Supported and safe voluntary return of trafficking victims

Trafficking victims staying in Finland have a statutory right to voluntary, supported and safe return to another country where they have the right to reside. In every case, the trafficking victim must make the decision on voluntary return based on free will. The purpose of the supported safe voluntary return is to help victims by ensuring that they will receive support in their efforts to begin a new life in human dignity in their destination country. The support will also help prevent the victim being re-trafficked.

The Assistance system or the victim’s municipality of residence will be responsible for supporting return

Trafficking victims who have been admitted to the Assistance system have the right to receive support for a safe voluntary return. Depending on the victim’s situation, the arrangements for voluntary return will be made by the Assistance system or the victim’s municipality of residence.

If the victim does not have a Finnish municipality of residence, the Assistance system will be responsible for arranging the voluntary return.

The practical part of the return is normally handled by the IOM (International Organization for Migration). You can read more about assisted voluntary return on IOM Finland’s website.

On the Finnish Immigration Service’s website you will find easy-to-read brochures on assisted voluntary return in several languages.

Support for voluntary return includes:

  • Help with travel arrangements
  • Help with obtaining any documents
  • Compensation for travel and relocation costs; and
  • Assistance paid to the returnee, either in cash or in goods and services

Trafficking victims may be entitled to an increased amount of return assistance. The support will include measures to guarantee that the return is safe, promotes the victim’s integration and prevents the victim’s re-victimisation.

Provisions on the support for voluntary return are given in section 31 of the Act on the reception of persons seeking international protection and on identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking (an English translation of the Act is currently not available), and in the Ministry of the Interior’s Decree on the support for voluntary return (currently not available in English).

If the victim has been admitted to the Assistance system and has a Finnish municipality of residence, the victim’s municipality will arrange the support for safe return.  Provisions on the support for return migration, compensation for travel and relocation costs and payment of return assistance are given in the Act on the promotion of immigrant integration (chapter 10, section 85).

Returning victims of human trafficking have the right to information on how the return will affect them

Trafficking victims who are thinking about returning to their home country or a country where they have the right to reside must be given all the information relevant to their return. You should talk with the victim about how safe their return will be and the reasons for their return, and talk through the options the victim has with regard to their residence and future. 

If a pre-trial investigation of an offence concerning the victim is underway in Finland, the victim must receive sufficient information about the effects of their decision to leave Finland and about how their rights will be protected during the criminal process.

In the light of the information collected during the pre-trial investigation, the pre-trial investigation authority can also, whenever possible, assess whether the victim’s safety may be at risk or whether the victim will be at risk of re-victimisation in the destination country. The Assistance system will be responsible for maintaining contact with the pre-trial investigation authorities and the victim’s legal aid counsel, in cooperation with the municipality of residence (if the victim has a municipality of residence).

Applying for safe voluntary return

The Assistance system and/or your home municipality will assist the victim in applying for a voluntary assisted return. Victims who are asylum seekers can receive advice from the Assistance system or from their reception centre on how to apply and in the matters relating to the return.

An application form is used for applying for a voluntary assisted return. Asylum seekers will submit the application form to Joutseno Reception Centre or the reception centre where the victim is registered. The reception centre will forward the application to the Helsinki office of the International Organization for Migration, which is responsible for providing the assisted voluntary return.

The Finnish Immigration Service is currently updating its more detailed guidelines for applying assisted voluntary return. To check the latest information on how to apply for the support and the amounts of assistance granted for the destination countries, visit the Finnish Immigration Service website.