General information - situation on trafficking in human beings
Cases of human trafficking in Finland concern acts such as sexual and labour exploitation. New forms of human trafficking offences are emerging. Forced marriage or the exploitation of individuals in criminal activities are forms of human trafficking. While many victims of human trafficking have come from abroad, cases have also arisen in which victims are Finnish citizens.
More information is available under the following webpage National Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking.
Institutional, legal and policy framework to address trafficking in human beings
Anti-trafficking action in Finland started in 2000 with the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. In addition, in 2002 the European Union adopted a framework decision on combating trafficking in human beings. Both the Protocol and the framework decision require EU countries to establish trafficking in human beings as a criminal offence. Penal provisions on trafficking in human beings were added to the Criminal Code of Finland (39/1889) in 2004, specifically to chapter 25 concerning offences against personal liberty. Further amendments made to the Criminal Code’s provisions on human trafficking and pandering entered into force in 2015.
Provisions on assistance to victims of trafficking in human beings were incorporated into the Act on the Integration of Immigrants and Reception of Asylum Seekers (Integration Act, 493/1999). The amendments to the Act entered into force in 2007.The provisions on assistance to victims of human trafficking were, for the most part, transferred ‘as is’ into the so-called Reception Act (Act on the Reception of Persons Applying for International Protection and on the Identification of and Assistance to Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings, 746/2011). The provisions on assistance to victims of human trafficking were subsequently changed by amendments entering into force in 2015.
In 2006, provisions on the residence permit to be issued to victims of human trafficking and on the reflection and recovery periods were added to the Aliens Act (301/2004). Under section 52a of the Aliens Act, a victim of trafficking in human beings staying in Finland is issued a temporary residence permit, if the residence of the victim of trafficking in human beings in Finland is justified on account of a pre-trial investigation or court proceedings concerning trafficking in human beings, the victim of trafficking in human beings is prepared to cooperate with the authorities in apprehending those suspected of trafficking in human beings, and the victim of trafficking in human beings no longer has any ties with those suspected of trafficking in human beings. Victims of human trafficking who are in a particularly vulnerable position may be issued a residence permit on a continuous basis. The issue of the residence permit is not conditional on the victim’s cooperation with the authorities or the victim’s residence in Finland being justified on account of a pre-trial investigation or court proceedings. Under section 52b of the Aliens Act, before issuing the above-mentioned residence permit, a reflection period of at least thirty days and a maximum of six months may be granted to a victim of trafficking in human beings. The reflection period may be continued if the victim’s personal circumstances so require. The total duration of the reflection period may be no more than six months altogether.
Under section 36 of the Reception Act, a Finnish citizen or an alien who is a victim of trafficking in human beings and resides in the country legally as provided in section 40 of the Aliens Act may, in connection with the decision-making concerning admittance to the Assistance System, be granted a recovery period of 30 days. The recovery period may be extended by at most 60 days if the personal circumstances of the victim of trafficking in human beings so require.
In 2006, abuse of a victim of sex trade, that is a victim of human trafficking or pandering, was established as a punishable criminal offence. The amendments to this effect entered into force in 2015 and their aim was to further enhance the protection under criminal law of victims of human trafficking and pandering.
National Rapporteur: Ombudsman for Minorities
In 2009, the Ombudsman for Minorities (currently the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman) became Finland’s National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings. The duties of the autonomous and independent National Rapporteur include monitoring compliance with international obligations and the effectiveness of the national legislation. The consideration of the Rapporteur’s reports has prompted the Finish parliament to issue several resolutions on enhancing legislation and action by the authorities against trafficking in human beings. Among other things, the resolutions have sought to improve the standing of victims of trafficking in human beings and to promote the establishment of criminal liability in trafficking cases.
Established in 2014, the post of government Anti-Trafficking Coordinator was initially based at the Ministry of the Interior. In 2020, the post was transferred to the Ministry of Justice. The Coordinator is responsible for the coordination in the Government of the action against trafficking in human beings.
National action plan against trafficking in human beings
Finland’s first National Plan of Action against Trafficking in Human Beings was adopted in 2005. Since then, Finland has prepared a number of action plans and programmes to combat human trafficking and carried out assessments of these. The most recent Action Plan was adopted in 2021.
