Those working among the Romanian roma say that most of them stay overnight in small apartments housing dozens of people. In Vantaa, one person has given shelter to around ten people.
Each of them presents harrowing tales of difficult and poor conditions back home, and of their poor state of health. Thanks to the Helsinki Deaconess Institute, they are able to receive medical attention. At a day centre in the Sörnäinen district of Helsinki, the street beggars can wash, cook and rest.
All say they beg money to help their children back home. It has cost them between 150 and 300 euros to get to Finland, they claim.
No investigation into human trafficking
According to the National Board of Investigation (NBI), over ten people were convicted in Romania for human trafficking last year. They had brought people to Finland and forced them to beg, play in the street, steal or work on building sites for low wages. The NBI took part in the investigations.
Since last summer, investigations have not continued. Romanians living in Helsinki say they have not heard of cases of human trafficking.
“I can’t say how many have been forced here. We must assume they are here of their own freewill,” says Detective Jouko Ikonen of the NBI.
Those working among the Rumanians believe that the majority are here of their own freewill.
Earlier this month, YLE broadcast a BBC Panorama documentary that showed organised child begging in Britain. Mothers with their young infants entered Britain, begged on the streets only to return home to Rumania with their income.
The NBI doubts a similar operation exists in Finland. Preventing human trafficking is an aim of the Finnish government.
“It can’t be ruled out but it is not visible on the streets of Finland,” says Kari Siivo from the National Bureau of Investigation.
Last autumn, police disbanded a camp housing Romania beggars in the Kalasatama district of Helsinki. Many of the residents were given money to leave the country, but some are still here.