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.
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?
NATIONAL ASSISTANCE SYSTEM FOR VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING
The victims of human trafficking are entitled to receive assistance and protection. In Finland, victims of human trafficking can receive assistance from the national assistance system for victims of trafficking coordinated by the Joutseno reception centre. This includes residential arrangements, social and health care services, legal advice and assistance, security arrangements and other support measures required by the victim.
The Joutseno reception centre is responsible for the administration of the system for victim assistance. It is able to help men, women, children, families, and groups of people.
Victims with a municipality of residence in Finland can receive the necessary basic services from their home municipality. Even in this case, the national assistance system for victims of trafficking can advice and guide the victim.
Even suspicion of being the victim of human trafficking is sufficient for being admitted to the assistance system. In some cases, also victims of similar crimes to human trafficking can be admitted to the system. These are aggravated prostitution, extortionate work discrimination, and aggravated arrangement of illegal immigration.