Immigration Service to investigate suspicions of human trafficking among Somalis - 31 August 2010

Minister of Migration and European Affairs Astrid Thors (Swed. People’s Party) says that suspicions that the family unification procedure may be used for purposes of human trafficking should be investigated by the Finnish Immigration Service.

Suspicions have been raised by the sudden increase in the number of applications by Somali refugees in Finland for residence permits for foster children living in Somalia. "It is specifically the Immigration Service that can notice characteristics of human trafficking in these cases. If this proves to be true, the cases need to guide our assistance system”, Thors said. In Sunday’s edition of Helsingin Sanomat Thors called for action on the matter by Minority Ombudsman Eva Biaudet. On Monday Biaudet chimed in with Thors. "The Immigration Service handles each foster child case. Now we want to know how they have operated”, Biaudet said. The Minority Ombudsman is required to supervise actions taken against human trafficking. At the Immigration Service, Heikki Taskinen, the head of the immigration unit, was slightly surprised that the ball was tossed to them.

"We simply sort out those who come to Finland, and later supervision is for local officials, such as social welfare authorities and municipal authorities dealing with immigration.”

"Of course it is good to start from somewhere, but it is extremely rare that we would be in a key position in a situation in which a person is already in Finland.” Complicating the issue is that suspicions of abusing the system in the case of Somali foster children came from the Immigration Service.

"Information has filtered to us from various officials. For instance, there have been cases in which foster children do not end up moving to the address of the family.”

"There have only been a few such cases”, he added. On Monday, Taskinen did not have precise information on whether or not officials had been urged to contact police over suspicion of human trafficking in a single case. Minority Ombudsman Biaudet noted that the situation in Somalia is difficult.

"We must be careful not to associate family unification with human trafficking without real evidence (...)