Finnish authorities getting to grips
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.
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.
than half of the cases were connected with labour exploitation, victims
being typically from Southeast Asia and working in a restaurant.