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What does trafficking in human beings mean?

Human trafficking does not mean a sale as a single event. Human trafficking is a process of exploitation, where the perpetrator tries to gain financial profit by subjugating the victim by different means. The victims of human trafficking are often people in a weak position who are dependent on the perpetrator. They may be subjected to sexual exploitation or forced labour, for example. The pursuit of financial profit is not required for the definition of the offence to be fulfilled. 

Sometimes the victim may have voluntarily consented in the beginning to an activity that proves to be human trafficking. This does not matter, if illegal methods were used to make the victim participate in the activity. With regard to minors, even if the victim had consented to the activity without being illegally solicited, it is still considered human trafficking. For example, someone may have originally started to work in prostitution voluntarily, but ended up being exploited later. The important question is whether the person actually has the freedom to make decisions about matters related to them. If they do not have that freedom, the act may constitute human trafficking. 

Human trafficking in Finland

In Finland, human trafficking has mainly been discovered in cases of sexual or labour exploitation. In Finland, human trafficking for forced marriage as well as forced criminal activity has also been found.  

Human trafficking often crosses state borders. In fact, Finland is mainly a transit and destination country for human trafficking, but the act as a whole may also take place within the borders of Finland. The possible victimisation may have also occurred in the country of origin or transit or in Finland.

In the Finnish Criminal Code, statutes concerning trafficking in human beings entered into force on 1 August 2004. Under the provisions of the Finnish Criminal Code, trafficking in human beings, aggravated trafficking in human beings and the attempted commission of either are punishable offences. 

Punishments

Human trafficking and similar offences can be punished with a fine or imprisonment:

  • for human trafficking, a minimum of four months and a maximum of six years of imprisonmen
  • for aggravated human trafficking a minimum of two years and a maximum of ten years of imprisonment
  • for pandering, a fine or maximum of three years of imprisonment
  • for aggravated pandering, a minimum of four months and a maximum of six years of imprisonment
  • For extortionate work discrimination a fine or up to two years of imprisonment.

Combating human trafficking

Uncovering human trafficking and similar crimes usually requires efficient, long-term work from the police. The police are tasked with ensuring that they have enough special expertise available to master the special characteristics related to the crime of human trafficking.

Combating human trafficking involves all police operations. The police must be able to identify victims of human trafficking from the first patrol at the scene to the pre-trial investigation and refer them to the assistance system. 

Identifying victims of human trafficking

The police pay special attention to identifying victims of human trafficking
•    when a person becomes a client of the police in connection with the sale of sexual services
•    when investigating use of labour that is illegal or against regulations
•    when suspected crime related to organising illegal entry to the country is involved 
•    in suspected offences related to begging
•    in the asylum procedure
•    in cases of violence in close relationships, which may constitute forced marriage as a form of human trafficking.

Trust is important in investigating 

Trafficking in human beings and similar offences are largely hidden crimes, challenging to uncover and investigate.

Factors such as cultural issues may make it difficult to find evidence of these crimes. The victim may come from a country where the citizens do not see the police as a party that could help and as a result, they do not dare to trust the police and seek help in Finland, either. Victims do not always see themselves as victims, because the living conditions in their country of origin may have been very bad. 

Trust between the police and the victim of human trafficking is important. The police aim to ensure that victims of human trafficking can always deal with the same person with the police. The police do not have a special unit for investigating all cases of human trafficking; instead, the cases are investigated by different units depending on the form of human trafficking. 

The police officers investigating human trafficking receive special training in the field. The police are also assisted by a network against human trafficking; its purpose is to ensure that the information and skills are up to date.

The police cannot combat human trafficking with its own activities alone. They work in close cooperation with other authorities and third sector operators. 

Important partners include:

  • the Assistance system for victims of human trafficking
  • Victim Support Finland
  • the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings
  • the Anti-Trafficking Coordinator. 

The police refer all victims of human trafficking to the assistance system.

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Useful to remember

Anyone can detect activities that show signs of human trafficking. 

  • Report your observations to the police, do not try to investigate the crime yourself.
  • If the situation is urgent, call the emergency number 112.
  • If you suspect that you have met a victim of human trafficking, talk about seeking help, if possible. Still, keep safety in mind! 
  • The assistance system for victims of human trafficking gives you guidance and advice.

More information about human trafficking and the system of assistance in the Assistance system's website

Victim Support Finland, direct email [email protected] 

Up-to-date legislation in the Finnish Criminal Code in Finlex 

The police arm batch in the foreground with orange sunlight in the background.

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Crimes similar to trafficking in human beings

Under criminal law, crimes very similar to trafficking in human beings include aggravated pandering, aggravated arrangement of illegal immigration and extortionate work discrimination. These types of crimes can be referred to as crimes similar to human trafficking. Often when investigating these crimes, the police find that human trafficking or aggravated human trafficking is actually involved. 

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