Task of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings
The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman is the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings. The task of the Rapporteur is to examine the work to combat human trafficking in Finland as an independent body. The aim of the Rapporteur is to ensure that the victims of human trafficking are identified and receive help and that their rights are enforced. In the Rapporteur’s view, it is important that those responsible for human trafficking are held criminally liable for their acts and that structural measures are taken to prevent human trafficking.
The duties of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings are laid down in the Act on the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman. Under the act, the task of the Rapporteur is to monitor human trafficking phenomena, compliance with international obligations and the effectiveness of the national legislation. As part of this task, the Rapporteur produces reports on human trafficking and related phenomena. The Ombudsman may also provide legal advice and, in exceptional situations, assist victims of human trafficking in courts.
The Ombudsman has the right to access a wide range of information, including details of criminal convictions that are normally kept secret. This is important so that the Ombudsman can assess compliance with international agreements on human trafficking and determine how the national legislation is responding to the challenges arising from human trafficking.
The National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings was appointed in 2009
The National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings was appointed in 2009 to monitor human trafficking and related phenomena. The decision to establish the post was prompted by the belief that the action against human trafficking would benefit from external monitoring and assessments, and analysis-based development proposals.
The view was also that the Rapporteur could bring the issue of human trafficking to political and public debate, which was expected to make the efforts to combat human trafficking more effective. Over the years, the Rapporteur has been doing this for example by publishing reports and studies, and by issuing recommendations, which have also led to progress in the efforts to combat human trafficking by different government agencies.
Speech at the Soft security and Migration in the Baltic Sea Region -seminar
Soft security and Migration in the Baltic Sea Region
House of the Estates, Helsinki
Yhdenvertaisuusvaltuutettu Kirsi Pimiä
Your Excellencies, Ladies and gentleman,
First of all, I want to thank for the kind invitation to come here and comment Mr Ambrosi’s key note speech. It was a pleasure to listen to your views, which I can largely agree on.
The Finnish Non-Discrimination Ombudsman is an independent authority and a part of the Finnish human rights architecture aiming to enhance the protection of human rights, especially of those who are most vulnerable in society. The work of the Ombudsman has three different connection points on today’s seminar. First, the Alien Act provides the Ombudsman a special status to be heard of on asylum applications and deportations and in this way supervise the fulfillment of rights of the alien in Finland. Secondly, the Ombudsman is the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and thirdly the Ombudsman is the monitor of the removal from the country. These duties and unlimited right of information gives us an excellent chance for overview the Finnish Migration Policy and its implementation by different authorities.
The autumn 2015 with 25 000 refugees in few months was a big shock here in Finland in many ways. Our immigration structures were, understandably, not prepared for such many asylum seekers. Overall, authorities together with NGOs handled the situation well – the Finnish way - conscientiously. Since then – and here I share the impression of Mr Ambrosi – it seems that the government has made decisions merely in terms of preventing flows of asylum seekers and aiming to diminish the rights of the asylum seekers in many ways. I am concerned of the level of legal protection of the asylum seekers in Finland. Especially of those, who are in more vulnerable situation.
Trafficking in human beings is a serious violation of human rights and an offence to the dignity and integrity of individuals. In international law, a state’s responsibility is to prevent trafficking in human beings, provide victims with assistance and protection and investigate trafficking offences as part of the implementation of the prohibition of slavery and forced labour. The real challenge is how to fulfil these rights in practise for each victim.
The international community has accepted that victims of trafficking constitute a special group of people and entitled to certain rights that must be protected by the state, irrespective of their status in immigration law. Even though Finland does not have an obligation to grant a residence permit to victims of trafficking in all circumstances, as a party to international human rights treaties Finland must take active steps to prevent re-trafficking of the victims of trafficking and facilitate their social reintegration in the receiving state when they have been refused entry. The lack of legal migration pathways, tightened rules for family reunification, denial of reception centre services act quite the contrary.
According to the EU’s Return Directive, the fundamental rights and dignity of the person to be removed from the country must be respected. The duty set in the directive to monitor the enforcement of the removal from the country in all of its stages was given to the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman 2014. The purpose of the monitoring of removals from the country is to develop the return process in order to make it more humane, while ensuring respect for human rights. Forced returns may be difficult for both returnees and the authorities enforcing them.
According to the Committee Against Torture, return operations involve an obvious risk of inhuman treatment. Monitoring can enhance legal protection of the both parties. Forced returns have clear connection to soft security in many ways. For the first time in Finnish history the forced returns have faced civil protests and demonstrations as people have reacted against deportations to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I see monitoring of returns as a good way to enhance the trust to police work, as well as, in authorities in general. Though this requires that police gives us the information needed to do our work timely in all stages of return. With respect to individual returnees, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman must take account of privacy protection and secrecy obligations. Returns also involve numerous confidential matters from the policing viewpoint. The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman and individual monitors do not disclose information, either in advance or afterwards, on return operations or their implementation.
In his speech, Mr. Ambrosi was longing for more of a long term perspective, a broader migration agenda, more unity and solidarity among European states than short-sighted reactions, pure nationalism and deterrence. We should keep in mind that security threats do not all come from outside, they are partly made by ourselves i.e. by making political decisions that will lead to growing number of undocumented migrants, people who have no permit to stay and cannot be returned either.
So, it is easy to agree what Mr Ambrosi said. European governments should facilitate and increase legal pathways, which would help them to predict amounts of refugees, to make pragmatic decisions about quotas, hosting costs and to enhance benefits to the economy. The EU should continue the reform of the Common European Asylum System in order to move towards efficient, fair and humane asylum system. Easy to say more difficult to accomplish. For that reason, it is important to continue the discussion on the topic also in this conference.