General information: situation on trafficking in human beings
Human trafficking is among the most serious crimes that exist. People being treated as second-rate citizens, exploited, forced to do things they would never do voluntarily, or to offer services they do not wish to offer – such things are incompatible with the rule of law, as is the fact that some people appear to be invisible and feel abandoned under that rule of law. The policies pursued by the Dutch government have consolidated the fight against human trafficking. The coalition agreement contained a commitment to further intensify the fight against human trafficking, as envisaged in the interdepartmental programme entitled Combating Human Trafficking.
Combating Human Trafficking programme
The programme encompasses a number of clear ambitions:
- preventing people from falling victim to human trafficking
- identifying actual and potential victims quickly and effectively
- providing the support they need
- hindering the perpetrators as much as possible
Since November 2018, all parties involved have put in a tremendous effort in implementing the programme, and they have achieved great results. For example, the figures for 2019 show that we have a better picture of the victims than in previous years, and the number of suspects registered with the public prosecution service is expected to have increased in 2020.
To achieve the ambitions that have been set, tools and training courses have been developed to promote faster detection of victims, higher-quality assistance to the victims and stronger measures against perpetrators. Examples include the guidance on sharing data, the compass for municipalities, the additional sheltered accommodation units, and intensification of international measures. These tangible results reflect the efforts we have made to realise our ambitions. Those ambitions, as laid down in the programme, also serve as our guide for future action. The goals are to get more victims of trafficking in human beings on our radar and provide them with the support and refuge they need.
Furthermore, we aim to combat and frustrate the perpetrators, both through criminal and administrative law, as well as through alternative interventions. We will also aim to equip more professionals with the necessary knowledge to be able to identify/report human trafficking. People need to become more aware of the different forms of exploitation. In the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report of the US government, the Dutch approach to human trafficking is consistently issued a so-called ‘Tier 1’ score, which means that it fully complies with the US minimum standards.
The Netherlands is predominantly a country of destination of victims of trafficking in human beings, but also to an increasing extent a country of origin as well as a country of transit. The recently published Human Trafficking Victims Monitor 2015-2019 (Slachtoffermonitor Mensenhandel 2015-2019) of the Rapporteur (2020) shows that there were 1 334 victims of Trafficking in human beings registered by CoMensha. Approximately 51.5% of the victims were female, 48.2% of the victims were male. The gender of the remaining 0.3% of the registered victims was unknown. On average, almost one third of the registered victims is under the age of 23 years (30.4%). About 54% of the presumed victims were trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation; 30.6% were subjected to other forms of exploitation, outside of the sex industry. Roughly 18.3% of the victims were Dutch citizens. The majority of the foreign victims originated from EU countries (Romania, Bulgaria and Poland), followed by victims originating from countries in Africa (Nigeria, Uganda and Guinea).
A considerable part of the number of possible victims in the Netherlands remains out of the sight of the authorities involved. This Dutch Cabinet therefore has the ambition to further intensify the approach to stop human trafficking.
National Action Plan
As mentioned above, in 2018, the Dutch government published its national action plan for an integrated approach to human trafficking. It contains five lines of actions:
- Further development of the basic approach to combating trafficking in human beings
- Further development of the approach to combating labour exploitation
- The prevention of victimhood and perpetrator
- Strengthening the municipal approach to combating trafficking in human beings
- Sharing knowledge and information
Combatting human trafficking is a priority of this government. All relevant ministries are committed to the new National Action Plan, which has been sent to the House of Representatives on 13 November 2018.
Each year, the government shares a Progress report on the Combating Human Trafficking programme. The latest progress report (2020) comes with an associated programme results table (NL).
For more information regarding the Dutch Government’s programmes/initiatives addressing trafficking in human beings, please visit the official site (EN).
