Human trafficking in Finland

When thinking of Finland, one usually imagines a winter-wonderland welfare state where the people are the happiest in all the world. Universal healthcare is provided to citizens, and our school-systems have been praised around the world. Due to all these qualities, Finland is usually thought of as a safe place for both citizens and tourists alike. This idealized notion of our country opted me to look into the statistics regarding something not usually associated with Finland: human trafficking.

So what exactly does human trafficking contain? Human trafficking is the trade of humans that occurs intentionally with a goal of forced labor, sexual exploitation or removal of organs. Human trafficking victims are recruited or taken by using force, threats, fraud, abuse or kidnapping. The most popular reasons for human trafficking are poverty, gender inequality, violence, discrimination and conflicts. To be more specific, under FInnish law, human trafficking involves:

  • Sexual abuse of a person in a similar manner to the crime of pandering

  • The removal of organs for financial benefit, also known as organ trade

  • Forcing a person into labor or demeaning circumstances

While one does not usually associate Finland with human trafficking, it definitely happens. In the past, Finland was considered to be a transit country or a destination country for human traffickers. This means that victims of trafficking are brought here from other countries (destination country) or moved across Finland to other countries (transit country). However, in recent years this has become less and less accurate. Human trafficking also takes place within our borders, with both the victim and offender possibly being Finnish nationals.

A form of human trafficking most observed in Finland is trafficking in relation to exploitation of labour. In most cases this signifies a situation where a foreign national who is forced to work in degrading and poor conditions. Sexual exploitation, such as forced prostitution, has gotten more common in recent years. Usually female victims are pressured into selling sex, by threatening the victim or their loved ones, exploiting the victims vulnerable position or substance abuse. The Finnish Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking reports that by June 2018 there were 12 reported cases of sexual exploitation. The number of cases being considerably higher than in previous years: 8 cases in 2017 and 4 in 2016. However, in reality the number of victims of sexual exploitation in human trafficking is even higher. Finland has been criticised by human trafficking organizations for failing to identify these victims efficiently enough.

As is the case with other crimes, identifying victims and perpetrators is often a challenge. It is usually difficult for victims to come forward, often due to the fact that they are dependent of the perpetrator of the crime. It is also difficult to identify trafficking victims who have been forced into criminal activity. This is because they cannot defend themselves by revealing the persons who forced them to commit these crimes. Therefore most victims have trouble coming forward if they have the opportunity. It is also important to remember that the reported cases do not mirror the amount of the crimes in question. In order to help victims and bring the criminals to justice, it is important that victims have access to a support system.

So what exactly does our country do in order to prevent these crimes and help the victims in question? Finland is bound by many different international obligations related to human trafficking, such as Assistance system for victims that took up its activities in 2005. Laws against trafficking have also been created. Under Chapter 25, sections 3 and 3a of the Finnish Criminal Code (9.7.2004/650), trafficking is a punishable offence. The penalty for trafficking in human beings is imprisonment from 4 months to 6 years. Imprisonment of 2 to 10 years is possible in cases of aggravated trafficking. There are also numerous organisations that combat trafficking such as ministries, the police, border control authorities, and numerous NGOs.

The government has also increased protection efforts. It provides both direct care and funding for third-party care. Shelters are also in place and offer asylum for those in need. They offer shelter as well as medical, psychological and legal assistance for the victims. Prevention activities have also been increased: a new national action plan that includes new mechanisms for victim identification and assistance, as well as increasing focus for prosecution, prevention and protection.

For more information on the subject, here are some websites worth checking out:

http://www.ihmiskauppa.fi/en

https://www.riku.fi/en/various+crimes/human+trafficking/

https://www.poliisi.fi/crimes/trafficking_in_human_beings