New study aims to improve detection of human trafficking
The Ministry of the Interior has commissioned a study on the reflection periods granted to victims of human trafficking during which the victims can decide whether to cooperate with the authorities in apprehending those suspected of human trafficking. At the same time, it will be examined how suspicions of trading in sexual services are taken into account in cases where denial of stay is being considered. The study will be carried out by the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, affiliated with the United Nations (HEUNI).
The aim is to find out whether there are any challenges or shortcomings in legislation, its application or in the practices of the authorities that prevent the detection of human trafficking and, consequently, prevent the referral of victims of sexual abuse in particular to assistance, prevent the realisation of their rights, and thus also the enforcement of criminal liability.
The study will examine, for example, how many reflection periods have been granted and how many decisions to deny stay have been made, whom such decisions have applied to and in what kind of situations they have been made, whether the decisions have been consistent and what factors have influenced the decisions. The study will analyse documents relating to decisions made by the Finnish Border Guard, the police, the Finnish Immigration Service and the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking maintained by the Joutseno Reception Centre. The written material will be complemented by interviews with the authorities and parties working with the victims.
Under the Aliens Act, a victim of trafficking in human beings may be granted a reflection period of at least thirty days and a maximum of six months before issuing a residence permit. The reflection period is intended for legalising the stay of a suspected victim of human trafficking who is residing in the country without the right of residence. During the reflection period, victims have the opportunity to recover from their experiences and decide whether to cooperate with the authorities in apprehending those suspected of human trafficking.
Under the Aliens Act, a foreign national may be denied stay if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that they may sell sexual services.
Assessment of development measures based on the study
The need for the study is based on the Action Plan against Trafficking in Human Beings published in 2021 and its implementation. The work on the Action Plan has estimated that there is more human trafficking in Finland than is revealed. In particular, relatively few cases of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation come to the attention of the authorities.
It is estimated that there are a number of reasons for the poor detection of human trafficking, such as the victim’s fear of their exploiter or the fact that vulnerable persons do not even know that they are victims of human trafficking. According to the Action Plan, there are also legislative barriers to the detection of human trafficking and shortcomings in the practices of the authorities. Victims of human trafficking who have sold sex may be afraid of being denied stay in the country unless the authorities recognise that they are victims of human trafficking.
The study will produce objective information based on comprehensive material analysis for anti-trafficking work and its development. The study is due to be published at the end of 2022. Based on the study, an assessment can be made of possible needs to amend legislation or of other development measures.