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Human trafficking related to labour exploitation and forced labour

Chung was hired to work in a restaurant that his uncle owned in Finland. He and his uncle agreed that Chung would work in the restaurant from nine in the morning to eight in the evening every day for one year. Chung would get two days off a month. During his days off, Chung could help his uncle’s family by cleaning their home. During the first year, Chung would not get a salary: he would only get 100 euros of pocket money every month. His uncle promised that after two years, Chung would get a permanent residence permit and would be able to use the public services of-fered in Finland.

ihmiskauppaa-ravintola-alalla-naiskokkiWhen Chung started working, he soon realised that the working pace was way too fast. His work-ing days were often longer than agreed. If Chung fell ill, he was not allowed to skip work. Chung’s uncle got him a residence permit but refused to give the permit to Chung because he was sure that Chung would misplace it. When Chung asked for more money, his uncle threatened to send him back to China. His uncle swore that he would stain Chung’s reputation and that Chung would never again get a job in his home village in China. If Chung tried to leave before the end of his one-year contract, he would still owe money to his uncle.

As Chung did not speak Finnish or English, he was unable to obtain information about his rights in Finland. His uncle took advantage of this. Chung believed that everyone else worked under similar conditions, and the situation was, after all, already familiar to him from China. Chung’s uncle took care of all contacts with the authorities and accompanied him to every visit. Because Chung’s uncle interpreted the discussions between Chung and the authorities, his uncle was able to decide what the authorities heard about Chung. For the authorities, Chung’s uncle prepared an employment contract that had similar terms and conditions of employment as in any regular Finn-ish employment contract.

The story and the characters are fictitious, but the story is based on one or more real-life cases.

According to estimates, there are over 21 million victims in the world

Besides guman trafficking related to sexual exlpoitation, the most common form of human trafficking in the world is human trafficking related to labour exploitation and forced labour. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there were approximately 21 million victims of forced labour in the world in 2016.

Labour exploitation refers to situations in which a person is forced to work and cannot refuse to work or quit the job without facing serious consequences. Such serious consequences may be concrete threats against the victims or the victims’ family and friends. The victims may also feel that they are not free to quit their job because they could be removed from the country or left with nothing in a foreign country.

Employment relationship may seem perfect on paper

A common denominator for trafficking related to labour exploitation across all lines of business is that the victims work long hours for a salary that is too low compared to the amount of work. They may even work without a salary. Victims of labour trafficking must often work long hours without proper breaks.

Kynsistudioissakin-on-havaittu-ihmiskauppaaVictims of forced labour often experience psychological and sometimes even physical abuse. Be-cause of the long hours, the victims often have very little spare time. In some cases, victims have been forced to live in their workplace.

A typical feature of labour exploitation cases detected in Finland is that the employment relationship seems fully legal on paper. The salary and working hours mentioned in the employment contract might follow the applicable collective agreement, but in reality, these terms are not complied with. The victims may even get a salary to their bank accounts in accordance with the employment contract, but the employer may seize the victims’ debit cards or demand that the victims draw the money out of their accounts and pay it back to the employer in cash.

Employees can be tied to their employer in many ways

In addition to withholding the victims’ debit cards and other important documents, such as passports or residence permits, employers may restrict their victims’ freedom using many other methods.

Because the victims are often unfamiliar with how the Finnish society works, they are in many ways dependent on their employer and thus easier to control.

The victims may be tied to the employer because of accommodation and residence permits, but also because the victims may still owe money to the employer for their residence permits and journeys to Finland. To maintain control over the victim, the employer may also threaten, black-mail or abuse the victims or their families and friends.

Labour exploitation occurs in several lines of business in Finland

Labour exploitation is the most common form of human trafficking detected in Finland. Today, it occurs especially in restaurants and cleaning businesses, in the construction industry and in agriculture. Exploitation that might be classified as forced labour has been found to occur even in private households. In such cases, the victim has worked as domestic help doing household chores.

Exploitation may also occur in dating relationships, marriages or other types of family relationships, and it can sometimes be compared to labour exploitation or even forced labour. This type of exploitation typically occurs in private households.

Most victims in Finland are foreign nationals

In Finland, most of the victims of labour exploitation are foreign nationals who have originally agreed to the job voluntarily. Most victims are persuaded to come work in Finland by someone in their home country who promises a better life and a good salary for them. This is usually someone the victim knows, such as a friend or a relative. In these cases, the real working conditions are not revealed until the victim has come to Finland and started working.

kaksi-kasvihuonetyöntekijää-töissäUndocumented migrants (who reside illegally in the country) or persons in risk of becoming undocumented have been found to be at a greater risk of becoming a victim of labour exploitation. Undocumented migrants are often excluded from the society’s services and support, which makes them an easier target for abusers.

Many of those who seek asylum in Finland have fallen victim to labour exploitation in their home country or on their way to Finland. Many show signs of having experienced heavy exploitation and may have been subjected to forced labour or even slavery-like conditions.