The cover of the guidelines Credit: IOM
The cover of the guidelines Credit: IOM

After a survey highlighting that healthcare operators and social workers have a hard time identifying human trafficking victims, the Finnish office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has recently published a document with a number of practical guidelines to identify those being trafficked.

''Health and social workers are in a key position to identify victims of trafficking, but they seldom have had sufficient training on how to do so'', the UN agency said in a statement.''The new guidelines are meant to be a practical tool to help individuals recognize the signs that a person might be a victim, and how to proceed. Many victims of trafficking are deeply traumatized; therefore, professionals need to know how to handle clients who have been through such experiences''. IOM said cases reported in Finland included victims of human trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced marriage.

 Last year, ''127 cases were referred to the National Assistance System for Victims of Trafficking, but the actual number is thought to be higher. As in other countries, trafficking is a crime in Finland that is often not identified correctly'' by authorities also because victims don't report them due to shame or the fear of negative repercussions. Document highlights factors of the phenomenon ''Sometimes the professionals will have to give very hands-on assistance to the victim in getting help'', stressed Jaana Sipilae, coordinator of projects against human trafficking for the IOM office in Finland. ''Many might have a lowered capability to function, and are unable to take initiative themselves''.

 The document was drafted by a group of experts and will be promoted in the spring across the country. This guide ''is an excellent tool for all professionals'', said Finnish Interior Minister Paula Risikko. ''It is concise and clear, very easy to read. It clearly states the problem and the solutions for those who might never have encountered a victim of trafficking before in their work''. The guidelines highlight the different factors to be considered as possible signs of abuse, such as chronic illness and psychological trauma, health problems in general and evident signs of abuse including difficulties in school. 

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