Increase in people trafficking to Estonia

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In 2019, there has been an increase in people trafficking to Estonia and to coinciding with the EU Anti-Trafficking Day, a round table discussion will be held by the Ministry of Justice to combat the crime on Friday.
The Social Insurance Agency said there has been an increase in people trafficked to Estonia in the last year. So far 496 people have called the department’s trafficking helpline (660 7320). Of these, 76 are suspected of being exploited. For the whole of 2018, 433 people called the hotline.

This year the Social Insurance Agency has officially identified 36 foreign victims of human trafficking, which is three times more than last year’s total.

Apart from one person, everyone else was a victim of sexual abuse.

“Until a few years ago, trafficking of human beings in Estonia was primarily a problem for the Estonian people themselves – they were exploited both domestically and in more prosperous Western countries,” said Sirle Blumberg, head of human trafficking counseling service at the Social Insurance Agency.

“Unfortunately today we have reached the point where people from third-countries are being exploited in Estonia. We have become a destination country for human trafficking,” she said.

Trafficking in human beings involves placing a person in a situation where he or she is forced to marry, work under unusual circumstances, engage in prostitution, begging, committing a criminal offense, or perform some other obligation.

Trafficking in human beings is also the case when a person is held in such situations, deprived of his or her liberty, harmed, threatened, and is dependent on and by exploited position.

Many of the victims have come from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova and other countries and arrive in Estonia in an economically or socially vulnerable situation.

“Work-related exploitation is also a concern. The local labor market, particularly the construction, cleaning and industrial sectors, hides many victims of human trafficking. There have also been cases in catering businesses, although there are no criminal cases yet,” said Blumberg.

“Finding them on time and helping them when needed is the key to preventing human trafficking,” she added.

On Friday, the European Day for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, the European Crime Prevention Network (EUCPN) is organizing, together with Estonia and other European countries, a campaign to inform people who have been trafficked that the European Union protects them and stands up for their rights.

At the invitation of the Ministry of Justice, a round table of the Anti-Trafficking Network is being held today.

Representatives from various government agencies, agencies and civic associations will discuss the services offered today for victims of human trafficking in Estonia. It also introduces new guidance material that provides guidance to the media and harmonises terms on trafficking.

Anu Leps, advisor to the Department of Criminal Policy, at the Ministry of Justice, said Estonia is taking part in the campaign because it wants to reach new people and raise the level of awareness of human trafficking. The aim is to reduce suffering and help people use the services available.

Head of victim support policy at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Kristiina Luht, said it was important that everyone who needs help can receive it.

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