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.
According to data released by the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri), among these new victims there is "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 them, 15 had been victims of human trafficking related to sexual exploitation in Finland, especially forced or coerced prostitution, and the conditions of 23 people were assessed to indicate a forced marriage. 5 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.
Exploited by the spouse
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 '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.
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.
The exploitation of minors uncovered in Finland has been associated with coercion to prostitution, forced labour and forced marriages.
Numbers rising sharply
In total, 244 potential trafficking victims and 3 people 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 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.
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.
For more information, visit www.ihmiskauppa.fi