Institutional, legal and policy framework
Relevant legislation: Article 273F of the Dutch Criminal Code
1.) Any person who:
with the intention of exploiting another person or removing his or her organs, recruits, transports, transfers, accommodates or shelters that other person, including the exchange or transfer of control over that person, by means of duress, violence or another hostile act, or the threat of violence or other hostile act, or by means of extortion, fraud, deception or the abuse of power arising from a specific state of affairs, or by means of the abuse of a position of vulnerability, or by means of giving or receiving payments or benefits in order to obtain the consent of a person having control over that other person:
- recruits, transports, transfers, accommodates or shelters a person, including the exchange or transfer of control over that person, with the intention of exploiting that other person or removing his or her organs, if that person has not yet reached the age of eighteen years
- recruits, takes away or abducts a person with the intention of inducing that person to make him or herself available for sexual acts with or for a third party for payment in another country
- forces or induces another person by means referred to under paragraph 1 to make him or herself available for work or services or to make his/her organs available, or takes any action in the circumstances referred to under paragraph 1 which he knows or may reasonably be expected to know will result in that other person making him or herself available for work or services or making his or her organs available
- induces another person to make him or herself available for sexual acts with or for a third party for payment or to make his or her organs available for payment, or takes any action in relation to another person which he knows or may reasonably be expected to know will result in that other person making him or herself available for these acts or making his or her organs available for payment, if that other person has not yet reached the age of eighteen years
- intentionally profits from the exploitation of another person
- intentionally profits from the removal of organs from another person, if he knows or may reasonably be expected to know that the organs of that person were removed under the circumstances referred to under paragraph 1
- intentionally profits from the sexual acts of another person with or for a third party for payment or the removal of that person’s organs for payment, if this other person has not yet reached the age of eighteen years
- forces or induces another person by the means referred to under paragraph 1 to provide him with the proceeds of that person’s sexual acts with or for a third party or of the removal of that person’s organs
shall be guilty of trafficking in human beings and as such liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding twelve years or a fifth category fine.
2.) Exploitation shall include, at the minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced or compulsory labour or services, including begging, slavery or practices comparable to slavery or servitude, servitude or the exploitation of criminal activities.
3.) The following offences shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding fifteen years or a fifth category fine:
- offences as defined in paragraph 1 if they are committed by two or more persons acting in concert
- offences as defined in paragraph 1 if they are committed in respect of a person who is under the age of eighteen or in respect of a person whose position of vulnerability is being abused
- offences as defined in paragraph 1 if they are preceded by, committed by use of or followed by violence
4.) If one of the offences defined in paragraph 1 results in serious physical injury or threatens the life of another person, it shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding eighteen years or a fifth category fine.
5.) If one of the offences defined in paragraph 1 results in death, it shall be punishable by a term of life imprisonment or temporary imprisonment not exceeding thirty years or a fifth category fine.
6.) A position of vulnerability includes a situation in which a person has no real or acceptable alternative but to submit to the abuse involved.
7.) Article 251 shall apply mutatis mutandis.
Protection of the victims and access to rights
Pursuant to the Aliens Act of 2000 (Section 8k), actual or potential victims of human trafficking are given a reflection period of up to three months during which to decide whether they wish to report to the police or otherwise cooperate in a criminal investigation or in criminal proceedings. The reflection period entails that the Immigration and Naturalisation Service will suspend the departure of the suspected victim of human trafficking from the Netherlands during this period.
Residence Scheme for Victims of Human Trafficking
Victims of human trafficking without a residence permit who report to the police may, under the Residence Scheme for Victims of Human Trafficking (included in the Aliens Act of 2000, section 3.48, paragraph 1b), be granted a temporary residence permit for the duration of the criminal investigation and proceedings. If victims are unable to cooperate in a criminal investigation due to medical restrictions or due to a serious threat, they may be eligible for this residence permit provided that their application is supported by a statement from the police and/or a medical declaration.
