Human trafficking and its attendant abuse is considered one of the greatest challenges facing human rights today. Human trafficking is a serious offence and a violation of an individual's dignity and integrity. Human trafficking involves the abuse and control of another person.
Although internationally a majority of human trafficking is believed to be related to transnational migration, it is increasingly occurring within countries. Contrary to popular belief, human trafficking is not necessarily related to organised crime, organising illegal immigration, illegal residence in a country or illegal employment. Many identified victims of human trafficking were legal residents within a country and employed legally. The perpetrators might be family, friends or acquaintances of the victim.
DIFFICULTY IN IDENTIFYING VICTIMS
The main challenge facing anti-trafficking efforts is identifying the victims of human trafficking. The total count of victims that Finnish authorities and third sector actors have managed to identify numbers only in the tens. Human trafficking is a rare charge, even in preliminary investigations and courts.
Internationally speaking, one key reason for the low number of identified victims and human trafficking cases tried in a court of law is that the international definition of human trafficking and its national applications are difficult to apply and interpret in practical situations. Another reason is that human trafficking is confused with phenomena of a similar nature and victims are treated more like illegal immigrants, smuggled migrants, prostitutes or illegal workers than the abused victims of human trafficking.
The low number of identified victims can also be explained by the fact that human trafficking is an unreported crime. Both the perpetrators and victims make every effort to stay clear of official scrutiny. Victims may be afraid of reprisals from the perpetrators and be suspicious of the authorities. The threshold for seeking help is high, because the victims do not know their rights. In some cases, the victims have themselves participated in criminal or socially unacceptable activities and fear punishment and deportation. The threat of violence committed against victims and their family members by the perpetrators prevents victims from contacting the authorities. The cases of human trafficking which have come to the attention of the authorities and which have been positively identified as human trafficking are probably only a small fraction of human trafficking as a whole.
Proper identification is crucial for the victims of human trafficking. If the victims of human trafficking are not identified, their legal right to assistance and protection cannot be realized. Unidentified victims cannot be directed to the assistance system established for them or gain access to their other rights, such as the right to remain in the country as the victim of human trafficking. Remaining unidentified may lead to the victim being punished for participating in illegal activities or, for example, for illegal immigration. It can also lead to the eventual deportation of the victim, their continued abuse and/or revictimisation. Failures in identifying the victims also have a negative impact on the efficacy of crime prevention and other anti-trafficking efforts.
FACTORS AIDING IN IDENTIFICATION
The anti-trafficking action plan contained a list of factors which can be considered indicators of human trafficking and which can be used in the identification of human trafficking situations and possible human trafficking victims.
The factors mentioned in the list are not, however, identifiers of human trafficking, nor does their simultaneous concordance, even when occurring frequently, necessarily indicate a case of human trafficking. The purpose of the factors in the list is primarily to serve as a trigger for identification measures to be taken or the impetus for further investigation.
General factors related directly to immigration:
• The individual crosses the Finnish border or resides in the country illegally.
• The individual may be involved in organised illegal immigration.
• The individual's travel documents are falsified.
• The individual does not possess their own passport or other necessary travel documents.
• Another party has made the individual's travel arrangements and provided them with the other necessary travel documents as well as assisted them in applying for a visa.
• Someone else is providing constant assistance in applying for visas.
• The same person is often also listed as the inviting party in the visa applications for different people.
Specific factors related to the individual:
• The individual seems afraid or is apparently unwilling to talk about their situation or what has transpired.
• The individual does not speak Finnish, Swedish or English, but has still lived or intends to live in Finland for extended periods of time.
• The individual or arranger/organiser is found to have connections with known procurers or other criminal elements.
• The individual has connections to other victims of human trafficking.
• The individual's body bears symbols/markings belonging to certain subcultures which might indicate their involvement with criminal elements.
• The individual does not know the address of their workplace.
• The individual does not know the name of their employer.
• The individual has been forced to pay unreasonable sums of money to gain employment in Finland.
• A child is travelling with a person who is not their parent or relative.
• Several different travel reservations have possibly been made for the child.
• The individual has been given false information about the work to be performed in Finland or the conditions of employment or the compensation to be paid.
• The individual's working conditions are poor. Provisions for occupational safety and health are severely lacking.
• The individual has no real possibility of influencing the length of their work day or their working conditions. The individual is required to work long days and in any sort of working conditions in clear violation of recommendations made by the applicable trade unions.
• The individual's living conditions are poor. The individual lives at their place of employment.
• The individual is forced to work in constantly changing locations.
• The individual's salary is not commensurate with industry standards or is paid to the individual in cash (undeclared) or sent directly to the country of origin.
• An independently employed individual in Finland does not have access to their own earnings.
• The individual has an excessively subordinate or dependent relationship with their employer/procurer (dependency may be due to, for example, family, employment, lease/rental or debt commitments).
• The individual works for another person in subjugation (forced labour).
• The individual's freedom of movement is restricted (e.g. locked inside the place of employment or residence).
• The individual is not permitted to move about on their own outside their permanent place of residence. If the victim is, for example, hospitalised, the trafficker accompanies them, posing as their interpreter, etc.
• The individual behaves nervously in the presence of their "interpreter".
• The individual owes substantial sums of money to another person (tantamount to debtor imprisonment). The individual is forced to, for example, pay excessively high travel costs to their travel arranger/organiser retroactively.
• The individual is forced to pay an excessive percentage of their earnings to the employer/procurer.
• The individual is the victim of violence or threats of violence, they have been abused sexually or there are marks on their body indicating violence or abuse.
• The financial situation of the individual's family or relatives is so weak that they are for all intents and purposes dependent on the earnings that the individual makes in Finland.
• The individual's family or relatives in their country of origin have been threatened or coerced in some manner.
• The individual came to the country as an employee sent through a temporary labour provider.
• An investigation of the provider reveals tax and/or accounting violations. The provider is probably using illegal labour.
Determining whether an individual is the victim of human trafficking can also be facilitated by asking the individual questions related to their work, working conditions and terms of employment as well as the situation of their family members. In terms of making an identification, the most informative data can be obtained by asking the following questions:
• Is the individual free to quit their job if they should so desire?
• Has the individual been abused physically, psychologically or sexually?
• Does the individual possess a passport or other form of identification?
• How much does the individual earn?
• How much does the individual pay in living costs?
• Does the individual live at home or at their place of employment?
• How did the individual arrive in the country and in which city/town?
• Have their family members been threatened?
• Does the individual believe that something bad might happen to themselves, their family members or other loved ones if they quit their job?
JOUTSENO AND OULU RECEPTION CENTRES
The victims of human trafficking are entitled to receive assistance and protection. Victims of human trafficking who do not have a municipality of residence in Finland are entitled to receive assistance from the system for victim assistance. Assistance for victims of human trafficking includes residential arrangements, social and health care services, legal advice and assistance, security arrangements and other support measures required by the victim.
The Joutseno and Oulu Reception Centres are responsible for the administration of the system for victim assistance. The Joutseno Reception Centre serves adult victims of human trafficking, families and groups, and the Oulu Reception Centre provides services and other forms of support for minor victims of human trafficking.
Victims with a municipality of residence in Finland can receive the necessary basic services from their home municipality. Even in this case, some services can be paid for through the system for victim assistance using state funds.
Even suspicion of being the victim of human trafficking is sufficient for being admitted to the system for victim assistance. Victims of crimes similar to human trafficking are also admitted to the system for victim assistance. Crimes similar to human trafficking are aggravated prostitution, extortionate work discrimination and the aggravated arrangement of illegal immigration.