Person with a foreign background as a victim of a crime
On this page, you can find information on the criminal procedure as well as instructions and advice for foreigners and persons with a foreign backgrounds who are victims of a crime and for their family and people close to them. The section is especially aimed for people who are unfamiliar with the operations of the Finnish authorities and the justice system. You can find more detailed information on different types of crime and on matters related to the criminal procedure elsewhere on Victim Support Finland RIKU’s website.
RIKU has a special support service for victims of human trafficking and similar forms of exploitation, which you can contact in any language if you suspect that you may have been a victim of human trafficking or other similar exploitation. Learn more: Human trafficking. Also see the help questions in our service brochure.
In Finland, the criminal procedure is the same for everyone, regardless of background, wealth, gender, sexual orientation, health or other personal factors. In Finland, there is a low level of corruption, and authorities, such as the police, must treat everyone equally. All victims of crime have the right to, for example, report a crime and, if necessary, access support services, protection and legal aid, such as an attorney, in the criminal procedure.
Victims speaking a language other than Finnish must have the opportunity to use a language that they know in all situations related to solving a crime. If necessary, the authorities must provide interpreting for the victim in a language that the victim knows. Being able to use a language in which the victim can freely express themselves is important, even where Finnish or Swedish would practically suffice. It is the responsibility of the authorities to find an interpreter for the victim, but the authorities should be notified beforehand if an interpreter is needed.
RIKU can provide you with practical advice and support through the criminal procedure. RIKU takes into account different circumstances, such as concerns related to residence permits. You can contact RIKU by using the contact request form. If you need an interpreter, it would be good to mention it already in the contact request.
Reporting a crime
You can report a crime at any police station. If you have Finnish online bank credentials for logging in, you can also report a crime electronically on the website of the Police of Finland. Police of Finland: Electronic services. You can receive advice and support for submitting a crime report from Victim Support Finland.
As a rule, the Police of Finland can only investigate crimes that take place in Finland. If the crime took place abroad or online, you can report the crime, but progress on the matter may be uncertain, as foreign perpetrators may be difficult to reach from Finland.
Being a victim of a crime or reporting a crime do not have an impact on residence permit-related matters on their own. However, you should note that if a family or employment relationship that forms the basis for your residence permit ends, it may influence your residence permit status.
The criminal procedure
The criminal procedure refers to the process that starts with reporting the crime. In its entirety, the criminal procedure consists of a preliminary investigation, consideration of charges, legal proceedings and sentencing. The purpose of the criminal procedure is to ascertain whether a crime has taken place and who has committed it, what kind of punishment will be given for the crime and whether the victim has the right to claim compensation.
More information about the criminal procedure is available, for example, in the brochure: Victim of a crime in the criminal procedure.
Using an attorney
In criminal proceedings handled in Finland, in accordance with the Finnish legislation, the victim of a crime has the right to use an attorney and to receive legal aid, regardless of the victim’s nationality or country of residence. Legal aid can be provided by a lawyer or an authorised attorney.
The possibility to receive legal aid by using state funding depends on the income level of the victim. Individuals with a low income level are often eligible to receiving legal aid with all or at least some of the expenses covered. Legal aid is not generally granted if the victim has legal aid insurance that can cover the expenses. Victims of a severe crime are eligible to receive an attorney with all the expenses covered, regardless of the victim’s income level. Such crimes include severe violent crimes, most sexual crimes, domestic violence that is more severe than mild in nature and human trafficking.
Victim Support Finland can help and give advice to the victim of a crime with regard to finding an attorney and assessing the costs.
Crimes targeting foreigners of persons with a foreign background
Foreign citizens or persons with a foreign background permanently residing in Finland may be targeted as victims of a crime just like anyone else. The starting point is that the law and the criminal procedure are the same for everyone. In practice, however, there are situations where the victim’s culture or ethnic background or, for instance, residence permit-related questions may play a role.
- Prejudiced or racist attitudes may lead to discrimination when seeking a job or an apartment, for example. The discrimination may constitute a criminal offense. In questions related to discrimination, you can turn to the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman. If a different type of crime, such as threats or violence, are motivated by racism, the crime may constitute a hate crime.
- Employment relationship-related confusion often arises especially when the employee does not know the terms used in Finland regarding work and remuneration. The employee may sometimes be the victim of a crime in these situations. Here, you can read about the different forms of labor exploitation or watch an animation on employee rights (available in multiple languages). If you suspect that you have been a victim of labor exploitation, you can contact Victim Support Finland’s service for victims of human trafficking and related crimes. If you want, you can contact us anonymously in your native language. If necessary, an interpreter is used in the service.
- Human trafficking refers to a situation where the person has been, through threats, scare tactics or by exploiting a precarious life situation, driven into a situation where they have no power over their own life choices. Human trafficking can take many forms, including work-related or sexual exploitation or coercion into criminal activities or into marriage. If you suspect that you have been a victim of human trafficking, you can contact Victim Support Finland’s service for victims of human trafficking and related crimes. If you want, you can contact us anonymously in your native language. If necessary, an interpreter is used in the service. The service also provides advice for victims of human trafficking or a similar form of exploitation in matters related to residence permits.
- Honor-related violence (also honor violence, community violence, honor-based violence, honor crime) refers to any form of violence that takes place within the family, extended family or community due to honor-related norms, for example, in a situation where a family member is considered to have dishonored their family in the eyes of the community through their behavior. In addition to physical violence, it may take the form of threats and blackmailing, coercion, isolation, limitation of movement and controlling of everyday life and finances, for instance. In Finland, there are several operators who can provide help and support with violence in your family, honor within the community and questions concerning related conflicts. Learn more: Honor-related violence.
Internal affairs of the family or extended family
According to Finnish legislation, the authorities have the power to interfere with the internal affairs of a family. For example, according to the legislation, violence (incl. corporal punishment of children) is a crime. If you are a victim of violence or a family member or other relative threatens you with violence, you have the right to seek shelter. Shelters for victims of domestic violence. Victim Support Finland provides you with support and advice. If you wish, you can also contact Victim Support Finland anonymously.
In Finland, everyone has the right over their own body. You cannot force or coerce a person to commit sexual acts even if the parties are married to each other. Everyone also has the right to decide who they want to marry and to dissolve their marriage in accordance with the Finnish legislation.
According to Finnish legislation, everyone shall always have the right to report a crime, regardless of the rules of their own community. If necessary, Victim Support Finland can help and support you with this. If you want to discuss a challenging situation within your family or extended family, you can contact your own municipality’s social services, for example. You can also find useful links to support services below.
Services and support in different situations
- Domestic violence: Nollalinja (nollalinja.fi) (Please note: interpreting service in Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Somali, Sorani, Russian). Federation of Mother and child homes and Shelters
- Human trafficking: www.ihmiskauppa.fi website, Victim Support Finland’s service for victims of human trafficking and related crimes
- Residence permit-related matters: Finnish Refugee Advice Centre, Finnish Immigration Service, your municipality’s social and guidance services, legal aid
- Questions of honor and honor-related violence: Victim Support Finland RIKU: Honor-related violence, The Finnish League for Human Rights, DIDAR / Setlementti Tampere, Sopu work
- Immigrant women: MONIKA – Multicultural Women’s Association, Finland: Help and guidance for immigrant women in various life situations
- Employment relationship-related questions: VICTIM SUPPORT FINLAND’s services, Occupational Safety and Health Administration Finland (telephone service in Finnish and English)
- Difficult life situation: MIELI Mental Health Finland, Crisis Helpline (Finnish, Swedish, English, Arabic), your municipality’s social services