people). Labour exploitation was discovered mainly in the restaurant business and in the agriculture sector, explained Migri.
Four of those forced marriages were contracted in Finland, while in the eight other cases the marriage had begun abroad, usually when the bride was still underage. When the family escaped from their native country to Finland, the abuse was revealed through domestic violence. According to the Finnish Immigration Service, "shelters have played a key role in identifying victims of forced marriage" and referring them to other social services.
Lack of resources to uncover sexual exploitation
The Finnish Immigration Service also draws attention to the fact that, during the first half of 2019, "an alarmingly low number of victims of human trafficking related to sexual exploitation were identified".
In this sense, the Immigration authorities explained that in the previous year "several people forced or pressured into prostitution were referred to the services of the assistance system through the activities of the police to uncover crimes in particular". This year nothing similar has occurred, which Migri thinks that "may be due to the lack of resources for the activities of the police to uncover crimes, among other things".
Migri considers that the ability of municipalities and parties such as child welfare, health care, hospitals and prisons to identify the victims of human trafficking "is still poor" due to a lack of knowledge.
Forced begging discovered
The existence of forced begging in the country has been debated for over a decade. In this form of human trafficking, persons are obliged to beg in public places and give to their exploiters the money they receive. Victims may also be forced to collect empty bottles or commit petty crimes.
Early this year, two persons who were estimated to have become victims of this kind of human exploitation sought help from the assistance system. One of them had been also forced to commit criminal acts. In addition, a third person who had been a victim of an attempt to oblige him to commit criminal acts by violence and starvation, sought to become a client.
However, the assessment of the assistance system stresses that begging is not always related to exploitation. "Most of the activity may be exactly what it seems: begging to make a living", it says.
The Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking
- The Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking is responsible for helping people who have become victims, their underage children, and the persons assisting with the investigation.
- The system assists both Finnish and foreign victims of human trafficking equally.
- It is an authority that provides its clients with advice and guidance, social services, healthcare services, a reception allowance or income support, safe accommodation, and interpretation and translation services.
- If a client wants to return to their home country, assistance will be provided for voluntary return.
- Clients also receive legal assistance and legal counselling.
- The Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking operates out of the Joutseno Reception Centre, and it has three offices in Finland (Joutseno, Oulu and Helsinki).
- The system is part of the Finnish Immigration Service. It has operated since 2006 under the Ministry of the Interior.
If you want to access the latest report about human trafficking in Finland, you can find it (in Finnish) HERE
Are you a victim of human trafficking? If you are in need of help or if you want to report your case to the authorities, you can do it by clicking HERE