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Ladies and gentlemen,
Since the turn of the millenium, public awareness of human trafficking has been increasing gradually in Finland.
We have actively participated in the European Union and at UN to develop instruments and forms of work aimed at tackling human trafficking.
I would also like to stress that the bodies under the Ministry of the Interior have played an important role in national work against trafficking. The system of victim assistance has up to now helped approximately one hundred victims of trafficking or related offences. Over thirty human trafficking offences have been investigated. Whenever needed, we have been able to use such instruments under the Aliens Act as a reflection period or a residence permit.
Despite the progress made and success achieved, the work against human trafficking has also posed considerable challenges to authorities and other actors. Like in many other countries, it has proved difficult to identify victims, whether they are victims of exploitation in working life or other forms of exploitation. There are relatively few charges pressed or sentences imposed in cases involving human trafficking. Some sentences have been imposed, but in most cases under a name other than human trafficking offence.
From the working life perspective, in particular, the results up tonow have been inconsistent. About three quarters of the persons within the system of victim assistance have been involved in cases related to exploitation of labour.( From 2006 to 2009 39 persons were admitted to the system of victim assistance. 28 of these cases were related to exploitation of labour. )
Exploitation of labour has also led to dozens of criminal convictions during the last few years. In working life, however, it has been impossible to find sufficient evidence to impose a sentence for human trafficking or aggravated human trafficking, only for discrimination at work tantamount to extortion. Two cases has led to prosecution, but in both cases the charges were turned down in court.
What does this tell us? At least we need more research data about the exploitation of labour and human traffickning in working life. In addition, we need more measures, actors and cooperation to detect human trafficking in working life. It is even possible that the real human trafficking in working life has been detected only marginally or not at all.
Versatily and cooperation are key words for a more effective detection of human trafficking, in particular in working life.
The responsibility for tackling human trafficking in working life rests with the authorities. However, labour market organisations and research play an important role in their own sectors. We need reliable research data about the phenomenon of human trafficking and its special features in Finnish working life. In addition, we must disseminate information about the phenomenon of human trafficking to every level of working life.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings submitted her first report to Parliament and Government last summer. Even by European standards, it is a high quality report on well-chosen information. In her first report, the Ombudsman for Minorities places focus on the system of victim assistance and the procedures related to the residence in and removal from the country of victims of trafficking. She also deals with the criminal procedure, and the application and interpretation of penal provisions on human trafficking. Furthermore, the Ombudsman for Minorities gives several recommendations for the development of these sectors in her report.
The steering group appointed by the Ministry of the Interior to monitor the implementation of the Plan of Action against Trafficking in Human Beings will also soon submit its report on the implementation of the 2008 Action Plan. From the perspective of this seminar, it will be interesting to see what recommendations the steering group will give, in particular for the research on human trafficking in working life and identification of human trafficking in working life.
Even the European Union shows signs of positive development. With the Stockholm Programme and the Action-Oriented Paper drawn up on the basis of it, the Union's work against human trafficking is becoming more concrete.
We look forward to the appointment of the European Union Anti-Trafficking Coordinator who is expected to start working soon. The entry into force of the Directive on trafficking in human beings, which will replace the framework decision on trafficking in human beings, will strengthen EU legislation, above all from the viewpoint of the victim's status and rights.
The adoption of the Directive on trafficking in human beings will approximate the European Union's action against trafficking with the Council's convention on human trafficking. It gives me great pleasure to see that this document, which stresses the human rights and victim oriented approach, has already been ratified by over 30 States. The ratification of the convention by as many parties as possible is of great importance not only in improving the status of victims, but also in positively affecting public opinion internationally.
There are two things I wish to see changed during the next parliamentary period. The first is the question of resources for the importantwork non-governmental sector does for the identification of victims of trafficking. The question has been on the agenda of this government also, but so far we haven't been able to secure the necessary funds. We need to continue to work for these resources. We need the non-governmental sector to do this important work, but we can't expect them to do it without funding.
The second thing I want to mention is the plan to turn the ombudsman for minorities in to an ombudsman with the task to work against not only ethnic discrimination, but all forms of discrimination. There are concrete plans for this, but again the lack of funds has stopped the reform. The Ministry of Interior was the only ministry willing to add funds to secure the reform, but the amount of money we were able to find was not enough for the reform to be credible. More funds are needed to give the widened scope of the tasks of the ombudsman a solid base.
Since the theme of this seminar is trafficking in working life I want to stress that I strongly support the idea of giving the ombudsman competence to act on discrimination on working life, alongside with other authorities; you could say - as a last resort.. I'm sure this would also strengthen the possibilities to act against trafficking in working life.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This seminar addresses a very important and urgent topic: trafficking in human beings in Finnish working life. This is the first time we have such a comprehensive seminar on this topic. It is important that we during these days will hear about and discuss special features of working life in terms of human trafficking.
The topic of the seminar raises many interesting questions: how widely spread is human trafficking in European and Finnish working life; what is forced labour and what are its special features in Finland; what kind of experience have the other European countries had of human trafficking in working life and of action against it; how do Finnish labour market organisations see human trafficking..
I believe that with a broad and comprehensive programme this seminar will lead to new and constructive results promoting the work against human trafficking in Finnish working life, not only conceptually and operationally, but also from a research perspective.
And finally, allow me to wish you all a very successful and result-oriented seminar day! Thank you!