Kansallisen ihmiskaupparaportoijan puhe YK-kokouskessa Berliinissä 23-24.5.2013

Kansallisen ihmiskaupparaportoijan puhe YK-kokouskessa Berliinissä 23-24.5.2013

Berliinissä järjestettiin 23.5.-24.5.2013 YK-kokous koskien Ihmiskauppatyötä ja ihmiskaupanvastaisen työn raportointia. (Consultative Meeting on Strengthening Partnerships with National Rapporteurs and Equivalent Mechanisms)

Ylitarkastaja Venla Roth piti kokouksessa puheen, jossa hän kertoi Suomen kansallisen ihmiskaupparaportoijan mallista.


Senior Adviser Venla Roth, PhD, Office of the Ombudsman for Minorities / National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings, Finland
Speech in Berlin on 23 of May 2013

Ladies and Gentleman,

First of all, I want to thank the organizers for the invitation to present the work of the Finnish National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings. It is a great pleasure to have this chance to tell you about our mandate and tasks, as well as achievement and challenges that we face. As you probably know, this mandate to serve as a National Rapporteur is rather new. The Ombudsman for Minorities was appointed as a National Rapporteur only in 2009 but I have to say without being too bold that we have been able to achieve a lot. Just to name a few examples, the number of identified and assisted victims has clearly increased and so has the number of pre-trial investigations, prosecutions and successful convictions. The ability of authorities to identify and offer reasonable assistance for the victims of human trafficking and investigate trafficking offences has improved and the cooperation of authorities and non-governmental organizations has progressed. In 2009, there were only three victims in the system of victim assistance, at the moment there are over a hundred victims. In 2009, there was only one successful conviction, today 10, most of them from the last year. Numbers are, of course, rather small but they tell a lot about the progress we have made. And I dare to say that despite small resources all this would not have taken place if there was not a National Rapporteur as an independent monitoring mechanism with a strong mandate to initiate means to enhance action against trafficking.

As we all know, the idea of appointing national rapporteurs arises from the international arena. It was discussed already in the 1990s but there were not many countries, which actually took action and appointed a national rapporteur at that point. At the beginning, the discussion surrounded the issue of gathering solid information and statistics but soon the discussion was extended to analysis and evaluation. There was a need to go behind the numbers and try to figure out, for example, why the number of identified victims of human trafficking was, in fact, so incredibly low, compared to the estimations of many international organizations working with issues related to human trafficking. 

The Council of Europe Convention on trafficking, adopted in 2005, recommends the State Parties to consider appointing National Rapporteurs or other mechanisms for monitoring the anti-trafficking activities of state institutions and the implementation of national legislation requirements. The 2011 EU Directive is a very important instrument, as it specifically obligates Member States to take the necessary measures to establish national rapporteurs or equivalent mechanisms. The tasks of the Rapporteur are manifold, including carrying out of assessments of trends in trafficking, the measuring of results of anti-trafficking actions and reporting. 

In Finland, the first national plan of action, adopted in 2005, brought up the need to appoint a national rapporteur. In the Revised Action Plan, adopted in 2008, the Ombudsman for Minorities was identified as an appropriate body for the task, as the Ombudsman is an independent authority with access to classified information and an authority issuing national recommendations for improvement. In 2009, the Ombudsman started to serve as a National Rapporteur. I myself have worked at the office from the beginning and basically developed the working methods and processes of the National Rapporteur together with my colleagues. 

I think that the most positive aspects in our mandate are the following. There are six of them. Firstly, I consider it very important that the mandate of the National Rapporteur is described in law and that it includes not only gathering information but also monitoring of the implementation of anti-human trafficking action. A clear legal mandate gives us formality so that we are not so much dependent on the change in attitudes or whether trafficking attracts political or societal attention or not. 
Secondly, I think that it is of utmost importance that the Finnish National Rapporteur is an independent authority. Independence guarantees that the Rapporteur is able to evaluate comprehensively the implementation of anti-human trafficking legislation, strategies and activities from outside of the Government. It also brings out drawbacks and deficiencies in the action to the attention of the politicians and governmental officials. The independence gives us credibility also in the eyes of the non-governmental actors, as well as builds trust between governmental and non-governmental bodies. I see that, at its best, the Rapporteur can act as a bridge builder between various stakeholders by offering a neutral forum for discussion and change of views. The outsider's perspective also allows us to understand the problematic in depth and give comprehensive legislative and other recommenda-tions for improvement. 

This is linked to the third positive aspect of our mandate. To really monitor anti-trafficking action it is important to get access to the relevant information. In order to do evidence-based reports and rec-ommendations, the Finnish Rapporteur has a legal mandate to receive all, including classified, in-formation needed from authorities and also, with some restrictions, from NGOs involved in activities against trafficking. 

