FINLAND: Tier 1
Finland is a transit, destination, and limited source country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking and for men and women subjected to forced labor. Forced labor victims come from a variety of countries in Eastern Europe and Asia 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 women and girls are vulnerable to sex trafficking.
The Government of Finland fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period, the government amended the penal code to clarify the difference between procuring commercial sex and committing trafficking offenses, as law enforcement tended to treat sex trafficking cases as procurement, which lead to lesser penalties for convicted traffickers and sex trafficking victims being treated as witnesses rather than victimized individuals. The government appointed the first national coordinator, and the independent rapporteur continued exemplary reporting. A nationwide reorganization of police offices and personnel assignments resulted in fewer trafficking cases reaching prosecution. Finnish courts continued to issue weak sentences for convicted traffickers.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FINLAND:
Vigorously investigate and prosecute sex and labor trafficking cases using the trafficking statute; provide sufficient resources for law enforcement action against trafficking; train and encourage officials to proactively identify potential sex and labor trafficking victims and refer them to services to which they are entitled under Finnish law; offer all victims appropriate housing and specialized care; train investigators, police, border officials, prosecutors, labor inspectors, and judges on applying the trafficking law and respecting the rights of victims; issue proportionate and dissuasive sentences to convicted traffickers; encourage greater victim participation in the criminal process; and develop an updated national strategy against trafficking.
The government demonstrated mixed progress in law enforcement efforts. Law 1889-39 of the Finnish penal code prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes sentences of up to 10 years’ imprisonment—penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, the government amended the penal code to clarify the differences between trafficking and procuring offenses. The government reported initiating investigations of 15 sex cases and five labor trafficking cases, compared with 12 sex trafficking and 15 labor trafficking investigations in 2013. Authorities initiated the prosecutions of three suspected traffickers in 2014, compared with 19 in 2013. Finnish courts convicted two traffickers in 2014 and issued sentences of six and 18 months’ imprisonment; in 2013, courts convicted two traffickers. Authorities provided training to 160 law enforcement officials, prosecutors, elected and staff members of parliament, and NGO representatives in September 2014. The government designated police officers in each of the 11 regions to serve as local resources and trainers for other officers; the designated officers met twice annually to share best practices. The government designated five prosecutors from different regions in the country to handle trafficking cases. Authorities reported reductions in the number of police officers and changes in officers’ duties hampered trafficking investigations. The national rapporteur found law enforcement investigated and prosecuted sex trafficking crimes under the more lenient pimping law. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government sustained protection efforts. The government provided both direct care and funding for third-party care through an asylum reception center that offered shelter, psychological assistance, medical care, and legal consultation to identified victims. 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. Its 2014 budget was 830,000 euro ($1,010,000) for the care of trafficking victims and operating expenses, compared to 870,000 euro ($1,058,000) in 2013. Law enforcement referred 16 victims in 2014, compared with 56 in 2013. In total, 50 potential trafficking victims requested assistance in 2014, compared with 128 in 2013, during which there was one group referral of 50 persons. Unlike previous years, the asylum center assisted more victims of sexual exploitation than victims of labor exploitation. The national rapporteur reported Finnish authorities’ efforts to identify sex trafficking victims were insufficient, particularly among Nigerian women exploited in prostitution. The rapporteur also noted victims of sex trafficking were often categorized as witnesses to procuring offenses and thus not categorically treated as victims of a crime and referred to the center providing services to trafficking victims. An NGO receiving some public funding assisted an additional 11 potential trafficking victims.
In 2014, 53 victims assisted law enforcement in pre-trial investigations, 19 of whom participated in the prosecutions of alleged traffickers; 12 victims assisted in 2013. Two appellate courts upheld compensation payments to victims in amounts ranging from 5,000 to 30,000 euro ($6,080 to $36,500) per victim. Finnish law allows foreign victims a six-month reflection period during which time they can receive immediate care and assistance while considering whether to assist law enforcement. Authorities estimated they provided less than ten victims with a reflection period in 2014 compared with 12 in 2013. The government offered residence permits to 12 victims in 2014 compared to 12 in 2013. Authorities provided 11 individuals considered to be vulnerable to trafficking with temporary residency permits. There were no reports the government penalized trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
The government made progress in prevention activities. The government appointed a national coordinator to lead development of a comprehensive strategy. The independent rapporteur continued her analysis of the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and advocated for specific changes through a public report. The rapporteur found the government did not take adequate preventative measures or evaluate past activities’ effectiveness. In response to the vulnerability facing berry pickers, who were not covered under worker protection laws, the government asked berry industry companies to charge lesser recruitment fees and ensure workers receive a daily minimum wage of 30 euro ($34). The government launched an awareness campaign on child sex tourism in January 2015. The government also made efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts in Finland. The government provided anti-trafficking training to Finnish forces prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.