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Study: Municipalities neglect victims of human trafficking

A report has found that municipalities have insufficient knowledge to treat victims of human trafficking according to the standards that legislation entitles them to.

Kävely ihmiskauppaa vastaan Turussa.
A gathering of people dressed in black left Turku's Tuomiokirkko on a walk to protest human trafficking. Image: Sannimari Lehtilä / Yle

A joint report by the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman and the The European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, HEUNI, examined the functionality of legislation which ensures assistance to human trafficking victims in Finland. The report found that in practice, those who have fallen victim to human trafficking do not always get the help they are entitled to.

According to findings in the report, one of the biggest challenges was for human trafficking victims who permanently reside in municipalities, as social and healthcare administrations of those municipalities are unfamiliar with the legislation that ensures aid to victims. As a result, the special status trafficked victims hold and the statutory services they should be entitled to are often not provided.

The responsibilities for aid fall to municipalities as well as the Joutseno Reception Centre which runs the national system of assistance for victims of human trafficking.

Recently, the majority of those seeking help from the national system of assistance have an asylum seeker background, but victims are also sometimes Finnish nationals of the majority population.

Other flaws pointed out by the report show that a number of individuals, despite being victims of human trafficking, are left out of the national assistance system due to a criminal offence or a lack of evidence.

Other times, a strong discouragement lies in the collaboration between the system of assistance and the authorities. Anti-human trafficking actions are characterized by a strong emphasis by the authorities on anti-crime and foreign monitoring. Additionally information gathered on victims through the national system of assistance is automatically given to the police, a notion that people in some cases found to be intimidating.

The Finnish Red Cross acknowledged in a statement that the focus of solving crimes of human trafficking cannot be prioritized over the well-being and needs of a victim.

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