National Action Plan 2021-2023
The preparation of an Action Plan to combat human trafficking was agreed by the Government of Prime Minister Sanna Marin. On 2 April 2020, the Ministry of Justice appointed an intersectoral working group to prepare such an Action Plan. The resolution of Parliament on intensifying efforts to combat human trafficking and on improving the standing of its victims, as well as the recommendations issued to Finland by international human rights treaty bodies were taken into account in the preparation of the plan. Experts by experience, civil society organisations and multi-professional networks were consulted during the preparation. Workshops were organised for experts engaged in anti-trafficking action. The aim was to gain a comprehensive picture of the challenges of anti-trafficking and to accumulate perspectives for its development.
The Action Plan “Finland Fights Human Trafficking” is based on five strategic objectives and 55 actions. The plan will promote the detection of human trafficking, improve the standing of victims and enhance the establishment of criminal liability. The plan will also strengthen the mainstreaming of anti-trafficking into the wider activities of the government and intensify cooperation with civil society. The plan links anti-trafficking closely with analysis, assessment and research activities. The Action Plan seeks to prevent and reduce trafficking in human beings. The plan is implemented from 2021 to 2023. Its implementation will be monitored and reported by the working group. An external assessment of the implementation of the Action Plan will also be carried out.
According to the Action Plan, the application practices of both the Criminal Code and the Aliens Act are being examined, and recently work on a report on the future of government-level coordination against human trafficking has been started. A project has also been launched to study the practice of non-punishment of victims for offences they have been compelled to commit. Furthermore, next year a survey will be conducted on how suspected selling of sexual services is applied as grounds for refusal of entry in the Aliens Act. These studies will be used as a basis for assessing needs and means concerning development of legislation and action by authorities.
Government actions and protection of victims
The Ministry of Employment and Economic Affairs leads the work to identify means to combat exploitation of foreign labour, and efforts to promote the detection of exploitation are part of this work. The Ministry has also recently appointed a working group to develop supervision of the living conditions of foreign labour. It intends to set up new projects during the autumn, aiming to reach and identify victims of exploitation who are in a vulnerable position.
Occupational safety and health authorities are committed to developing their supervisory activities so that exploitation of labour is detected better than before. The resources of occupational safety and health authorities have been increased, and their powers have been extended to also cover human trafficking. Furthermore in 2021, occupational safety and health supervision launched a three-year project looking to improve cooperation between authorities in supervision and exchange of information.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is preparing legislative amendments to improve the position of human trafficking victims, and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare is examining the organisation of safe and supported housing services for victims of human trafficking. The Finnish Immigration Service is also improving its work against human trafficking.
The Ministry of the Interior and the National Police Board are developing measures for investigating and preventing human trafficking offences. A national police unit specialising in human trafficking was established at the beginning of 2021. An assessment of the need to extend the Border Guard’s powers for investigating human trafficking offences is underway. The National Prosecution Authority has established a network of prosecutors specialising in human trafficking.
The Ministry of Justice is exploring ways to improve the position of human trafficking victims in the criminal justice process. The Ministry of Justice is also conducting a survey on potential needs to develop legislation on punishability of forced marriages. The programme for preventing violence against women is developing support and assistance for female prisoners who have become victims of human trafficking compelled to commit crimes.
The Assistance System for victims of human trafficking is coordinating a project to enhance the working life skills of human trafficking victims and is building cooperation with businesses, so human trafficking victims can obtain appropriate employment. The European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control (HEUNI) has published guidelines for businesses, which include tools and support for risk management in subcontracting chains. Anti-trafficking work is also being done in the strategy on public procurement, for instance.
Soon, a project funded by the Ministry of Justice and led by civil society organisations will be launched to improve identification of human trafficking related to sexual exploitation and provide assistance to victims by enhancing the skills of professionals in the field. Work to prevent human trafficking of minors is being done in the Barnahus project coordinated by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, for example.
Training on human trafficking is provided to occupational safety and health authorities, public legal aid attorneys, civil aviation authorities, immigration authorities, Employment and Economic Development Offices, professionals in social welfare and health care, teachers, the police, the Border Guard, as well as prosecutors and personnel at courts of law.
Other actions plans to combat trafficking in human beings
The fight against human trafficking is part of the Action Plan for preventing illegal entry and residence, the Non-Violent Childhoods – Action Plan for the Prevention of Violence against Children, and the National Child Strategy. The Government’s Action Plan for Gender Equality includes a commitment to conduct a survey on the current situation of prostitution in Finland. To the extent possible, work against human trafficking is also included in the Government survey on gender equality. Action against trafficking in human beings and labour exploitation are also included in the Strategy and Action Plan for Tackling Grey Economy and Economic Crime.
