Commemorating the Victims of Slavery

A Silent Crime Still In Our Midst

December the 2nd was the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, a day which is commemorated in all countries over the globe. For most people in the developed world the word “slavery” itself brings up images of times past. Yet slave markets are not gone, they have merely changed shape.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) more than 40 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery. In addition to that, an estimated 150 million children are forced into child labour. The most common forms of modern slavery are forced labour and forced marriage, which also may take forms of forced labour and sexual exploitation and child abuse. Women and children are more vulnerable to be affected by modern slavery than men; 99% in sex industry being women and children and 58% in other forced labour.

Major forces enabling modern slavery are poverty and inequality. One form of modern slavery is debt bondage, where a person is forced to work – often in dismal conditions which do not meet the requirements of labour laws – to repay a debt which is is often further manipulated by the debtor to get larger over time. Debt bondage is also linked to child labour, sexual exploitation and trafficking of children and human trafficking.

Modern slavery is strife everywhere across the globe. The forms and visibility of the phenomena vary amongst regions but no country can boast being free of it. What is common everywhere is that slavery is a hidden crime that affects the most vulnerable people who cannot easily seek help.

In Europe many of those in forced labour or working in conditions equal to slavery are often migrants. They can be from third countries – that is countries outside EU and the Shengen union – or EU-citizens, sometimes even citizens of the same country. Most have overstayed their legal permits or arrived via irregular means but not all. Slavery and forced labour go hand in hand with poverty and the breakdown of general labour conditions.

In Finland forced labour is very much a hidden phenomena. Here it is estimated to touch mostly migrants. As elsewhere, most at risk are undocumented migrants who have less access to official services and regular work. Most of them are from within EU and have overstayed their legal permit.

A relatively new group are those undocumented who have originally come as asylum seekers and cannot return, yet are not granted any kind of permission to stay. Before the year 2016 this group virtually did not exist in Finland. All persons who were not given a residence permit yet were unable to be deported were given a temporary residence permit which legalised their status and kept them within reach of official systems and monitoring. This in turn reduced the risk for them falling victim to forced labour.

To combat the problem of modern slavery it is important to have in place systems that monitor workplaces and act upon reports of incidents of suspected forced labour, whichever form it takes. The punishments for using forced labour and being involved in human trafficking need to be severe enough for that to act as a deterrent. At the moment the monetary gain for shady companies and operators out-weights the cost of possibly being caught.

Just as important, however, is to guarantee that the victims of the crime – the people forced or tricked into modern slavery – are not punished. Why modern slavery remains a hidden crime is that its victims fear repercussions both form their employers and the state – deportation being one of them, which in turn may lead to a life threatening circumstances to the victim and her or his whole family. Systematic protection for victims of human trafficking and forced labour needs to be in place.

Finland still has much to improve on both accounts. Criminal charges for using forced labour are rare and use of illegal work force is most often considered as a tax offence even when there are clear implications pointing to more severe possibilities. Punishment of perpetrators remains rather slack compared to the gain. And, which is most troubling, Finland has deported victims of human trafficking back to the area where they will most certainly fall victim of the crime again, in practice handing the victims back to their abusers. It seems that Finland does not have the systems to recognise or combat the crime of slavery.

What can an average citizen do about this? Apart from ethical shopping, which most of us are already aware of, we all can demand politicians – who are ultimately responsible of creating us the safe society we need – to take the responsibility. We can educate ourselves and then use this information to educate them. We can demand action, on behalf of those who are afraid to raise their voices.



ILO on forced labour:–en/index.htm

ILO Standards on Forced labour. The new standards at a glance:

UN Abolition of Slavery facts and figures:

Human trafficking in Finland:

Newspaper Article: Human Trafficking in Finland in Record Numbers Last Year

Article: Nigerian Mothers Escaping Human trafficking to Finland returned Back to Italy into Sex Work

Finland’s Anti-Discrimination Ombudsman’s report and recommendations in the case of deporting Nigerian victims of human trafficking back to Nigeria and /or to Italy

We Are a Welcoming Europe

Our values are at risk: Let’s reclaim a welcoming Europe

Since our governments are struggling to handle migration, we – European citizens, students, volunteers, families, unions and communities of faith from all walks of life – have stepped in to help.

But our right to help is being criminalised as Europeans are being arrested, fined and intimidated for simply offering humanitarian assistance to people fleeing persecution.

