The PAHT team have just returned from a one day study visit to Helsinki with a small group of parliamentarians from across Europe dedicated to fighting human trafficking.
The PAHT project aims to develop a European network of parliamentarians working to combat human trafficking in order to promote and develop cross-border cooperation and mutual understanding. The project, which is principally funded by the European Commission, with further funding support from the Tudor Trust, is led by ECPAT UK, with key partners the Human Trafficking Foundation and the Asociatia High Level Group for Children (Romania).
Participating in the visit were Robert Biedron MP (Poland), Michael Connarty MP (UK), Dragutin Mate MP (Slovenia), David McIlveen MLA (Northern Ireland, Ruta Ragliauskiene (Parliament of Lithuania), together with Chairman of the Human Trafficking Foundation Anthony Steen and project staff Stana Buchowska and Emma Makey.
The visit started with a meeting in the Finnish Parliament, the Eduskunta, with parliamentary members of the Human Rights Committee. Chaired by Ilkka Kantola MP, Finnish MPs shared their knowledge and experience of working on legislation relating to trafficking and described their relationship with the National Rapporteur. Mr Kantola was joined by several colleagues including Anna Kontola MP, a specialist on sex trafficking in Finland.
Participants then travelled to the Helsinki Police Headquarters where they met Inspector Timo Sundqvist, Mikko Sipila (District Prosecutor) and Natalia Ollus (European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control). The meeting looked at the work of law enforcement agencies in Finland in fighting trafficking, with Inspector Sundqvist detailing the police department’s approach to secure a conviction in a recent case involving the trafficking and pimping of a 16 year old Romanian girl.
Next, participants met with Eva Biaudet, Ombudsman for Minorities and National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings. Ms Biaudet explained that the Ombudsman sits within the Finnish Ministry of the Interior, presenting a report to the Parliament every 4 years (although not to the plenary session). She also described the challenges faced in Finland in enabling police to recognise the signs of trafficking.
The last meeting of the day was a roundtable discussion with representatives from key Finnish NGOs tackling trafficking – Pro Centre Finland, the Multicultural Women’s Association and Victim Support Finland. Jaana Kauppinen from Pro Centre described how the number of victims of trafficking in Finland are much greater than the numbers formally identified, with Russia, Thailand and Estonia being the main source countries.