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JUHANI ARTTO
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Finnish authorities getting to grips with work-related
human trafficking

Helsinki (01.02.2013 - Heikki Jokinen) In the last few years Finland has been devoting more and more attention to human trafficking cases. In 2004 the Finnish Penal Code was rewritten to include human trafficking as a separate crime and in 2008 the government adopted a Plan of Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. Since then, the courts have handed down guilty verdicts in four cases with several other cases still pending.

The first conviction for this type of offence was in March 2012 in Helsinki. The owners of a nail studio had recruited two employees from their home country, Vietnam. The workers did 56-hour weeks in the nail studio plus domestic work at the owners home and were told they would have to work for the first four years without a salary.

In June 2012 the court in Helsinki issued a conviction in a case of sexual exploitation involving a 16-year old Romanian girl, who was forced into prostitution.

Last December a court in Tampere handed down prison sentences to the owner and master chef of a restaurant. They had recruited a chef from Vietnam, who was a relative of the owner, promising him 1,000 euro a month and his own room.

He did not get the salary - which would have been clearly below the collective agreement minimum level in any event - nor the room. The man worked 12 hours a day without holidays. The court also discovered that the restaurant owner had not registered his full earnings from the restaurant. On top of the two year and one month prison sentence the owner was banned from running a business for four years.

At the end of January 2013 a court in Ostrobothnia sent a Kyrgyz citizen to prison for human trafficking, assault and battery and aggravated embezzlement. He employed 26 of his countrymen in his wood industry company in Vähäkyrö, who were made to work and live in conditions well below minimum standards in Finland.

They did not receive salaries as set out in the collective agreement and the housing conditions were cramped and without hot water. Some of the men lived at the factory. No one got paid for overtime and no annual leave was given.

Eva Biaudet, Ombudsman for Minorities recently presented a report on human trafficking in Finland. According to Biaudet the authorities in Finland are now far more aware of human trafficking than they had been in the past. This is especially the case where the crimes are connected with work, whereas it is more difficult to identify victims of sexual abuse.

The Joutseno Reception Centre administers the system of assistance for victims of human trafficking. In 2011 there were 52 victims of human trafficking being catered for in the system and in October 2012 the number was 97. According to the reception centre’s estimate, an average of 4 to 5 persons a month sought access to the system in 2011.

More than half of the cases were connected with labour exploitation, victims being typically from Southeast Asia and working in a restaurant.

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