Finland is a transit, destination, and limited source country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking, and for men and women subjected to conditions of forced labor. Forced labor victims come from a variety of countries including Belarus, China, Estonia, India, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vietnam, and are exploited in the construction, restaurant, agriculture, metal, and transport industries, and as cleaners, gardeners, and domestic servants. Female sex trafficking victims originate in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Russia, Southeast Asia, and other parts of West Africa. Finnish teenagers are reportedly vulnerable to sex trafficking.
The Government of Finland fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Law enforcement officials investigated more cases of trafficking and referred more victims to care in 2013; however, the government prosecuted and convicted a very low number of suspected trafficking offenders relative to the substantial number of potential victims identified. During the reporting period, authorities continued to provide comprehensive assistance to potential trafficking victims, though the government cared for victims in shelters with a mixed population, which put trafficking victims at risk for being re-victimized. The government established a national coordinator position to improve cooperation between Finnish authorities and NGOs, though the position remained vacant at the close of the reporting period. The Finnish independent anti-trafficking national rapporteur continued exemplary self-critical reporting on trafficking in Finland, and the government performed outreach campaigns to individuals in prostitution.
Recommendations for Finland:
Increase law enforcement efforts against trafficking; make greater use of the trafficking statute to investigate and prosecute cases; encourage officials to proactively identify potential sex and labor trafficking victims and refer them to services to which they are entitled under Finnish law; ensure victims of trafficking are offered appropriate housing and specialized care, taking into consideration the risks of secondary trauma inherent in mixed-use shelters; continue training investigators, police, border officials, prosecutors, labor inspectors, and judges on human trafficking and the rights of trafficking victims; provide training on victim identification and referral for health care and social services employees; continue to encourage victim participation in the criminal process; and fill the position of the national trafficking coordinator and provide sufficient resources to fulfill the position’s duties.
The Government of Finland sustained its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts through increased police training and investigations, although authorities convicted very few traffickers, especially in light of the substantial number of identified victims. Law 1889-39 of the Finnish penal code prohibits all forms of both sex and labor trafficking and prescribes sentences of up to 10 years’ imprisonment for convicted offenders—penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Government of Finland reported initiating 12 sex trafficking investigations and 15 labor trafficking investigations in 2013, compared to 23 trafficking investigations in 2012. Authorities prosecuted 19 alleged trafficking offenders in 2013, compared to eight in 2012. Finnish courts convicted two labor trafficking offenders in 2013 with sentences of 30 months’ imprisonment; this marked a decrease from the eight convictions in 2012. In four additional cases, five persons were charged with, and found not guilty of, trafficking, but were convicted on lesser charges. In addition, two appellate courts upheld prior convictions of three persons for human trafficking offenses. The government did not convict any offenders for sex trafficking in 2013. The Finnish government continued to integrate trafficking awareness into its formal classroom training for the police and border official, and the rapporteur provided training to police, the border official, prosecutors, and judges. In early 2014, the government designated a trafficking expert in each of Finland’s 24 regional police districts; the designated officers served as local resources and trainers for the other police officers and planned to meet twice annually to share best practices among the network of experts. The government also designated five prosecutors from different regions in the country to handle trafficking cases. Law enforcement authorities collaborated with other governments on trafficking investigations. The government did not report the investigation or prosecution of any public officials for trafficking-related complicity.
The government sustained its protection efforts during the reporting period, showing improvement in the number of victims identified by authorities; however, it struggled to identify sex trafficking victims. The government provided both direct care and funding for third-party care through an asylum reception center that offered shelter, psychological assistance, medical care, legal consultation, and other services to identified victims of trafficking. The staff of the reception center was also empowered to identify and authorize care for trafficking victims, even when law enforcement authorities did not identify a person as a trafficking victim. However, the available shelter housed a mixed population, which posed risks for the re-victimization of some trafficking victims, particularly victims of sex trafficking. The reception center maintained a hotline and a website in multiple languages exclusively for trafficking victims. In 2013, although the reception center reported spending the equivalent of approximately $1,201,500 on the care of trafficking victims and operating expenses, a decrease from $1,933,400 in 2012, the government fully funded victim protection efforts for trafficking victims. Officials identified 56 victims in 2013, an increase from 46 victims identified in 2012. In total, 128 potential trafficking victims asked for assistance in 2013, an increase from 60 in 2012, which was largely due to one group referral of 50 persons. Victims of labor trafficking continued to constitute the bulk of the referrals to Finland’s victim assistance program, and experts reported that Finnish authorities’ efforts to identify sex trafficking victims were insufficient. Observers reported victims of sex trafficking are often categorized as witnesses to procuring offenses; witnesses to procuring offenses rarely receive the same assistance as victims of trafficking. Finnish courts required two offenders convicted of labor trafficking to pay compensation to victims.
The government encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders. In 2013, 12 victims assisted law enforcement in pre-trial investigations, 10 of whom participated in the prosecutions of alleged traffickers. Finnish law allowed identified trafficking victims a six-month reflection period, during which they could receive immediate care and assistance while considering whether to assist law enforcement. Authorities provided 12 victims with a reflection period in 2013, an increase from no victims in 2012. The government offered an extended residence permit to 12 victims wishing to stay longer than six months, compared to 32 permits issued in 2012. There were no reports that the government penalized identified victims for unlawful acts they may have committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
The government improved its anti-trafficking prevention activities in 2013 through establishing a national coordinator position and performing outreach to individuals in prostitution. The rapporteur continued her analysis of the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and advocated for specific changes through its public report. In June 2013, the government created the position of a national trafficking coordinator to improve cooperation between Finnish authorities and NGO care providers, an area the rapporteur had identified as a weakness in Finland’s fight against trafficking. The national coordinator position was not filled by the end of the reporting period. The government interviewed and distributed pamphlets in multiple languages to individuals in prostitution to inform them of their rights and what constituted sex trafficking. The government continued to provide assistance to other governments for counter-trafficking programs and to a regional expert group on trafficking. To prevent child sex tourism by Finnish citizens traveling abroad, the government distributed brochures at a travel show to thousands of potential travelers, highlighting the harm child sex tourism causes to children. The government also demonstrated efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts. The Finnish government provided anti-trafficking training to Finnish forces prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.