Blog: Detection rate of human trafficking related to labour exploitation demonstrates success in work by authorities

Publication date 18.3.2022 8.16 | Published in English on 23.3.2022 at 14.00
News item

Human trafficking is a set of crimes with many faces. Every year, Finland is able to identify labour exploitation, prostitution or forced marriages as well as forced criminality or begging. Among the forms of human trafficking exposed and detected, the majority of the cases concern labour exploitation.

On Friday 18 March 2022 the Eastern Uusimaa Police Department told the media about a case where a construction company is suspected of exploiting the workers who were unaware of the working hour legislation and collective contract terms, forcing the employees to do long working days without the weekly rest days and pay increments.

The purpose of human trafficking related to labour exploitation is to maximise the company’s economic gains, and the Eastern Uusimaa region is particularly apt to this phenomenon, due to its company structure and geographic location. This is shown by the number of crimes known to the Police as well as the volume of the tips forwarded by the authorities collaborating with the Police in the region.

Therefore, the fight against human trafficking was a special operative focus of the Eastern Uusimaa Police Department in the years 2020-2021. Among the operations targeted at economic crime investigation, including the human trafficking and exploitation of labour in the region, the Police Department took measures in 2021 to improve the competence related to this type of criminality and its identification. In Finland, human trafficking for the exploitation of labour is a fairly recent phenomenon, with limited expertise and competence in this area of policing.

Last year, the National Police Board issued new instructions to help the victims of domestic violence and violence against women and to intervene with human trafficking and help its victims. Provided in collaboration with the system assisting victims of human trafficking, Police officers received training in 2021 to deal with this type of criminality. The training enhanced their professional competences and capacity in identifying the victims of human trafficking, and gave them means to intervene with, investigate and solve the human trafficking crimes in a creditable and professional manner. 

In our Police Department operating area, the greatest challenge in investigating the labour exploitation related to human trafficking is no longer the identification of the crimes or competence of the authorities; today, we need to be able to compile the respective evidence. Due to the international nature of the crime, almost every pretrial investigation calls for the use of international instruments. This may delay the investigation considerably, and contacting the parties involved may be challenging as they may have left the country. It may take very long to get the replies, or they might never be received. As a consequence, we may find ourselves in a situation where the pretrial investigation must be concluded, in collaboration with the prosecution, through a decision to limit it or to put it on hold. 

A second important challenge relates to the victim’s capacity to identify the illegal or exploitative features in the operations amounting to human trafficking for labour exploitation, or to understand Finnish legislation in this context. Here, each of us can – by observing our environment and services we use – act for a less discriminatory and fairer operating environment. 

Collaboration means power and impact

In our area, we collaborate with other actors – the labour protection and tax authorities, in particular – to actively analyse the operating environment and collaborate with stakeholders to identify the potential risk groups. This will help us to get a comprehensive picture of the sectors in question. The local multiprofessional expert network plays a key role in this respect. 

We work in extremely close cooperation with an expert prosecutor team specialised in labour exploitation and involved in the work throughout the pretrial investigation. This also enhances the expertise of the pretrial investigation authorities and ensures an equitable approach and keeps the investigative measures in proportion and reasonable in view of the objective of the investigation. The collaboration with the prosecutor team during pretrial investigations improves the legal protection of the parties to the case. 

In the area covered by the Eastern Uusimaa Police Department, we have instituted so-called MARAK teams in Vantaa and Porvoo. They are multiprofessional risk assessment meetings constituted by various authorities and organisations in the area. MARAK is an operative model with the aim of helping the victims of severe and repeated domestic violence as well as those living under the threat of such violence, and to improve their safety in collaboration with various authorities and NGOs. 

The MARAK team may examine honour-related acts of violence or human trafficking cases related to domestic violence. The team drafts a multiprofessional plan for the crime victim, with the objective of improving their safety. In the area covered by the Eastern Uusimaa Police Department, the MARAK operations include Police officers from preventive operations as well as Police Station social workers. Another important actor is the assistance system for human trafficking victims; it provides comprehensive assistance for the victims and their close ones. 

During the previous year, the uncovering operations of the Police managed to intervene with labour exploitation. This improves the impacts while the unfair competition on the labour market diminishes. This has a very health impact, especially on labour intensive sectors. The human trafficking with labour exploitation features often also involves more traditional forms of economic crime since the motive and the setup behind the scenes of the crime are the same. An element of increased impacts is the intensified tracking of money flows and proceeds of crime; an important role is also played by the compensations determined for damages and ensuring factual payment of the compensations through the use of coercive measures. 

Eastern Uusimaa Police Department, units for economic crimes and crimes against children 
Senior Detective Superintendent Sari Malinen, Detective Chief Inspector Heidi Niemi and Detective Chief Inspector Hans Pirttilä