The number of clients in the Finnish aid system for victims of human trafficking has increased sharply in 2017, reaching a record number of people. The number could potentially be even larger, as the victims of sex-related human trafficking often remain unidentified.
The increase is largely explained by the rise in the number of asylums seekers. In most of the cases, the trafficking has taken place outside of Finland, Katri Lyijynen, senior inspector of the aid system for victims of human trafficking under the Finnish Migration Board, said.
Of the 177 applications received in 2017, 127 were taken in as clients in the help system, 70 percent of them asylum seekers, an internal report has shown. The majority of them concerned forced labor and sexual exploitation, with forced marriages and other forms of trafficking lagging behind. The majority of victims came from Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria and Iraq, with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ukraine also present on the list. Overall, there were slightly more female than male victims.
"One big concern is that we are too bad at recognizing and detecting trafficking in human beings involving sexual exploitation in Finland. The proportion [of the cases detected] is eye-catchingly small," Venla Roth, Senior Inspector at the National Trafficking Rapporteur's Office at the Discrimination Ombudsman's agency, told Hufvudstadsbladet.
Both Roth and Lyijynen blamed this on the lack of police resources and the absence of consistent detection methods. Of the 177 cases reported last year, only 10 came via police. By contrast, 80 cases came via the Migration Board.
"Those who sell sex in Finland are not necessarily in contact with any authority, and then they are not likely to come into contact with a police or auxiliary system," Roth said, stressing the necessity of independent work.
Another challenge is to obtain evidence about human trafficking. When the crime was carried out abroad, the burden of proof seems next to impossible. By contrast, domestic cases are much easier to investigate, Lyijynen ventured. However, the problem here lies in the fact that when the crime is classified differently, the person is no longer eligible for help, despite having been the victim of serious offences.