The number of victims of human trafficking has tripled in Finland over the course of just three years, according to a report published by Council of Europe's Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (Greta).
The group published a report on Finland's situation regarding human trafficking in 2015 — when 52 people were suspected to have been victims of the crime. Now the group said it suspected that there were 163 victims of human trafficking in Finland in 2018.
Greta said a total of 572 victims — 53 of whom were children — received care from aid organisations in 2015-19. The majority of the victims were from Nigeria, Somalia, Thailand, Afghanistan and Iraq. At least seven of the victims were Finnish citizens, according to the group..
A press release on the report noted that "the most common purpose of trafficking in human beings in Finland is labour exploitation, followed by sexual exploitation, forced criminality and forced marriage." Traffickers have forced victims to carry out crimes include prostitution, theft and street begging, according to the group.
Greta said most work-related exploitation in Finland took place in the restaurant sector.
The topic of human trafficking gained attention in Finland earlier this year after daily Helsingin Sanomat reported on the organised, wide-scale abuse of employees in some Nepalese restaurants.
The Greta report also noted a case in which a Nepalese restaurateur in Northern Savo had been sentenced to pay fines for wrongdoing against its employees.
The majority of the suspected victims had been exploited even before their arrival in Finland, according to the report.
Improvements and faults
Despite the notable increase in cases, the group said Finland has made some progress in preventing human trafficking, such as "developing the legislative framework for combating trafficking in human beings, conducting research, raising awareness and providing training to a range of professionals, including health-care staff and social workers."
However, their findings also showed that Finland needs to do more when identifying and aiding victims —and when sharing information among other agencies and organisations.
The group said it approved of Finland establishing a human trafficking shelter for women and children, the group said that many more safe houses are needed, as well as shelters intended to help male victims.
"Further, Greta urges the Finnish authorities to ensure that unaccompanied and separated migrant children arriving in Finland benefit from effective care arrangements, including safe and appropriate accommodation," the group said. "The police should systematically carry out investigations into disappearances of migrant children and strengthen follow-up and alert systems on reports of missing children."
The Greta delegation interviewed officials from several ministries, the police and the Border Guard; the Ombudsmen for Children and for Equality; and NGO employees. The delegation also visited Finnish women's shelters and reception centres.
Regional daily Satakunnan Kansa first reported about the Greta report on Wednesday.