Fourthly, it is important for the functioning reporting and monitoring mechanism that the National Rapporteur has a direct link to the Parliament, to the decision-making body. The Finnish National Rapporteur reports directly to the Parliament once in four years, which means once in every election period. This linkage allows the Parliament to get updated information on the situation, trends and possible threads of human trafficking and to steer the Government to the direction the Parliament desires. For example, the National Rapporteur issued her first report to the Parliament in 2010. In that report, the Rapporteur pointed out several problems in anti-human trafficking legislation and practices and made recommendations on how they should be modified in order to be more efficient. The Parliament agreed with us on most of the recommendations and required the Government to take action in order to improve victim identification and referral to the system of victim assistance, as well as to enhance pre-trial investigations and prosecution processes. On our initiative, two separate working groups with a mandate to draft legislative amendments have been established and they all should be ready by the end of 2014. The next parliamentary report will be issued by the mid-next year.

In addition, we have proposed that the Government should establish a separate national coordinator to coordinate anti-human trafficking action in a multi-sectorial and interdisciplinary manner in cooperation with the NGOs. As we see it, reporting and coordinating mandates are different but interlinked so that they can support each other. Coordinating body is responsible for the operational tasks in the Government and the Rapporteur monitors the Coordinator and gives views on how anti-human trafficking action should be developed in practice. Coordinating body is responsible for making things happen in the field.

Fifthly, I would say that it has been a good idea to include other serious forms of exploitation in our mandate. In accordance with the law, our mandate includes not only trafficking in human beings but also related phenomena, such as other serious forms of labour exploitation, pimping, and smuggling of migrants. This broadens up our perspective to the other related forms of exploitation in order for us to see, for example, how indicators of trafficking are identified in practical cases and to give guidance to the authorities on the application of the trafficking definition. First and foremost, it helps us identify gaps in the protection of victims' rights. We are not bound by the penal provision on trafficking and this has been our clear message also to the system of victim assistance: there does not have to be firm evidence on trafficking when a person is referred to assistance but indicators of trafficking are quite enough in the beginning of the identification and referral process. 

To continue with this, the sixth point would be the human rights based approach to trafficking. The purpose of the Rapporteur is to highlight the victim's perspective, and the impact of measures taken or non-intervention on victims and the implementation of their legal protection. The National Rapporteur believes that improving the victims' position will also promote crime combating. The National Rapporteur makes sure that the anti-human trafficking action is also in line with international obligations. 

We also consider it important to evaluate the implementation of anti-human trafficking action from the gender perspective. Our first parliamentary report clearly demonstrated that the implementation of the legal rights of victims largely depends on how successful the authorities and third-sector actors are in identifying persons who are victims or at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking. We have been very worried about the fact that the share of victims of human trafficking who have been subjected to sexual exploitation in Finland has remained surprisingly low in the system for victim assistance. This is also exceptional within the context of international comparisons. One of the reasons for the low number of sexually exploited victims is that the police treat these women as procured prostitutes although many cases show indicators of human trafficking, such as debt bondage and threat or use of violence. It takes time to change these deeply rooted rather negative attitudes especially towards foreign women in prostitution. 

To conclude, trafficking in human beings really does look the same everywhere: the modus operandi of the criminals are the same, the psychology of how victims are controlled is the same, the challenges in victim identification and ignorance of their rights are the same, the stigma and prejudices with authorities such as police, judges and even social workers are the same. This is, of course, depressing for us wanting to believe that strong social infrastructure, the egalitarian values and the uncorrupted authorities would protect us from trafficking. I do think, however, that they provide us with a better platform for combating against all kinds of exploitation but there is an added blindness that prevents us from seeing the reality and too many times from believing the victim. The 'culture of disbelief' is also very true among our own mostly very competent authorities. Recently, we have understood that Finland is not only a country of transit and destination for human trafficking but also a country of origin especially for young women and girls trafficked inside the country or abroad for sexual exploitation. In addition, we see that regulated labour markets and strong protection and supervision of labour rights provide us with a shield against wide-spread exploitation in the labour markets but, indeed, we have to be constantly vigilant in order to keep it that way. We have been able to stir up, for example, the labour unions and labour inspectorate, that there is trafficking for labour exploitation in Finland, and that these actors must become more active in the field and devote their time and energy to the fight against human trafficking. 

Trafficking in human beings is a phenomenon which requires determined and comprehensive action of all relevant authorities together with the non-governmental actors. As we see, action against human trafficking becomes much more efficient, multidimensional and human rights friendly if there is an independent monitoring mechanism with a strong mandate and independent authority to report on deficiencies and make recommendation for improvement.

Thank you for listening!