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Cablegate: Finland Moves to Implement National Action Plan

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 HELSINKI 001277

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR G/TIP AND EUR/NB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL PGOV SMIG SOCI FI
SUBJECT: FINLAND MOVES TO IMPLEMENT NATIONAL ACTION PLAN
AGAINST TIP


1. (U) Summary: Finland is in the process of implementing
its new National Action Plan. Each ministry and agency has
created an internal implementation strategy. An interagency
working group will monitor and report results. Police and
prosecutors are investigating several cases, but suffer from
a lack of experience with "transit" cases and will benefit
greatly from additional training; a VOLVIS program for state
prosecutors would be effective. The Frontier Guard is
increasingly concerned about Asian crime organizations and
will post a permanent liaison officer in Beijing. TIP
victims will be sheltered in existing refugee reception
centers and a bill now in Parliament to grant temporary
residency is expected to pass. MFA and Frontier Guard
officials are training Finnish consular officers in Russia
and Ukraine on victim identification and follow-through.
Better communication is needed between the GoF and NGOs, many
of which are unaware of recent steps the Government has taken
to implement the National Action Plan. On prevention,
Finland continues to work through multilateral fora and
provide assistance for projects in the Baltic countries,
Russia, Ukraine, and Moldava. End Summary.

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Finland's Interagency Working Group
-----------------------------------
2. (U) The visit of G/TIP's analyst for the Nordic-Baltic
region in November provided an ideal opportunity to canvass
the GoF about TIP. Finland has formed a capable interagency
TIP working group responsible for implementing the National
Action Plan (NAP) under the direction of Mervi Virtanen,
Director of International Affairs at the Labor Ministry, and
Tuomo Kurri, Director of Immigration at the Interior
Ministry. Virtanen told Poloffs and G/TIP analyst that every
government agency with equity in combating TIP has now
developed a "plan within a plan" to carry out the NAP's
recommendations. The working group will meet periodically to
monitor progress and report results to the Government. The
Labor Ministry's own internal plan concentrates on victim
protection. TIP victims will be sheltered in MoL-run asylum
and refugee reception centers. This decision was pragmatic;
only the MoL has the necessary resources and existing
facilities to provide immediate shelter to victims. A
sub-group within the ministry was formed to draft definitive
victim identification and protection protocols for the entire
government. Virtanen also said that combating labor
trafficking will receive new emphasis. The incidence of
labor trafficking in Finland is unknown, but the GoF believes
some smuggled workers in the construction industry could be
exploited after arrival in Finland. A trade union
representative has been added to the working group to inform
deliberations.

3. (U) Finland plans to amend its Aliens Act to allow TIP
victims to remain inside the country. As a matter of policy,
Finland stopped deporting suspected TIP victims in 2004. A
draft amendment submitted to Parliament in September seeks to
create a special temporary residency category for TIP victims
enabling them to remain in Finland for an extended period and
receive health, education, and employment benefits available
to legal permanent residents. Victims would also be eligible
to apply to adjust their status and remain permanently in
Finland. Kurri said that the Interior Ministry's internal
plan focuses on finalizing the amendment in early 2006; a
series of seminars aimed at familiarizing relevant GoF
agencies and offices on these and other changes will follow.
Kurri himself is a candidate for a 2006 International Visitor
program on trafficking.


Prosecution
-----------
4. (SBU) Finnish authorities have detected a shift in
transnational crime routes in the Nordic-Baltic region. The
Criminal Intelligence Division of Finland's National Bureau
of Investigation (NBI) told Poloffs and G/TIP that Estonian
organized crime syndicates are still the major source for
drugs smuggled into Finland, but human smuggling,
trafficking, and prostitution from Estonia to Finland has
declined dramatically. Russian and--increasingly--Asian
crime syndicates are believed to be responsible for TIP
victims trafficked through Finland. As part of its response,
the NBI is in the process of implementing its own anti-TIP
action plan within the broader framework of the NAP. The NBI
plan has four components: operations; awareness training and
instruction; formation of a special anti-TIP unit; and
increased cooperation with NGOs regarding protective
services. Finnish liaison officers with anti-trafficking
responsibility are now stationed in Murmansk, Petrozavorsk,
St. Petersburg and Moscow in Russia, in Tallinn, in the
Hague, in Lyon, and in Malaga (Spain). A Frontier Guard
liaison officer will be sent to Beijing in January 2006 given
the increase in smuggling and trafficking from China.
Additionally, Finland participates in the "Nordic Cooperation
Network," a network of Finnish, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian,
and Icelandic law enforcement liaison officers sprinkled
throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle-East.