This is not the Europe that we want. Together we can reclaim those acts for what they are: reflecting our European and human values of community, compassion and kindness.

Join us and sign the ECI petition!

in collaboration

Citizens For Refugees Finland Association


Peer Counselling Garage – meetings for volunteer counsellors have started

Peer Counselling Garage – meetings for volunteer counsellors have started

After the earlier three planning meetings Citizens for Refugees Finland has started workshop meetings for volunteer counsellors working with refugees, going under the name Vertaisvarikko – Peer Counselling Garage. These meetings are arranged in collaboration with Tutu ry – Support for Asylum Seekers and

Kotimajoitusverkosto – Private Accommodation Network.

The first Peer Counselling Carage meeting was held in Saturday, March 17th in Pasila in Tutu and Homestay network’s premises. Taking part in the meeting on the spot were approx. 30 volunteer counsellors and over the aether a couple dozen more in cities of Turku, Jyväskylä and Joensuu.

Our advisors in the meeting were long term active volunteers. The themes broached circled around acting as a volunteer counsellor for an asylum seeker from many different viewpoints – mainly focusing on the aspect of assisting the legal advisor working on the asylum process. We also spoke about the roles and the actions of the authorities and officials connected with this process and how to deal with these officials in question.

Cfrf is already planning future meetings and workshops together with our associate networks. We would be delighted to hear ideas of subjects to be broached and questions to be tackled in following meetings, both from those who have already attended and who would be interested in attending the Peer Counselling Garage in the future.


A petition to Iraq

A petition to Iraq


To His Excellency the Honorable Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq in Finland, Dr. Moulath D. Safti


We are Citizens for Refugees Finland. We are an organisation working to help asylum seekers in Finland.

As is known to your Excellency, many Iraqi asylum seekers arrived Finland during the summer and fall of the year 2015.

Some of these Iraqi nationals have lost their travel documents, such as passports,during their journey for refuge. Now some of these Iraqis have had their asylum application rejected. They have come to remain in Finland without valid documentation, either from Finland or Iraq.

There are nearly 200 Iraqi people, including families with small children, who have become undocumented and thus vulnerable for exploitation by individuals with ill will.

After having tried all possible avenues in Finland only the help of the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq, the mother country of these people, remains to provide a solution to their plight.

To be able to legalize their status and to apply for a residence permit in Finland on the bases of work or study these people need a passport. Many of them have already found suitable work but cannot pursue further with this goal only for the lack of a passport. This situation alone puts them into a grave danger of exploitation.

We wish Your Excellency would be willing to consider our proposal to help these Iraqi nationals. As to be able to legalise their status in Finland by the means of a residence permit based on work or study they need the possibility of obtaining a passport in Finland.

As your Excellency is aware, Iraqi passports can only be currently obtained for Iraqis from the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in Sweden.

It is impossible for undocumented people to travel to Sweden from Finland since they do not have valid travel documents.This situation may give raise to the possibility that these Iraqi nationals be exploited by criminals or themselves detained by border authorities.

We most respectfully ask Your Excellency to take these exeptional circumstances into consideration and agree to the possibility of receiving the applications and the digital and biometric information needed to apply for an Iraqi passport through the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in Finland.

With our sincere gratitude…

Jukka Erakare                                                                        Sunniva Drake

Citizens for Refugees Finland visits “Migration to Europe” conference in The Hague – PART I

Citizens for Refugees Finland visits “Migration to Europe” conference in The Hague – PART I

On Friday November 3rd, the JASON institute organized a conference on ‘”Migration to Europe” in The Hague, Netherlands. The day opened with two keynote speakers presenting their take on the current developments in migration, and on the EU-Turkey deal with its takeaways. After the speeches the participants could follow workshops provided by representatives from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Security and Justice, Clingendael, University of Amsterdam, Leiden University and a journalist. Finally, to put all the learning into practice, the day ended with a simulation game, in which participants were representing states and negotiated a deal with other states to settle the migration issue. A member representing CFRF joined the conference and now shares some of the highlights and key messages from the day in three consecutive posts.

The day began with two interesting key note speeches, the first one on human smuggling industry in Africa and evaluation of the consequences of EU’s policies in the region, and second one focusing on the key takeaways from the EU-Turkey migration deal signed in 2016.

