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Non-Discrimination Ombudsman is Finland’s National Rapporteur on trafficking in human beings

Under the Act on the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman (1326/2014) (in Finnish), the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman is nominated as Finland’s National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings. profiili-vasenThe Finnish Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, previously known as the Ombudsman for Minorities, was appointed as the National Rapporteur on human trafficking on 1 January 2009. The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman monitors human trafficking and related phenomena, Finland’s compliance with international human rights obligations, and the effectiveness of national legislation.

As Finland’s National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman has a wide range of duties, ranging from following the work of Finnish authorities and other actors that combat human trafficking to co-operating closely with international actors in the field.

As the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman co-operates closely, both on an individual and a wider structural level, with the Finnish police and prosecutors, the Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking and other public authorities in Finland, as well as with NGOs and lawyers who assist the victims. In addition, the Ombudsman produces reports, participates in law reform and other developmental projects and provides training for actors in the field.

The Ombudsman has the right to intervene in individual cases of human trafficking when concerns are raised. The Ombudsman may also issue guidelines, proposals, statements and recommendations relevant to improving the action against human trafficking and to the realisation of the rights of the victims. The Ombudsman may also provide legal advice and, in exceptional cases, assist victims of human trafficking at trial.

Non-Discrimination Ombudsman reports to the Finnish Parliament

As Finland’s National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings, one of the key duties of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman is to compile a report on human trafficking and related phenomena in Finland. The Ombudsman submits the report to the Finnish Government and the Finnish Parliament. The report to the Parliament is given every four years. The first report was presented to the Finnish Parliament in 2010. After the report was discussed by the Parliament, several legislative changes were made, including some changes in the Criminal Code of Finland.  
Reports of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman to the Parliament:
•    2010
•    2014
•    2018

Report on the treatment of victims of Nigerian origin who have been subjected to trafficking for sexual exploitation

One example of the work done by the Finnish Non-Discrimination Ombudsman is its investigation, published in 2016, on how victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation who have Nigerian origins are treated during the asylum and residence permit process. The investigation was initiated because the Ombudsman found out that some victims of human trafficking who were returned from Finland to Italy ended up living on the street with their children or were subjected to sexual exploitation again.
As a result of the investigation, the Rapporteur concluded that the practices in applying the Aliens Act were in part unpredictable and inconsistent. It was difficult to predict accurately on the basis of the decisions whether an applicant would be granted a residence permit or not. Also the practice in granting residence permits was inconsistent, because some applicants had been granted a residence permit as a victim of human trafficking, whereas some got it on individual, compassionate grounds.

To get a residence permit as a victim of human trafficking, the applicant is required to be in a “particularly vulnerable position”, which is a strict condition laid down in the Aliens Act and its legislative history. The Rapporteur criticised the Finnish Immigration Service for interpreting the condition restrictively. profiili-vasen In addition, the assessment of the situation of the trafficking victims failed to meet the standards or was at least inconsistent. The Ombudsman was also concerned that research findings on the aspects of human trafficking, on the individual consequences and impacts of trafficking or on the risk of re-trafficking are underused in decision-making. After the report was published, the Finnish Immigration Service conducted a fact-finding mission to Italy and adjusted its decision-making practices.

Report on functionality of legislation ensuring assistance to trafficking victims

In March 2018, Finland’s Non-Discrimination Ombudsman and the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control (HEUNI) published a joint report (in Finnish) assessing the functionality of legislation for assisting victims of human trafficking in Finland. The report was prepared as part of the Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities (VN TEAS) for 2017. It is part of anti-trafficking project activities in Finland.