Forced begging and forced marriages also uncovered in Finland

5.8.2019 8.27
Press release

By the end of June this year, 115 new clients were admitted to the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking. This number is more than half larger than at the same time last year, when 76 new clients were admitted to the system. It was estimated that slightly less than one-third of the new clients had become victims of exploitation indicative of human trafficking in Finland.

The largest groups identified in Finland were victims of human trafficking related to labour exploitation (12 people), and victims of human trafficking related to forced marriage (12 people). Labour exploitation was found in the restaurant business and agriculture in particular.

Four of the forced marriages were contracted in Finland. In eight cases the marriage had begun abroad, usually when the bride was still underage. When the family escaped from their native country to Finland, the abuse was revealed through domestic violence. Shelters have played a key role in identifying victims of forced marriage and referring them to other services.

These statistics were revealed during the latest semiannual review of the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking (in Finnish).

Forced begging discovered

For over a decade, the existence of forced begging in the country has been debated in Finland. In this form of human trafficking, persons in a subordinate position are forced to beg and hand over the funds they receive to their exploiters. Victims may also be forced to collect bottles or commit petty crimes, for example.

Early this year, two people who were estimated to have become victims of human trafficking related to forced begging in Finland sought help from the assistance system. One of the persons was also forced to commit criminal acts. In addition, a third person, who had been a victim of an attempt to force them to commit criminal acts by violence and starvation, sought to become a client.

However, in the assessment of the assistance system, begging is not always related to exploitation in Finland. Most of the activity may be exactly what it seems: begging to make a living. The assistance system nevertheless notes that the possibility of exploitation and human trafficking exists in nearly all fields, including begging. Some people may be in a worse position than others. In fact, the subject should not be reduced to an extremely polarised either–or discussion.

Alarmingly few cases of sexual exploitation have been identified

During the first part of this year, an alarmingly low number of victims of human trafficking related to sexual exploitation were identified. Last year, several people forced or pressured into prostitution were referred to the services of the assistance system through the activities of the police to uncover crimes in particular. This year nothing similar has occurred, which may be due to the lack of resources for the activities of the police to uncover crimes, among other things.

The ability of municipalities and parties such as child welfare, health care, hospitals and prisons to identify the victims of human trafficking is still poor. In the view of the assistance system, the problem is due to a lack of knowledge.

Awareness of human trafficking becomes a permanent part of pre-trial investigation authorities’ training

The assistance system has aimed to increase awareness of human trafficking by means such as training pre-trial investigation authorities to identify victims of human trafficking and carry out the pre-trial investigation of human trafficking offences. By now, more than 1,200 police officers and border guards have been trained at the training events implemented through the IHME project.

The training has been found to work so well that the training co-operation between the assistance system as well as the Police University College and the Border and Coast Guard Academy will continue after the project. From now on, all police and border guard students will receive the basic training on human trafficking created by the IHME project.

The assistance system represents Finland in the Task Force against Trafficking in Human Beings (TF-THB) of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), through which it participates in producing training material and training events for parties such as municipal authorities, prosecutors and representatives of the media.

The assistance system also participates in a project that investigates the possibilities of referring a victim of human trafficking moving from one state to another to services in the receiving state. In addition to the Baltic Sea states, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria also participate in the project.

Once again, a record number of potential victims of human trafficking have been referred to the assistance system

In 2019, a total of 143 people were referred to the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking by the end of June, 115 of whom were admitted to the system as clients (15 proposals were still waiting for a decision on 30 June 2019). The number has increased dramatically from previous years. For example, in 2017 there were 55 people accepted as clients during a similar period, and only 45 were accepted in 2016.

Most of the new clients had become victims of human trafficking outside Finland. The most common cases involved human trafficking related to sexual exploitation (33 clients). A large number of cases involving labour exploitation and forced marriages have also been identified. Two people had become victims of trade in human organs and tissues. They were held captive and drugged in their home country, and during a process that lasted for several weeks, one of their kidneys was removed.

On 30 June 2019, there was a total of 458 potential victims of human trafficking and 129 of their underage children in the assistance system. All in all, assistance was being provided to 587 individuals. Last year, assistance was being provided to 379 individuals at the end of June. This means that the number of people receiving assistance has grown by 55 per cent in one year.

Facts: What does the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking do?

  • The Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking is responsible for helping people who have become victims of human trafficking, their underage children, and the persons assisting with the investigation. The system assists both Finnish and foreign victims of human trafficking equally.
  • The Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking is an authority that provides its clients with advice and guidance, social services, healthcare services, a reception allowance or income support, safe accommodation, and interpretation and translation services.
  • If a client wants to return to their home country, assistance will be provided for voluntary return.
  • Clients also receive legal assistance and legal counselling.
  • The Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking operates out of the Joutseno Reception Centre, and it has three offices in Finland (Joutseno, Oulu and Helsinki).
  • The Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking has operated since 2006. It is part of the Finnish Immigration Service and operates under the Ministry of the Interior.
  • The assistance system should be referred to as the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking.

Further information about activities: www.ihmiskauppa.fi/en

Further information for the media

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