Authorities checked a thousand locations during joint action week against trafficking in human beings
In June, Finnish authorities participated in the international action days against trafficking in human beings and labour exploitation. The action was targeted at cleaning companies, and more than a thousand locations were checked.
The joint action took place from 15 to 21 of June, 2022 with operational activities by nine police departments in Finland. The action was carried out jointly by the police, Border Guard and the Regional State Administrative Agency. The National Bureau of Investigation coordinated the activities by supporting the planning and synchronization of operational activities where necessary, and summarised the results of the action week.
The total number of targets checked in Finland was 1,087; of which 470 were people and 128 locations. In addition, nearly 350 personal identity documents were checked. The locations checked included shops, hotels, shopping centres, warehouses, car washes, schools, kindergartens, restaurants and private dwellings.
Subsequently, eight people are suspected of trafficking in human beings and six victims were identified. In addition, the police filed criminal incident reports on suspected aggravated tax fraud and two cases of suspected work discrimination as well as on suspected facilitation of illegal entry and a narcotics offence.
- Of course, even one case is too many, but looking at the overall situation in the cleaning industry, the action week showed that the situation is good. There were many locations where there was nothing to complain about; quite the contrary, the situation was excellent. However, work-related trafficking in human beings is by nature the dark figure of crime. That is why we must continue to carrying out checks not only during action weeks, but also in the context of our day-to-day work, says detective chief inspector Petri Partanen of the National Bureau of Investigation.
The authorities met several Ukrainian nationals, who had been granted temporary protection during the action week, and in most cases, everything had been organised very well. However, the authorities identified two potential victims of work discrimination among those, who have arrived from Ukraine during the spring. In this case, the police suspect problems relating to the payment of wages to them.
- In this joint action, we paid attention to the situation of those Ukrainians, who had fled the war, as we believe that they would be vulnerable to exploitation because of their status. The situation will also be monitored in future actions, says Mr Partanen.
Nearly 500 victims of exploitation identified in Europe
The joint action week in Finland was a part of a Europe-wide action that was carried out in the participating countries simultaneously. The joint action was coordinated by Europol and led by the Netherlands. In total, more than 30 countries participated in the operation, most of them from the European Union.
The authorities identified a total of 487 suspected victims of exploitation and arrested 59 individuals on suspicion of various offences in the participating countries during the joint action week. They also identified 500 employers whose companies were found to be in breach of labour laws victimizing roughly 1,000 individuals. In total, 18,500 officials from different countries took part in the joint action week conducting checks in mines, home care units, cleaning companies, restaurants, etc.
The fight against trafficking in human beings is one of the priorities of Europol's Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats (EMPACT). Joint action weeks focusing on the fight against trafficking in human beings aim to identify and detect criminal activities and victims of crime as well as to enhance cooperation between countries in Europe with a view to prevent and detect crimes as well as to give better understanding on the phenomenon and provide up-to-date information about it, which will result in better situational awareness of trafficking in human beings and related crime.
- A key part of our work is also that we, as authorities, are able to meet employees and discuss their rights in the Finnish labour market. We believe that this is an effective way of spreading the correct information not only to those we meet, but other people as well. For example, for those, who have recently fled Ukraine, this is absolutely essential, says Mr Partanen.