The first speaker, Ms. Fransje Molenaar, a research fellow at the Clingendael Institute broadly introduced the migration “crisis”, focusing on highlighting the problems migrants face on their route through Libya to Europe and how do EU policies affect migration and its root causes. Ms. Molenaar provided many valuable critical points of view and research findings  on three main EU approaches to controlling migration: development aid, policing and criminalization.

First,  EU has increased its development efforts in countries like Niger and Chad, the origin countries from where people migrate to Europe through Libya. EU’s expectation clearly is that poverty eradication can stop migration. However, research findings indicate this assumption is not correct. Investing in development is only more likely to increase migration in the long-term as better income tends to mobilize people, whereas poverty passivates people. In this respect, it shows politicians’ disregard to migration research as they keep using this rhetoric of development aid as the answer to migration. What could work, however, is to direct more efforts in conflict resolution in origin countries currently suffering from wars, for example in Syria, or putting in place institutions preventing conflicts. However, despite this rhetoric being used from time to time, there is considerably less action taken in this domain.

Second, the EU is aiming to implement better policing in order to stop migration. For example, EU is training police forces in Agadez, Niger, to stop human smuggling. This has been very successful in stopping migration on certain routes up to 70%. However, migration tends to follow a “waterbed effect”, which means the smugglers choose another route. Although this seems like an effective strategy by the numbers, it is not a sustainable strategy as migration as a phenomenon as common as eating will find its way. Furthermore, it leads to other worrisome developments, which are further exacerbated by criminalization of migration.

Third,  both the public discourses as well as implemented policies indeed criminalize migration. This is problematic on multiple accounts; The news, for example, constantly use rhetoric of human smugglers as criminals. This is oversimplifies the issue. In reality, the “migration business” is simply a low entry industry and covers all sorts of different activities. For example, there are people now whose livelihoods depend on selling water to the migrants. Therefore, arresting everyone in the belief that it solves the issue does not bring justice to the complexity of the phenomenon. Another problem of criminalization of migration is that it comes with inherent control mechanisms, such as detention centers, which tend to increase actual crimes such as forced labor or prostitution, which has been a growing problem in Libya, for instance.

What is most striking about criminalization of migration is that it has created a control system that forces those people who never intended to migrate to EU, to  actually do so, just to escape the system. Furthermore, the current debate lacks nuance, which can be a direct consequence of the prevailing criminalizing discourse; with such heavy focus on the threats and risks, there is very little room for the opportunities migration could create that could benefit both origin as well as destination countries. All this wastes time, resources, and unfortunately, human lives. The debate should no longer be about “stopping” migration or “closing the borders”, simply because it is not realistic. The real focus, according to ms. Molenaar, should be in directing migration in a controlled and sustainable way. As long as Europeans continue to vote for their right-wing anti-immigration parties, this transition is unlikely to happen anytime soon. The key takeaway from this speech was the encouragement it gave for the civil society to keep on showing the human consequences of these policies to the public, because this is the strongest counter to the prevailing narrative and related inhumane policies.

To be continued next week focusing on the highlights from the second key note speaker and the EU-Turkey migration deal.

Disclaimer: The article was written based on notes made during the conference, any errors of interpretation are our own.



We are pleased to launch our association’s website and post our very first article to our blog. On these webpages you can  easily find information about who we are and what we aim to do.

In the About us section you can find more information about our mission as well as history of the association. In our Projects section you can read the up-to-date information on our past and ongoing projects. We want to be transparent about our aspirations and objectives and hope you also check the volunteering opportunities in the Get Involved section. We wholeheartedly welcome new volunteers on an ongoing basis. We have a chance now to underwrite history for Finland we and future generations can be proud of.

In this blog we will share articles regarding asylum and refugee related phenomena both in Finland as well as internationally. We live in an interconnected world and we cannot only approach these issues on a national level. Many issues in migration, its challenges and opportunities, are highly contested, which is why disseminating information that has been validated by proper (peer-reviewed) research becomes crucial. We believe that in times of disinformation and fake news, quality research and articles have the power to sort out facts from mere opinions. When we talk about asylum seekers and refugees, must be noted that we often talk about matters of life and death. We encourage policy makers and the media to approach the topic with the integrity and seriousness it deserves instead of making hasty conclusions.

 Citizens for Refugees Finland team hopes you find our blog and articles informative and you will stay tuned as we monitor the field, advocate for refugee rights and unite people to tackle challenges together.