The number of human trafficking victims in Finland has increased

27.1.2021 8.41

In 2020, a record-breaking number of persons assessed as having been trafficked in Finland have been referred to the Assistance system for victims of human trafficking: 123 such persons were accepted as Assistance system clients.

The new clients include a particularly high share of those who were subjected to forced labour in Finland (78 clients). In particular, they had worked in conditions indicating forced labour in the cleaning, restaurant and construction sector, in seasonal work in the agricultural sector, and as domestic workers of private persons. 

Of the new clients, 15 had been victims of human trafficking related to sexual exploitation in Finland, especially forced or coerced prostitution, and the conditions of 23 clients were assessed to indicate a forced marriage. Five clients had been exploited in criminal activities, and two were victims of benefit fraud. Trafficking for benefit fraud means that the victim is subjected to conditions that violate their human dignity, such as extreme poverty, to allow the exploiter to misappropriate the benefits paid to the victim and, for example, take out quick loans in the victim's name. 

This information is contained in the recently published annual report of the Assistance system for victims of human trafficking (in Finnish).

While the exploitation may have taken place in 2020, some of the victims have also sought assistance regarding experiences indicating human trafficking that they had years ago.

People close to the victim or some other reference group of the victim have often been in the background of the exploitation. Organised crime may have been behind some cases, whereas in others the victim has been exploited by their spouse or romantic partner.

“This is the so-called the loverboy method, in which the victim is controlled by their partner and forced to do what they want, and becomes exploited in prostitution, forced labour or criminal activity, for example. In other words, there may be just one perpetrator”, says Senior Advisor Terhi Tafari in the Assistance system for victims of human trafficking.

Clients include 11 victims who were trafficked in Finland as minors

It was assessed that 11 of the new clients who were victims of human trafficking in Finland were trafficked when they were minors. In ten cases, however, the victim only contacted the Assistance system once they became of age.

“It may sometimes take years before the victim dares tell anyone about their experiences, or identifies themselves as a victim of human trafficking or exploitation in general. Many of those who were exploited as minors may only talk about the issue once they are of age”, Tafari explains.

“It may take some of them years to wake up to the fact that they have been exploited, and at that point they want help and justice for themselves.”

The exploitation of minors uncovered in Finland has been associated with coercion to prostitution, forced labour and forced marriages.

Client numbers keep rising sharply

In total, 244 potential trafficking victims and three persons who are witnesses in pre-trial investigations or court proceedings related to human trafficking offences were taken on as clients of the Assistance system in 2020. Additionally, 50 underage children of potential victims of human trafficking were taken on. A total of 297 persons were thus given access to the services.

Of the new clients, 123 had been exploited in Finland and 121 elsewhere. This number of victims exploited in Finland is considerably larger than in previous years: human trafficking victims taken on as clients numbered 70 in 2019 and 52 in 2018.  The number of persons who had become trafficking victims abroad and taken on as clients in Finland was 121.

While the proportion of clients victimised abroad has been 60% to 70% for years, in 2020 their share was slightly smaller than the proportion of those who became victims in Finland.

At the end of 2020, a total of 916 persons were receiving Assistance system services. Of these, 704 are potential victims of human trafficking, and 212 underage children dependent on them. This total figure was 676 at the end of 2019 and 455 at the end of 2018. 

Fifteen years of the Assistance system

2021 marks the 15th operating year of the Assistance system for victims of human trafficking. During this period it has grown from a “micro authority” with a single employee to a national centre of expertise and helped 1,257 potential victims of human trafficking. Help is also provided for the victims’ underage children, who have numbered hundreds in the Assistance System over the years. 

Jari Kähkönen, the current Director General of the Finnish Immigration Service, served as Director of Joutseno Reception Centre and also the Assistance system for victims of human trafficking since 2009. When Kähkönen took over as Director General of the Finnish Immigration Service in autumn 2020, Antti Jäppinen, the former Deputy Director of the Reception Centre, was appointed Director of the Assistance system.

Facts: What does the Assistance system for victims of human trafficking do?

  • The purpose of the Assistance system is to help trafficking victims, their underage children, and persons who assist in investigating trafficking offences. It helps both Finnish and foreign victims of human trafficking equally.
  • 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 go back to their home country, they receive assistance for voluntary return. 
  • The client also receives the statutory legal aid and legal advice.
  • The Assistance system operates in connection with Joutseno Reception Centre. It has four offices in Finland (Lappeenranta, Helsinki. Oulu and Tampere). 
  • The Assistance system for victims of human trafficking has been operating since 2006. It is part of the Finnish Immigration Service and operates under the Ministry of the Interior.
  • The Assistance system maintains the national website ihmiskauppa.fi and a 24/7 helpline at 0295 463 177.
  • 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

  • Terhi Tafari, Senior Adviser, tel. +358 295 433 037
  • Katri Lyijynen, Acting Deputy Director, tel. +358 295 433 037

The Swedish and English translations of the annual report will come out later in spring 2021. For the statistics in Swedish and English, go to here

Press release

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