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The rights and status of the victims of human trafficking to be strengthened through legal amendments

On 27 June 2019, Deputy Ombudsman Maija Sakslin issued a decision concerning assistance provided to the victims of human trafficking. The case concerned organising measures to help a person who had fallen victim to human trafficking and arranging social services for this person. In the decision, the social welfare service had been found to have neglected its statutory duty to arrange the kind of assistance that a victim of human trafficking would have needed. The social welfare service’s negligence endangered the person’s legal protection and her special right to receive help as a victim of human trafficking. Due to the exceptional nature of the negligence, in addition to issuing a reprimand regarding the case, the Deputy Ombudsman has proposed that the municipality pay compensation to the victim for the violation of her fundamental rights. 

The municipality in question has apologised for its erroneous action revealed in the case and has paid the victim the sum of EUR 3,900 in compensation for the violation of her fundamental rights. 

When investigating the case, the Deputy Ombudsman became concerned on a more general level about how the victims of human trafficking can obtain assistance and how familiar the municipal authorities are with the legislation concerning assistance to the victims of human trafficking. 

In her decision, the Deputy Ombudsman referred to the report of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman adopted by Parliament and the relevant statement, EK 45/2018 vp, in which Parliament required the Government to implement the necessary measures to ensure equal rights of access to assistance for the victims of human trafficking and investigate the potential need for legal amendments (among others) with regard to helping the victims of human trafficking and strengthening the victim-based approach to the assistance given. 

The Deputy Ombudsman decided to speed up the preparation of the amendments required by Parliament by submitting an information request to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health to report on the measures it has taken on the matter by the end of 2019. 

In the report, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health listed measures taken, including issuing the municipal bulletin, Kuntainfo 3/2019, on helping the victims of human trafficking. In addition, in its report, the ministry referred to the policies included in the Government Programme and the plan on the implementation of the Government Programme policies agreed between four ministries. The report concluded that the structure of work against human trafficking needs to be clarified and permanent resources assigned for the purpose. The system must also be simplified in order to ensure equal services regardless of the municipality of residence. Also, the measures for identifying child victims of human trafficking and for preventing human trafficking and prostitution must be intensified.

According to the Ministry’s announcement, a separate law will be enacted about helping the victims of human trafficking. At the same time, references to the victims of human trafficking will be added to the Social Welfare Act and the Health Care Act and the Act on the Reception of Persons Applying for International Protection and on the Identification of and Assistance to Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings will be updated. Also, other legal amendments that might be necessary and EU legislation will be taken into account. 

In future, helping the victims of human trafficking will fall within the administrative sector of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. However, the new legislation will be prepared in co-operation with the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. A joint Government Anti-Trafficking Coordinator has been appointed to the Ministry of Justice.

The full text (in Finnish) of the decision, 3489/2017, concerning assistance for the victims of human trafficking is available on the Ombudsman's website, www.oikeusasiamies.fi

Further inquiries: information officer Citha Dahl, tel. +358 9 432 3352.