Cross-border cooperation to address trafficking in human beings
Finland actively participates in and contributes to international cooperation. Finland also actively participates in the European Union’s action against trafficking in human beings (see more, Finland on the EU strategy on action against human trafficking, in Finnish)
Finland takes part in other actions and projects led by the Council of the Baltic Sea States and the Nordic Council of Ministers.
The police cooperate internationally in the fight against human trafficking at both the strategic and operational levels. Police are involved in the strategic and operational planning (OAP) of the EU Policy Cycle on Trafficking in Human Beings (EMPACT/THB) in the fight against organised and serious international crime, led by Europol, and in joint operations. Operational cooperation is carried out with other Europol Member States as well as with third countries, in part through the Europol and Eurojust International Investigation Team (JIT) mechanism.
The Border Guard co-operates internationally in the fight against trafficking in human beings within the framework of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) and Europol, among others. Work against human trafficking is part of the Border Guard's operational international co-operation. Investigations into the organisation of illegal entry often also reveal indications of trafficking offences. In these cases, which are at the heart of the fight against crime, the Border Guard also seeks to promote the establishment and operation of joint investigation teams and operations, in particular through cooperation between Europol and Eurojust.
- 'Finland fights human trafficking' – Action Plan against Trafficking in Human Beings, 2021
- The Report of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman to the Parliament 2018
- The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman’s Annual Report 2019
- The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman: Women of Nigerian origin in Finland who have been subjected to trafficking for sexual exploitation: Practice in applying the Aliens Act, 2016
- Tuntematon tulevaisuus: Selvitys ihmiskaupan uhrien auttamista koskevan lainsäädännön toimivuudesta, 2018 (in Finnish, summary in English)
- Ihmiskaupan uhrien oleskelulupakäytäntö, 2021 (in Finnish, summary in English)
- Uncovering labour trafficking - investigation tool for law enforcement and checklist for labour inspectors, 2020
- Normative Framework Guide - Responsibility of Businesses Concerning Human Rights, Labour Exploitation and Human Trafficking, 2020
- Navigating through your supply chain - toolkit for prevention of labour exploitation and trafficking, 2020
- Shady business - uncovering the business model of labour exploitation, 2019
- Trafficking in children and young persons in Finland, 2019
- Guidelines for businesses and employers for risk management in subcontracting chains, 2018
- Hyväksikäytöstä reiluun työelämään. Selvitys ulkomaalaistaustaisten ihmiskaupan uhrien työllisyyspalveluiden järjestämisestä Suomessa, 2021 (in Finnish)
Relevant links to national authorities, institutions websites and other relevant contacts
- National Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking provides assistance for possible victims of human trafficking.
- The Government Anti-Trafficking Coordinator Dr. Venla Roth works at the Ministry of Justice (in Finnish). The work involves cross-sectoral coordination of anti-trafficking work and participation in international cooperation.
- The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman is the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings. The Rapporteur monitors action against human trafficking in Finland, human trafficking at large, compliance with international obligations and the effectiveness of national legislation. The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman submits a report on human trafficking and the related phenomena to the Government each year and to Parliament at four-year intervals.
- Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment (in Finnish), see also Amended Aliens Act to prevent exploitation of foreign labour and to improve the status of victims and Working group seeks ways to prevent abuse in accommodation conditions for foreign workers
- Ministry of the Interior
- Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
- Police of Finland
- Finnish Immigration Service
- Victim Support Finland improves the position of victims of crime, their loved ones and witnesses of criminal cases by influencing and producing support services.
- Pro-tukipiste (in Finnish) is a specialist service that promotes participation and human rights of people who work in sex or erotic industry and of those who are victims of human trafficking.
- MONIKA – Multicultural Women’s Association Finland(in Finnish) offers crisis help, psychosocial support, peer support groups, counselling and service advising and supportive housing services after a period in a shelter. Services are for all women with an immigrant background, having experienced violence or a threat of it.
- The Finnish Refugee Advice Centre is a non-governmental organisation, which provides legal aid and advice to asylum seekers, refugees and other foreigners in Finland.
- The European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, affiliated with the United Nations (HEUNI) is the European regional institute in the United Nations Criminal Justice and Crime Prevention programme network. HEUNI functions under the auspices of the Finnish Ministry of Justice as an independent research and policy-making institute.