Status of human trafficking victims must be improved in the coming government term – Non-Discrimination Ombudsman's recommendations for the government programme
Human trafficking is a serious crime, and effective action must be taken to detect and prevent it. As the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman recommends measures for combating human trafficking and improving the status of its victims to the incoming government.
Human trafficking is a violation of human rights and a serious offence against human liberty. More effective measures must be taken to combat human trafficking and improve the status of its victims in the coming government term. In its report on the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman's report to Parliament, the Employment and Equality Committee of Parliament also found that further measures must be taken to combat human trafficking. Parliament issued the following resolutions related to human trafficking on 18 November 2022:
Parliament requires the government to:
- implement the required measures for identifying victims of human trafficking and referring them to assistance in the wellbeing services counties; and
- determine and implement the legislative or operational changes required for providing safe and supported housing for human trafficking victims.
In addition, the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings considers that changes are needed in the residence permit provisions applying to victims of human trafficking, practices for identifying and helping victims in the social welfare and health care sector must be clarified, and pre-trial investigations concerning human trafficking and the management of such investigations must be centralised.
Recommendations of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings for the government programme
In the capacity of National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman recommends a number of measures to improve the effectiveness of combating human trafficking for the government programme.
The threshold for obtaining a residence permit as a human trafficking victim must be lowered
The National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings recommends that the Aliens Act be amended already before the comprehensive reform, so that more victims of human trafficking will satisfy the conditions for receiving a residence permit for victims of trafficking in human beings.
The National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings stresses that victims in a vulnerable position should be entitled to a residence permit instead of only those in a particularly vulnerable position, as is currently required. The conditions for a temporary residence permit must be changed so that the rights of the victims of human trafficking as injured parties are safeguarded throughout criminal proceedings.
A residence permit provides security to victims of human trafficking who are in a vulnerable position. According to a study conducted by the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman in 2021, only few victims of human trafficking meet the requirements for obtaining the special residence permit provided in the Aliens Act. The bar for applying the provision has been set high – for example, only few human trafficking victims who have suffered sexual abuse meet the requirements for getting a residence permit.
Practices for identifying and helping victims of human trafficking in the social welfare and health care sector must be clarified
The National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings recommends that functional practices for identifying victims of human trafficking and referring them to assistance be developed for the wellbeing services counties. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, which is responsible for the social welfare and health care information guidance of the wellbeing services counties, should take an active role in the development of identifying and helping victims of human trafficking. Referral models must be developed in cooperation with various authorities, organisations that support the victims of human trafficking as well as the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health must ensure that there are sufficient resources for the development work and that the modelling work progresses rapidly.
The National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings finds that the partially unclear legislation and insufficient guidance have led to varying practices for the identification and assistance of victims of human trafficking in municipalities. This has resulted in unequal access to assistance depending on factors like the victim's place of residence.
Human trafficking investigations and their management must be centralised
The National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings recommends that human trafficking pre-trial investigations and their management be centralised.
This was also recommended by the working party for improving the efficiency of criminal proceedings. The decision issued by the Deputy Chancellor of Justice in December 2021 and the University of Helsinki's study on human trafficking and related offences, published in the spring of 2022, highlight several issues in the investigation of human trafficking and its related offences, such as competence in applying the statutory definitions. The Action Plan against Trafficking in Human Beings in 2021–2023 emphasises that the establishment of criminal liability is hampered by the long duration of the criminal justice process and the nationally considerable differences in the skills and work organisation of the actors in the process.
Complex offences that require diverse competencies and a victim-sensitive approach require special expertise.