The assistance system for victims of human trafficking in Italy is over-strained – the returning of persons to be considered more carefully
Experts from the Finnish Immigration Service carried out a fact-finding mission to Italy in January. Representatives of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, the National Police Board and the Assistance system for victims of human trafficking also took part in the mission. The purpose of the mission was to examine the possibilities for Nigerian victims of human trafficking who have been returned to Italy from Finland to receive assistance in Italy.
In Italy, there is solid legislation about offering assistance to victims of human trafficking, but today the system is badly over-strained. This means that access to assistance is inconsistent and that the access to differs depending on the region.
– The information that was acquired during the fact-finding mission will have an effect on our decision-making. From now on, the Finnish Immigration Service will consider the refusal of entry and returning to Italy of victims of human trafficking more carefully and individually, says Jaana Vuorio, Director General of the Finnish Immigration Service.
The fact-finding mission was the result of a report on Nigerian victims of human trafficking published by the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman last autumn. The Ombudsman, who is the rapporteur for human trafficking, considers the fact-finding mission to be a step in the right direction.
– This is exactly as it should be: the authority is reacting to alarming information and finding out the facts for themselves. Careful consideration is needed when considering refusal of entry, as all victims do not necessary have access to help in Italy, says Kirsi Pimiä, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman.
Problems with the flow of information and getting assistance
A client of the assistance system for victims of human trafficking in Finland cannot be directly transferred to the assistance system in Italy. When a victim is transferred from Finland to Italy, his or her access to assistance may be cut off because of problems with the flow of information or because no assistance is offered.
The Italian authorities do not necessary have access to information about the fact that a victim of human trafficking in a vulnerable position is arriving from Finland. According to the Italian authorities, this information is not necessary transferred to the right parts of the assistance system in Italy via the Dublinet information exchange system of the Dublin system. This makes it difficult to guide the victim from the airport to the right form of assistance.
As a rule, in Italy the victims who are included in the assistance system are those who are still facing an acute threat to their safety. The victim himself or herself has to be able to show that the people who have perpetrated the abuse are still a threat. This is not always possible, as the victim is not necessarily able to give detailed information about the abuse. The victim might, for example, not know the name of the street where he or she has been taken to sell sex and might only know the first name of his or her pimp. The more time that has passed since the events, the more difficult it is to investigate the crime.
Hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and migrants have arrived in Italy during the last couple of years. The reception system in Italy is badly over-strained and there is a lot of variation in its quality between different parts of the country and different reception centres. The number of asylum seekers has also caused the assistance system for victims of human trafficking to become over-strained. This means that victims of human trafficking may have to wait before they receive assistance and do not necessarily have access to the shelters for victims of human trafficking.
Nigerian victims of human trafficking risk falling victim again
More than 15,000 Nigerian women and girls have arrived in Italy during the last two years. The risk of them falling victim to human trafficking is significant, as almost all of them have a contact in Italy through whom they will end up in prostitution. Some of them have been told that they will be taking care of children or work as cleaners, but some of them know that they will be forced into prostitution in Italy. The conditions in Italy are worse than previously thought and the women do not have the freedom to influence their own situation.
The networks for human trafficking of Nigerian women and girls are large in Italy and have connections to the Mafia. The human traffickers use reception centres to both accommodate their victims and to find new victims. The criminals can find a victim who has been returned to Italy in the reception centre through their networks and the victim is at risk of falling victim again. The same risk does not exist in the shelters, but access to the shelters is inconsequent at the moment.
Human trafficking is a serious crime
Anyone can become a victim of human trafficking. Human trafficking is a crime where the victim is, for example, sexually abused or exploited for labour. The victims of human trafficking that have been discovered in Finland have most often fallen victim to the abuse outside of Finland, but there have also been persons who have fallen victim in Finland.
Human trafficking is a crime that is investigated by the police. The Finnish Immigration Service can grant a residence permit to a victim of human trafficking, but human trafficking is not automatically a ground for being granted a residence permit.
In Finland, Nigerian women who are victims of sexual abuse is the largest group in the Assistance system for victims of human trafficking. At the end of 2016, 50 Nigerian women were clients of the assistance system in Finland. More information in the overview of the assistance system for victims of human trafficking.
Further information for the media:
Finnish Immigration Service:
Anni Valovirta, Senior Adviser and Specialist for Human Trafficking Issues,
tel. +358 295 430 431, e-mail: [email protected]
Sirpa Ranta, Head of Country Information, tel. +358 295 430 431, e-mail: [email protected]
Mikko Montin, Head of the Dublin Section, tel. +358 295 430 431, e-mail: [email protected]
Senior Adviser Venla Roth, tel: +358 295 666 807, e-mail: [email protected]