The ombudsman for minorities in Finland has called for an investigation into possible links between Bulgarian Roma beggars and people trafficking. According to Eva Biaudet, there have been reports of beggars giving money to wealthy men wearing suits and driving expensive cars, in what she believes is a clear indication of human trafficking.
People living near the service centre in Sörnäinen apparently told Swedish-language newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet that they have seen cars with foreign number plates in the area and Roma women giving money to well-dressed men. “When men in BMWs start showing up, my alarm bells start ringing”, Biaudet said.
However, Pekka Tuomola, the director of the centre, said the women are simply repaying the men for bringing them to Finland. “There is nothing new about this. The women are paying the men for a trip bought from Romania, because they cannot afford to pay it in Romania”, said Tuomola.
Biaudet responded by saying that such arrangements have the hallmarks of trafficking. “Trafficking in humans often involves big debts. If a person has to beg from morning to evening in order to pay off a debt under intimidation, then the situation is pretty bad. Naturally not all begging involves trafficking in humans, and not all of the people are victims. However, there are clear indications of trafficking in humans here.”
“It might be hard for a possible victim to be the first to work with police. Therefore, civic organisations should create trusting relationships with the victims so that information might be passed on,” she added.