Identifying trafficking victims is crucial
Identification of trafficking victims remains the key challenge for anti-trafficking action.
The number of identified victims is small mainly because both the offenders and the victims try to hide the trafficking crime from the authorities. Victims may be afraid of the offender retaliating against them or be suspicious of the authorities. The threshold for seeking help may also remain high because the victims do not know their rights.
Sometimes the victims may have participated in criminal activity or activities that are disapproved by society, and they are afraid of punishment and/or removal from the country. Offenders may also threaten the victims or their loved ones with violence, preventing the victims from contacting the authorities. Consequently, the cases known to the authorities and identified as human trafficking are likely to make just a small part of the entire phenomenon.
Victims cannot be helped unless they are identified
Human trafficking is often confused with the effects linked to it. Victims may be treated as illegal immigrants, smuggled migrants, petty criminals, prostitutes, victims of domestic violence or illegal workers, rather than as trafficking victims who have been subjected to exploitation.
The failure to identify a victim may result in the victim being punished for involvement in illegal activity, irregular entry or other offences. It may also result in the victim’s removal from the country, continued exploitation and/or re-victimisation. Shortcomings in the identification of victims will also be reflected negatively in crime prevention and on the chances of success for anti-trafficking action.
If victims of human trafficking are not identified, their legal rights to receive help and protection cannot be upheld. Unidentified victims will not be referred to a helpful NGO or to the Assistance system, specifically set up for them, and they will not be able to exercise their other rights, such as the right to remain in the country as victims of trafficking in human beings.
There are general indicators for identifying trafficking victims. These are used in Finland and other countries as part of the efforts to combat trafficking in human beings.