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The fight against human trafficking requires cross-administrative cooperation

I have been a police officer for over 20 years and I have served as a senior investigator for nearly ten years. As a criminal investigator, I have investigated all types of crimes. Most of my time as a senior investigator was spent on investigating serious crimes, mainly sexual crimes as well as violent and sexual offences against children. I also investigated human trafficking offences in the course of my preliminary investigations, but only rarely.

In December 2018, I was transferred to the Ministry of the Interior to serve as a chief superintendent, where my task was to act as an expert in crimes against children and women. Later on, my responsibilities were expanded to include human trafficking matters. This opened a new and interesting chapter in my career. I have not yet become fully acquainted with the field, but I have noticed how broad the level of expertise is in Finland, both in our ministries as well as in our other authorities and organisations. Since the beginning, our cooperation with the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings has been of primary importance.

At the level of the Finnish Government, I have noticed the importance of protecting the rights of human trafficking victims and how vital it is that we support their recovery. Of course, I was already aware of the importance of these in my work as a police officer, but the way that the police usually think is more focused on perpetrators: “Let’s catch the crook.” 

However, the police officers who have investigated crimes against children and sexual offences learn to meet victims and understand the importance of multi-authority cooperation in a broader sense. When investigating crimes against children, it is important to consider that every part of the process should focus on the child’s best interests. Cooperation with social welfare authorities is of paramount importance. From the initiation of the preliminary investigative process, the investigation must be managed well and it should involve various types of experts, such as social welfare and healthcare authorities, prosecutors, and forensic psychiatrists who specialise in matters related to children and adolescents. When the authorities are able to work together, the child and their family will receive the best possible assistance.

Many of these same needs can be seen in the preliminary investigations that concern human trafficking offences. The phenomena behind human trafficking offences should be investigated and then revealed. The police can carry out the preliminary investigation, but this is not enough. The victims of human trafficking need support, and it will take time for them to recover. The fight against human trafficking requires cross-administrative cooperation, and it cannot be won by any single party acting alone; rather, the best results are achieved when different actors from various fields work together. This type of cooperation deserves more emphasis.