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.
Report: The special provision on trafficking in human beings is rarely used as grounds for a victim’s residence permit
The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman investigated the residence permit practice relating to victims of human trafficking. One of the key questions of the study commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment was how the vulnerability of victims of human trafficking has been assessed. According to the study, the assessment was diverse, but varying. Human trafficking was not necessarily the main reason for granting international protection or a residence permit in positive decisions.
The study concerned residence permit and asylum decisions made by the Finnish Immigration Service in 2018–2020 with indications of possible victims of human trafficking. The number of decisions was 461. Usually, the victim of human trafficking had been subjected to forced labour, sexual abuse or forced marriage. The same person could have also been subjected to several different forms of abuse.
In assessing the vulnerability of the victim, the abuse experienced by the victim, their age and gender, education, professional experience and health were considered. Furthermore, the Finnish Immigration Service assessed in its decisions how the victim could see to their livelihood, health and children in their home country and prevent the re-occurrence of human trafficking. The protection and support given by society and family were also assessed.
The assessment of vulnerability was based on a case-by-case approach, seeking solutions balancing between different factors. The study indicated that the assessment was diverse, but not consistent in all cases.
The special provision of the Aliens Act was rarely applied
Approximately 67% of the decisions in the study data were positive and 33% negative. In most cases, the positive decisions concerned international protection, but human trafficking was not necessarily the primary grounds for protection. The study proved that many victims of human trafficking primarily sought international protection and also presented other grounds for it. The second-most common reason for granting residence permits was on the basis of individual humanitarian reasons.
The residence permit for a victim of human trafficking, added to the Aliens Act in 2006, was rarely applied. The number of positive decisions was 29. Thus, victims of human trafficking were more frequently granted residence permit on the basis of an individual humanitarian reason due to their vulnerable position than on the basis of the special provision concerning victims of human trafficking. According to the study, the threshold of considering a victim of human trafficking to be in a particularly vulnerable position was high.
The study data will be utilised in the Government’s work against human trafficking
The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman recommends that the legislation and application practice be amended so that increasing numbers of victims of human trafficking would fulfil the prerequisites for granting an extended residence permit. The prerequisites for a temporary residence permit should be amended so that the right of residence of a victim of human trafficking and other rights as the complainant in the offence would be secured for the entire duration of the criminal proceedings. Moreover, diverse authorities, judges and reporting members of courts, legal counsels and representatives of NGOs should be trained in the special position of victims of human trafficking.
After the period under review, the application practice has already been developed: In 2020, the Finnish Immigration Service issued a guideline aiming to promote the consistent application of the Aliens Act in cases involving victims of human trafficking. The human trafficking action plan also includes measures in this regard.
The Government is committed to the prevention of human trafficking and the possible follow-up measures will be assessed on the basis of the results of the review. The Government Programme contains many items whose purpose is to enhance the prevention of human trafficking. The objectives include improved help for trafficking victims, faster identification and detection of human trafficking, and fulfilment of criminal liability.
Underlying is a request for information by the Parliament
The Parliament has demanded that the Government find out whether there are legislative amendment needs related to the grounds for the residence permits of trafficking victims. For example, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman has previously paid attention to the residence permit practices concerning victims of human trafficking. The preparations of the Government’s anti-trafficking action plan have also brought forward questions related to residence permits.
The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman is an independent authority that also acts as the national rapporteur of human trafficking. The duties of the national human trafficking rapporteur include the counselling and training of authorities, the management of the authorities’ operations and the making of surveys.
Researcher Heini Kainulainen, NDO, tel. +358 295 666 821, heini.kainulainen(at)oikeus.fi
Senior Officer Anni Valovirta, NDO, tel. +358 295 666 819, anni.valovirta(at)oikeus.fi
Special Expert Roope Jokinen, MoI, tel. +358 295 488 362, roope.jokinen(at)intermin.fi
Government Counsellor Olli Sorainen, MEAE, tel. +358 295 048 022, olli.sorainen(at)gov.fi
Link to the summary of the study: Residence permit practices concerning victims of trafficing in human beings
Link to the full study (in Finnish): Ihmiskaupan uhrien oleskelulupakäytäntö