The toothless response of the police and society to human trafficking is similar to other social ills like racism

by , under Enrique Tessieri

A column by Helsingin Sanomat gave a realistic view of human trafficking and why there it continues unhinged. One problem that the column cites, and which is a problem concerning other racist crimes committed against migrants and minorities, is fear of the police.

The column, which exposed some of the shortcomings of protecting victims of human trafficking and exploitation at work, sheds light on a more significant problem: Indifference fed by prejudice and racism.

The Finnish police have a questionable history when dealing with racism. Migrant Tales wrote some of these issues in 2018 that persist to this date:

  • The police’s suspicion without proof that asylum seekers are rapists and criminals;
  •  A poll showed that close to 80% of the police in a survey considered the asylum seeker crisis as the most severe threat to Finnish security;
  • The same poll revealed that 25.1% of those polled voted for the National Coalition Party (NCP) and 24.4% for the Perussuomalaiset (PS)*. The PS and NCP parties are the most anti-immigration parties in parliament;
  • Ethnic profiling continues to be a serious issue among the Finnish police service;
  • The Council of Europe has expressed concern about ethnic profiling in Finland;
  • A study by the European Agency of Fundamental Rights (FRA) claims that a third of people of African descent (PAD) surveyed have experienced racial harassment in the last five years. The highest harassment took place in Finland.

Paavo Teittinen’s column hits it right on the nail: “The source of human trafficking and similar type of exploitation in Finland is not inevitable. It has been allowed to happen. Criminals can run their [businesses] fairly freely due to the lack of information, resources, and [police] interest.”

Read the full story (in Finnish) here.

Some of the main points of Teittinen’s column:

  • Employers are not worried about being reported to the police because of lack of interest;
  • An employer can commit human trafficking with few to no consequences;
  • Few human trafficking victims turn to the police because they fear deportation. They continue to fear the police like in their former home country;
  • The police and authorities don’t actively seek to curtail human trafficking;
  • The powers granted to the Regional State Administrative Agencies (AVI) is negligibly coupled with a shortage of staff;
  • Interior ministry has shown little interest in the problem;
  • Few police resources allocated to fighting human trafficking;
  • Some police play down the problem because they are suspicion of asylum seekers and their motives;
  • The police justify their inaction by stating that even if a person was underpaid, it is more money than he ever made in his home country;
  • Victim Support (Riku) said in a statement that laws to protect human trafficking victims are inadequate in Finland. The victim usually ends up holding the short end of the stick.

So what does the inadequate tratement of human trafficking expose?

It tells us that the police are not only ill-equipped to serve Finland’s ever-growing culturally diverse community, but many continue to allow prejudice, racist attitudes, and structural racism to continue.