The Assistance system for victims of human trafficking
The Assistance system for victims of human trafficking is an authority responsible for helping people who may have become victims of human trafficking, their underage children and the persons assisting with the investigation. Both Finnish citizens and nationals of other countries who are in Finland can receive help.
The Assistance system’s activities are based on law, and it has a legal obligation to offer its services to the customers admitted to the system, who are victims of trafficking. The Assistance system gives victim-centred help; in other words, the trafficking victim is always the priority. The Assistance system works everywhere in Finland and has been helping trafficking victims since 2006.
The Assistance system provides help, advice and training
The Assistance system is also Finland’s national centre of knowledge for helping trafficking victims. It provides authorities and other people combating human trafficking with training on what trafficking means and how to identify and help potential victims.
The Assistance system maintains a 24/7 information hotline +358 29 54 63 177 for potential trafficking victims, authorities, third-sector organisations, the media and citizens. You can call the hotline to receive information and guidance or simply to talk to someone.
In emergencies, a potential trafficking victim may be referred to Assistance on the basis of one phone call. However, you can also call anonymously, and making the call will not bind you to anything else. All calls are handled in strict confidence.
Hundreds of victims have already received help
By the end of 2017, the Assistance system has had 630 customers. In addition, the Assistance system has provided services to its customers’ underage children.
The number of Assistance system’s customers has been increasing year by year. One of the reasons for this increase is the fact that the ability of Finns to identify and refer victims to the system has improved.
At the end of 2017, 322 people were within the system’s services, including children in the care of customers. Of the customers, 34 had entered the Assistance system as minors.
Helping all nationalities
The Assistance system works under the Ministry of the Interior in Joutseno Reception Centre. Since the beginning of 2017, the Assistance system has been an independent part of the Finnish Immigration Service. This may seem confusing, since the Assistance system helps both Finnish victims and foreign nationals.
There is a historical reason for locating the Assistance system at a reception centre and later moving it to the Finnish Immigration Service. When the Finnish legislation for helping trafficking victims was drafted in early 2000s, it was generally thought that human trafficking was a crime that only concerned foreign nationals. A decision was therefore made have two reception centres for asylum seekers to assist trafficking victims.
However, the first Finnish citizens were admitted to the system already during its early days. It has become clear that human trafficking is not focused on, or limited to, foreign nationals. It can be a completely Finnish problem, since both the victim and the offender may be Finnish.
The victim assistance system does not make decisions on residence permits or asylum applications. Its operations are separate from the Finnish Immigration Service’s other activities.
The assistance system has offices in the south, east and north
The Assistance system’s head office is based in Joutseno Reception Centre. The Assistance system also has offices in Oulu and Helsinki. These offices provide the Assistance system’s services everywhere in Finland. The system’s customers do not usually have to visit the offices. The services are brought to the customers. Our staff travels a lot.
The Assistance system can provide services independently or outsource them from a public or private organisation. If the trafficking victim has a municipality of residence in Finland, the services will be provided by the municipality of residence. In that case, the Assistance system will work in cooperation with the municipality.
Customers live across Finland in different types of housing
Even though the Oulu ja Joutseno offices are based in Reception Centres, these centres do not automatically provide accommodation for the Assistance system’s customers. Only customers who are also asylum seekers mainly live in the reception centres and receive their basic services from there. For example Finnish citizens and customers with a residence permit or a registered home municipality would not be housed in reception centres.
The Assistance system’s customers live across Finland in many types of housing. Many live in their own homes, some need housing arranged for them, some must live in sheltered housing. The main thing is that the customer has a safe place to live.