The government maintained protection efforts. The government identified 99 victims. The government provided both direct care and funding for third-party care through an asylum reception center that coordinated the national victim assistance system. The government received 303 potential trafficking victim referrals and the assistance system admitted 229 potential trafficking victims in 2019 (14 were children) compared with 163 victims in 2018 (10 were children), marking a four-fold increase in the number of trafficking victims since 2015. Nigerian women continued to account for the majority of sex trafficking victims; Eastern European women constituted the next largest group. The assistance system reported 70 of their new recipients became trafficking victims in Finland rather than abroad (52 in 2018), the most that has been recorded since 2015. However, authorities noted a decreased number of sex trafficking victims exploited within Finland. Authorities registered 11 such victims in 2019 (18 in 2018); observers reported there were more victims who went unregistered, masking the real scope of internal trafficking. Finnish law required police to pursue domestic cases specifically as trafficking crimes in order for victims to receive services through the assistance system beyond the initial emergency. Assistance system personnel lacked guidance regarding referrals of victims who were exploited in trafficking domestically and did not wish to contact the police. Furthermore, according to the national rapporteur, the placement of the assistance system within immigration services misrepresented trafficking as a crime requiring migration and reduced the focus on trafficking committed within Finland. In response to this concern, the government approved the transfer of the victim assistance system to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in 2019.
Multiple actors within the government and civil society were empowered to identify trafficking victims. Although police and immigration officials used written guidelines for identification and referral, the government recognized these guidelines as inadequate. To address this shortcoming, the government created a national referral mechanism for victim identification and assistance, but did not implement it due to pending changes in the legislative framework of the assistance system. Once referred to the assistance system, consultants evaluated cases and decided on the victim’s course of care, which could include transportation to a safe house; psychological, medical, and legal assistance; or shelter. There was one government-funded shelter specifically for trafficking victims, though it accepted only women and their children. Care providers sheltered most trafficking victims in private accommodations; however, there were no shelters dedicated to male victims. Child services assigned unaccompanied child victims a guardian to serve as a legal representative. Authorities placed Finnish children who could not return to their families in foster care, while authorities placed unaccompanied migrant children in a migrant reception center specifically for children. Officials noted some municipalities lacked the knowledge and resources to provide assistance to trafficking victims, citing how one municipality referred a victim to Sweden and paid for their assistance there. Observers noted that municipalities experience difficulties with victim service provision because they function under the general framework of social welfare and are not sufficiently equipped with the resources to deal with crime-related issues such as trafficking or victims of trafficking. Subsequently, the Parliamentary Ombudsman required municipalities to create new procedures and provide relevant training. In 2019, the government spent approximately €1.2 million ($1.35 million) on trafficking victim assistance and protection, unchanged from 2018. In addition, the government allocated €292,520 ($328,670) for services to multiple organizations.
To receive long-term assistance, Finnish law requires victims to cooperate with police to commence a criminal investigation or to receive a specialized residence permit from Finnish Immigration Services. Delayed investigations and police failure to submit the appropriate paperwork requesting victims to remain in the country have left victims susceptible to deportation. Finnish law allowed foreign victims a six-month reflection period during which they could receive care and assistance while considering whether to assist law enforcement, and the law allowed legal residents a recovery period of up to three months. According to the assistance system, 23 victims took advantage of the reflection period in 2019. Victims could receive renewable temporary residence permits, which were valid for six to 12 months and allowed victims to seek employment. Authorities provided temporary residence permits to 15 victims and renewed three permits. According to officials, all victims accepted into the assistance system consented to cooperate with police in the prosecution of their traffickers; however, in cases where victimization occurred outside of Finland, which was the case for the majority of victims identified, and the conditions of the relevant jurisdiction made law enforcement cooperation unlikely, police did not open a criminal investigation.