The number of child human trafficking victims has more than doubled
The number of minors referred to the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking has doubled compared to previous years. In 2021, 28 of the new clients admitted to the Assistance System were children or young people under 18. 27 of them had been victims of exploitation indicating human trafficking outside Finland and one of abuse taking place in Finland. In previous years, the number of minors admitted to the system varied between 10 and 14.
In most cases, human trafficking targeted at minors was linked to forced labour, sexual exploitation, and forced marriage. Some children have been victims of multiple types of human trafficking. In 2021, those minors admitted to the Assistance System were asylum seekers in most cases.
These figures were published as part of the most recent Annual Review of the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking (in Finnish.)
One third of all new clients had experienced human trafficking in their childhood
The number of clients for the Assistance System who had been victims of human trafficking as minors is, however, significantly higher. In total, 243 new clients were admitted to the Assistance System in 2021, one third of whom (80 clients) reported that they had been victims of human trafficking as minors. However, most of them have entered the Assistance System as adults.
“We have noticed that human trafficking in minors often does not surface until the victims reach adulthood. If this abuse has been allowed to continue without the intervention of authorities, for example, it is possible that only as an adult can a person find the courage to talk about their experiences or be able to understand their exploitation,” says Katri Lyijynen, Deputy Director of the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking.
As a child, these people have also been victims of forced labour or sexual exploitation or they have been forced into marriage. In addition, a child who has not yet reached the age of criminal responsibility may have been forced to engage in criminal activities.
“Children can be forced to commit crimes in which the risk of getting caught is high and for which an adult would most likely go to prison,” Lyijynen says.
When a client entering the Assistance System as an adult report that they had been a victim of human trafficking as a minor, the exploitation has usually taken place outside Finland. However, the number of cases indicating human trafficking in Finland is on the increase. These cases are typically connected to sexual exploitation or forced marriage.
Fewer cases of exploitation in Finland than the previous year
In 2021, the number of new clients admitted to the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking was 243, which is approximately the same as in the previous year. In addition, 48 clients’ children were admitted to the system.
97 of the new clients had been victims of human trafficking that took place in Finland. Of those, 48 had been victims of forced labour and 21 of sexual exploitation, including exploitation in prostitution. 22 clients sought assistance on the grounds of forced marriage. There also continued to be cases of forced criminal activity, with four victims reporting that they had been victims of such exploitation. The number of victims of human trafficking that took place in Finland and referred to the Assistance System was slightly lower than in the previous year. 123 of the new clients were exploited in Finland in 2020, whereas in 2021 the number was 97.
At the end of the year 2021, there were a total of 1132 clients in the Assistance System.
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 humantrafficking.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
Further information for the media
- Katri Lyijynen, Deputy Director, tel. +358 (0)295 433 037, e-mail: [email protected]
- Terhi Tafari, Senior Advisor, Team Leader, tel. +358 (0)295 433 037, e-mail: [email protected]