This year, a record number of victims of exploitation have been referred to the assistance system for victims of human trafficking. Many of them are considered to have fallen victim to human trafficking for forced labour or to other forms of labour exploitation in Finland.
The assistance system for victims of human trafficking received a total of 185 applications between 1 January and 30 June 2022. The number of applications has never been higher during the corresponding period (2021: 147). During the early part of 2022, 139 people and their 26 underage children were taken on as clients in the assistance system.
These details are included in the latest half-yearly report of the assistance system for victims of human trafficking.
"People who have fallen victim to human trafficking in Finland are identified by non-governmental organisations in particular," says Terhi Tafari, Senior Adviser at the assistance system for victims of human trafficking.
Some of the new clients, 63 adults and three minors, were suspected to have fallen victim to exploitation indicating human trafficking in Finland. Those who had become victims in Finland were most often subjected to forced labour (38 persons), sexual exploitation (16 persons) and forced marriage (11 persons). The victims of exploitation were most often citizens of Iraq, Finland, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Russia and Morocco.
Victims of forced labour can have fears about Finnish working life
Immigrants who have experienced labour exploitation in Finland can have fears about working life in Finland. Many immigrants find it hard to believe that the same labour legislation and the same rights apply to them than to people born in Finland.
"There is a strong motivation to become employed but without a clear understanding of the rules of working life, the risk of becoming exploited increases," says Tafari.
This has been noticed during the IKUT project, which is coordinated by the assistance system for victims of human trafficking. The project organises working-life training for people who have become victims of human trafficking and other forms of exploitation.
During the first half of 2022, several people who are considered to have fallen victim to human trafficking for forced labour or to other forms of labour exploitation in Finland were referred to the assistance system. Conditions that indicate human trafficking were detected especially in the restaurant business and within the cleaning industry. Even working in greenhouses, in beauty care and in car washes involved risks for workers with foreign background.
Ukrainians not yet included in the system statistics
During the early part of 2022, there were no such referrals to the assistance system that concerned persons who had fled from Ukraine and been subjected to exploitation indicating human trafficking on their way to Finland or in Finland.
This can suggest that the measures different authorities have taken together to prevent exploitation have been effective. On the other hand, it can indicate that exploitation is yet to be detected.
"It is important that Ukrainians receive information about their rights in Finland. Everyone can help by directing them to reliable official information, which is also available in Ukrainian," says Tafari.
Fact: What does the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking do?
- The Assistance System is a centre of excellence in the identification and assistance of victims of human trafficking.
- The purpose of the Assistance System is to help trafficking victims, their underage children, and persons who assist in investigating trafficking offences. It equally helps both Finnish and foreign victims of human trafficking.
- The Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking is an authority that offers its clients advice and guidance, social services, healthcare services, reception allowance or social assistance, safe accommodation, as well as interpretation and translation services.
- If the client wishes to return to their home country, they receive assistance for voluntary return.
- The client also receives statutory legal aid and legal advice.
- The Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking has been operating since 2006. The Assistance System operates under Joutseno Reception Centre, a part of the Finnish Immigration Service. It has four offices in Finland (Lappeenranta, Helsinki, Oulu and Tampere).
- The Assistance System maintains the national website ihmiskauppa.fi and a 24/7 helpline at +358 2954 63 177
- The system should be referred to as the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking or the Assistance System.
- For more information, visit www.ihmiskauppa.fi.
Source: Finnish Immigration Service