Madam/Mister Chairperson, dear colleagues,

I would like to start by congratulating Mr. Coaker for his important work on one of the most disturbing subjects concerning mostly refugees and migrants. Human trafficking and smuggling are complex and multidimensional problems that require transnational prevention methods.

Unfortunately, also Finland is a destination and transit country for human traffickers. We have had several cases since 2004 when human trafficking was criminalized, the latest involving Nepalese restaurants, where a number of employees (even relatives to the owner) were brought to Finland to work and live in very bad conditions.

The unclear status of immigrants, refugees and undocumented migrants makes them vulnerable to exploitation, forcing them to work under poor or even cruel conditions, sometimes without pay. This is hard to detect. Fear of deportation stops many undocumented migrants from contacting the authorities. To improve the situation, we need to improve monitoring, legislation and ensure availability of and access to information in multiple languages both for victims and for employees.

Corporate responsibility is a key tool in stopping the exploitation of people. A responsible company does not abuse people and makes sure to control the quality also of its subcontractors. National legislation on corporate responsibility should include actions to combat human trafficking throughout the contracting chain.

Human trafficking and especially sexual exploitation are heavily gendered: more than two thirds of all victims are women. I was personally touched by the story of Nakout, a mother of three from Uganda. She fled to Finland via Greece and received a residency in Finland after being a victim of human trafficking and sex slavery for more than 10 years. She has not seen her children in 15 years, but hope for a reunion is still strong.

Family reunification should be possible in situations where it supports the recovery of the victim and is in the best interest of the child. Nakout’s story shows that people can be saved from human trafficking in a safe environment and with sufficient support. Experiences of human trafficking, the risk of re-victimization and the circumstances in which a child will grow up, should all consistently be considered when treating asylum applications.