5. (U) The Frontier Guard is on the front-line of Finland's
fight against TIP and has been especially active. Since
April, approximately 200 Frontier Guards have cycled through
a victim-identification training course; plans call for more
than 1,000 Guards to complete the course by the end of 2006.
Major Ilkka Herranen, a 2005 TIP International Visitor
program participant, has emerged as one of the leading voices
in the GoF on TIP. The Guard is increasingly concerned about
Asian gangs using Helsinki's Vantaa airport as a "gateway"
into the Schengen region given the expansion of air routes
between Finland and Asian cities like Shanghai and Bangkok.


6. (SBU) The NBI advised us that subsequent to the NAP's
adoption earlier this year, three cases of
trafficking-in-persons and one case of aggravated
trafficking-in-persons have been investigated (please
protect); not all of these cases have been made public as
investigations are ongoing. Due to the difficulty of
prosecuting transit-TIP cases, some of the perpetrators were
ultimately prosecuted (successfully) for pimping and other
related offenses rather than trafficking. NBI officials
admitted disappointment that these cases did not result in
actual trafficking convictions; however, they stressed that
they were more concerned about stopping the traffickers and
breaking up the rings then about the actual statute under
which that the criminals were finally convicted.

7. (SBU) While the NBI and the Frontier Guard are out in
front in the implementation of their portions of the NAP, the
Prosecutor-General's Office is still in the early stages of
implementing its own internal action plan. A training
seminar for state prosecutors is scheduled for mid-December
in Tampere regarding effective use of new legislation making
trafficking a separate criminal offense. Echoing the
comments of law enforcement officers, prosecutors told
Poloffs that although there is real will to go after
traffickers using the new law, it has proved difficult so
far. Transit-trafficking cases are difficult to prove since
the victims are intercepted in "mid-stream" and have not
reached their final destination. The Finnish officials said
that prosecutors did not yet have adequate training or
experience to make trafficking charges stick in such cases,
so they fell back on related offenses in order to obtain
convictions and break up the rings. However, the Finns are
optimistic that additional training opportunities will enable
them to better use the new law.

8. (SBU) Comment: Finnish law enforcement and
prosecutorial officials are clearly committed to and
enthusiastic about going after traffickers. Just as clearly,
however, they lack the necessary experience to do so as
effectively as possible. While traffickers are being
investigated and prosecuted, police and prosecutors have been
unable to use all the legal tools at their disposal. The
Embassy in 2004 facilitated a VOLVIS program for Finnish
officials from the MFA, MoJ, Parliament, Lutheran Church, and
NGOs; participants subsequently played important roles in
crafting the National Action Plan. Poloffs raised the
possibility of facilitating a similar VOLVIS for prosecutors
in the spring of 2006, to which the Finns responded
enthusiastically. The Prosecutor-General's Office would
ideally like to have a lead prosecutor from each of the
country's four largest judicial districts participate in a
program aimed at putting the Finns together with American
counterparts. Our Public Affairs Section is following up on
the project.


Protection
----------
9. (U) Under Finland's National Action Plan, the GoF is
rapidly upgrading the facilities and protection environment
offered to suspected trafficking victims. Most victims are
taken to MoL-operated reception centers for refugees and
asylum seekers located throughout the country. Finland's
anti-TIP working group is now in the process of identifying
several centers that will become "dedicated" TIP shelters and
receive additional TIP-specific resources. The system has a
capacity for 2,539 persons country-wide, and operates at any
point in time at 60%-80% capacity. The reception centers are
open (residents can come and go), but visitors are screened
by officials and not allowed to contact residents without
their express consent. Residents are segregated by sex,
although "family rooms" are also available. Residents
receive legal counseling, medical and psychological services,
and monthly stipends. There are also several smaller,
"closed" reception centers with greater security for persons
deemed at-risk. TIP victims who feared for their safety or
who were testifying against traffickers might be sheltered in
these facilities.

10. (U) Poloffs and G/TIP analyst visited a reception
center in East Helsinki. The 40-bed facility had separate
accommodations for minors and adults. The center's
professional staff told Poloffs that they were unsure how
many trafficking victims to expect in the wake of the NAP's
adoption, but were prepared to assist victims to the best of
their ability. Several women believed to have been involved
in prostitution or trafficking situations have already stayed
at the center, although officials declined to elaborate on
individual cases for privacy concerns; the center's staff
emphasized that they treated all residents alike regardless
of their circumstances (asylees, TIP victims, smuggled
persons, etc.), and did not press them for details if they
were uncomfortable discussing them. TIP victims were not
openly identified as such so that no stigmatization would
occur. The facility's resident psychiatrist said that
medical and counseling services were provided for women that
had been sexually traumatized and abused, but that additional
training for staff was needed. The staff also commented that
it was often difficult to keep track of residents since the
center is "open." Residents sometimes simply leave and
disappear into Helsinki, a phenomenon that worries Finnish
law enforcement officials.

