Thai blueberry pickers in the forest in Juva, South Savo. LEHTIKUVA

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In 2023, the National Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking (NAS) in Finland reported a slight increase in the number of new referrals, totaling 510, compared to the previous year. With 326 new victims identified and admitted into the system, the data reveals a concerning trend that forced labour continues to be the predominant form of exploitation, highlighting significant challenges in combating human trafficking within the country.

Over half of the identified victims were women and girls, demonstrating the gendered nature of human trafficking. A significant 64% of exploitation cases occurred domestically, underscoring the issue as a local problem rather than solely an international concern. The victims comprised 35 nationalities, indicating the diverse backgrounds of those affected by forced labour in Finland. The sectors most implicated in these exploitation cases included wild produce picking, berry farms, restaurants, cleaning, well-being, and greenhouses.

Assistant Director Katri Lyijynen of the NAS emphasized the financial motives behind labour exploitation, noting its detrimental effects on fair competition and the economy. She pointed out that labour exploitation not only violates Finnish labour laws but is invariably linked to financial crimes, stressing the importance of the NAS's role in crime prevention and victim support.

Forced labour situations are characterized by the absence of workers' rights, with victims often trapped in abusive conditions through debt bondage, threats of violence, or restrictions on personal freedom. Victims are frequently misled about their working conditions, with many receiving inadequate or unpaid wages.

By the end of 2023, the NAS was assisting 1,563 individuals, including 1,287 identified victims and 276 of their underage children. Among these victims, 19 were children, and approximately 60% were women. Nearly half of all NAS clients were victims of forced labour, followed by those subjected to sexual exploitation and forced marriage, illustrating the varied forms of human trafficking prevalent in Finland.

The fight against human trafficking is a critical social issue, with efforts to expose this hidden criminality being vital to societal well-being. The NAS's ongoing training programs for stakeholders and NGOs have been instrumental in raising awareness, enhancing the detection of cases, and facilitating the identification of victims.

As an expert authority established in 2006, the NAS operates under the Finnish Immigration Service and aims to support all victims of human trafficking, including Finnish and foreign nationals, and their underage children. The NAS also maintains a 24/7 helpline and the national ihmiskauppa.fi website, serving as a central resource for information and assistance related to human trafficking in Finland.

HT

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