A record-high number of new customers were entered in the assistance system for victims of human trafficking in 2019, new statistics released by the Finnish Immigration Service Migri reveal. Of the 229 new customers, 70 were estimated to have become victims of exploitation indicative of human trafficking in Finland. The number is much higher than in previous years.

Stock picture: Magdalena Roeseler/Flickr

It was estimated that most of the victims exploited in Finland were subject to forced labor in the restaurant and cleaning industries and construction sites. Signs of forced labor have also been detected in the conditions of a person hired as home help by private families as well as in work done in farms. A total of 33 persons possibly subjected to forced labor in Finland were entered as new customers in 2019.

Persons other than Finnish citizens have been identified as victims of forced labor, though Finns are occasionally also encountered among employers.

It is estimated that 20 persons exploited in Finland have become subject to human trafficking related to forced marriage. The figure includes cases where the marriage was entered into or was demanded in Finland and cases where marriage began abroad and continued after the family arrived in Finland.

Many of the cases are revealed when the authorities intervene with intimate partner violence. In fact, the police, reception centers and shelters play a key role in identifying the victims of forced marriage.

Forced begging, forced criminal activity and human trafficking related to sexual exploitation were also detected in Finland in 2019.

Contacts from victims and worried citizens

In 2019, the assistance system received an increasing number of contacts from persons suspecting that they had become subject to human trafficking or other exploitation in Finland.

Sometimes those contacting the assistance system only wish to consider their situation and alternatives. In such cases, the assistance system offers discussion aid and guidance. The person contacting the system can also be referred to other services if they have not become the victim of human trafficking or cannot escape from the situation.

Contacts from worried citizens have also increased considerably during the year. Somebody may have noticed that a familiar employee in a diner is tired and constantly working. A sex-buyer may have become concerned about the situation of the person having sold sex.

“Different ways of dealing with the situation are discussed with the caller, as well as whether the matter could be reported to the authorities, such as the police or the occupational safety and health department of the regional state administrative agency. A solution is often found through discussion, says Senior Adviser Katri Lyijynen with the Finnish Immigration Service.

Number of customers doubled in two years

There were a total of 676 people within the scope of the assistance system’s services on December 31 2019. Of them, 521 were entered into the assistance system because they may have become victims of human trafficking. 48 of them were accepted as clients as minors, though a much larger group had been exploited when minors.

In addition, 155 minor children of a total of 521 customers are within the scope of the services.

A total of 455 people were within the scope of the services on December 31, 2018, and 322 at the same time in 2017. This means that the number of customers has more than doubled in two years.

Most of the customers have become victims of human trafficking outside Finland, though they are still in need of assistance in Finland due to their often long-term exploitation. The share of persons exploited abroad of all customers is 60–70 percent a year.

Most commonly a person exploited abroad has been a victim of human trafficking involving sexual abuse. In Finland, this type of human trafficking is still recognized very poorly.

Editorial Team