11. (U) Comment: The GoF's network of reception centers is
impressive. The pragmatic decision to employ existing
facilities makes sense, particularly in the absence of
sufficient private shelters. The centers' "open" nature
remains problematic, however. Finnish officials are at pains
to de-emphasize the "institutional" nature of the shelters
and to not treat residents like detainees or prisoners. This
might place certain residents, including trafficking victims,
at greater risk. The Interior Ministry has already noted
that at least some smugglers seem to have gamed the system
and used the shelters to facilitate the transit of illegal
migrants. Shelter officials do believe that as the NAP
progresses and training programs are implemented, they and
law enforcement will be empowered to share information more
efficiently, thereby improving protection for victims while
mitigating some of the unintended negative consequences of
the shelters' open nature.


Prevention
----------
12. (U) Finland's prevention efforts are directed toward
intervention in source countries. Identifying potential
victims and providing education and economic opportunities so
that at-risk groups have a way out is at the heart of the
GoF's strategy. The MFA's Human Rights Unit noted that
Finland's plans for its second-term 2006 EU Presidency
include making TIP an area of special focus. The GoF plans
to host a major EU conference during the fall as part of a
series of "rotating" seminars throughout the Nordic-Baltic
region. The GoF is also increasing its funding of regional
anti-TIP programs, usually through multilateral fora like the
Council of Baltic Sea-States and the Barents Euro-Arctic
Council. Finland currently funds prevention projects in
Finnish Lapland, Russia, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, and
Moldava. The Social Affairs Ministry funds domestic
prevention programs aimed at demand reduction and education
in several major cities and in Karelia along the Russian
border.

13. (SBU) Naturally, much of Finland's prevention effort
must be focused on Russia. Finnish consular officers there
face a difficult task given the close geographic proximity of
St. Petersburg to the Finnish border. Russian applicants
with relatively modest resources may still credibly claim
they intend to make a short, inexpensive visit to Finland for
shopping or to visit friends. This makes adjudication
tricky. In response, the MFA has designed a training program
to teach Finnish officers how to better screen applicants to
detect possible trafficking situations as well as how to
follow up beyond simple refusals when trafficking is
suspected. Hilkka Nenonen, Director for Consular Training at
the MFA, also told us that the first training seminar had
been held in St. Petersburg in early November.

14. (SBU) Clearly, various GoF agencies are heavily focused
on implementing the NAP. If there is a weak spot in their
efforts, however, that may be in the area of GoF-NGO
communication. At an Embassy-organized roundtable for NGOs
operating both inside Finland and abroad, we were surprised
to learn that many were unaware of important recent steps the
Government has taken to implement the NAP. Several NGOs
expressed frustration with what they perceived as the slow
pace of NAP implementation, and Poloffs and G/TIP analyst --
who had just made the rounds of GoF officials -- found
themselves in the position of having to provide updates in
many areas, such as how many Frontier Guards had already
received victim-identification training. In addition, the
International Organization for Migration (IOM) advised that
the lack of any definitive study about the scope and
incidence of TIP in Finland remains a problem. IOM is
attempting to find funding to carry out such a survey.
(Note: IOM has submitted a proposal to the GoF to assist with
law enforcement training and we understand the Frontier Guard
is leaning toward accepting the proposal). The Embassy has
informed its GoF interlocutors of the need to keep NGOs fully
informed and improvements in this area are expected.

15. (SBU) Comment: Finland faces many obstacles in
addressing prevention in countries like Russia and Ukraine,
but is clearly committed to working through regional
multilateral fora to do all it can. Political pressure from
Moscow to keep visa refusals low exacerbates the already
difficult job of Finland's consular officers. The MFA's
proactive training initiative is a welcome complement to its
generous external assistance program. NGO representatives
participated in the process of drafting the National Action
Plan, but communication between NGOs and the GoF, and among
the NGOs themselves, needs improvement. Most NGO
representatives were unaware of efforts already underway to
implement the NAP's recommendations, including a widespread
mistaken belief that police and Frontier Guard officials had
yet to begin planned training seminars on victim
identification and assistance measures. We passed this along
to the chair of the GoF's working group along with a
suggestion that additional outreach to the NGOs might be
effective.
HYATT

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