Continued residence on humanitarian grounds
The residence permit under the Residence Scheme for Victims of Human Trafficking expires at the end of criminal proceedings. The victim may then submit an application for a permit of continued residence on humanitarian grounds, pursuant to section 3.51, paragraph 1a, of the Aliens Act of 2000. Victims are eligible for this type of residence permit if:
- the accused has been prosecuted for human trafficking offences and proceedings have resulted in a conviction
- the criminal trial has resulted in an acquittal, but the victim has held a residence permit under the Residence Scheme for Victims of Human Trafficking for three years or more at the time of the judgement becoming irrevocable
- the criminal proceedings are ongoing and the victim has held a residence permit under the Residence Scheme for Victims of Human Trafficking for three years or more
- there are exceptional, individual reasons to allow the victim to remain in the Netherlands (for example, the risk of reprisal upon return)
Shelter and support
Victims with lawful residence status
Under the Social Support Act, victims who reside lawfully in the Netherlands – including victims with a temporary residence permit under the Residence Scheme for Victims of Human Trafficking – are entitled to the same shelter as Dutch victims. In addition, these victims will have access to work, training and education under the Foreign Nationals (Employment) Act. If necessary, they shall also be entitled to social welfare benefits pursuant to section 11, paragraph 2, of the Participation Act. In addition to the above, there is also additional specialised shelters for victims with multi-problems and who does not fit within the regular shelter for victims. They are also taken care of under the same conditions through this specialised shelter.
Victims during the reflection period
Under the Regulations on Provisions for Certain Categories of Aliens, victims within the reflection period will be entitled to a monthly allowance set at the level of the social welfare benefit allowance in the Netherlands. The calculation of allowances is based on the standard amounts referred to in the Work and Social Assistance Act. With the exception of the category of minor foreign nationals, the Regulations on Provisions for Certain Categories of Aliens also provides insurance for medical costs in addition to a monthly financial allowance.
Victims in ongoing asylum procedure
Victims who are in an ongoing asylum procedure are entitled to accommodation at an asylum seekers’ residence centre. This right to reception either comes into being from the moment at which the asylum seeker requests asylum and lasts until they are granted a residence permit or ordered to leave the Netherlands. At the asylum seekers’ centre, the asylum seeker will have access to basic facilities such as shelter, cooking and laundry facilities, and computers. In addition, asylum seekers are given a weekly living allowance under the Asylum Seekers (Provisions) Regulations.
Underage victims with lawful residence status
Victims who are minors and who are Dutch nationals or have lawful residence status may receive ambulatory support through Youth Care Netherlands. There are several institutions that offer specialised accommodation for domestic underage victims, for example victims of “pimp” boyfriends, in addition to other forms of shelter and accommodation:
Underage victims without lawful residence status
Unaccompanied underage victims without lawful residence status may be referred to Nidos for supervision or for placement in secure protection.
Adult victims without lawful residence status
Adult victims in their reflection period may turn to the Categorical Accommodation and Assistance for Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings (Categorale Opvang Slachtoffers Mensenhandel, COSM). Placement into a COSM shelter takes place via CoMensha. Victims of human trafficking engaged in an ongoing asylum procedure will receive shelter from the COA, the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers.
Shelter is available specifically for male victims of human trafficking at the COSM of the Yadeborg and at the men’s shelters for victims of violence in dependency relationships and human trafficking. This page (NL) refers possible victims to the relevant institutions in the Netherlands, with further information also available (EN).
Prosecution of traffickers and perpetrators
The Public Prosecution Service has developed a specific directive pertained to the prosecution of traffickers and perpetrators ‘Instructions for Human Trafficking’. The directive sees to many aspects of trafficking in human beings, for example, according to the Directive on trafficking in human beings, a financial investigation must always be conducted in a trafficking in human beings case. The assets of a perpetrator can be seized after conviction but also before judgement has been reached, in order to ensure payment of a claim.
The Expertise Centre on Human Trafficking and People Smuggling (EMM) is an agency set up in 2005 and co-run by the national police, KMar, IND and the Inspectorate SZW. Among its tasks, the EMM pools information on suspected trafficking situations reported by the different investigation authorities. It also receives information from other organisations, including the Chamber of Commerce, the COA and the Foundation for Compliance with the Collective Agreement for Temporary Workers (SNCU). The information gathered can be used to propose the launch of investigations.
There is at least one senior prosecutor specialised in trafficking in human trafficking in human beings in each of the public prosecution regions, as well as at the national level Prosecution Service. Altogether there are about 20 prosecutors specialised in trafficking in human beings in the Netherlands. They meet regularly to discuss cases and have created an electronic communication platform for operational exchanges of information and advice. At appeal court level there are three specialised prosecutors who meet periodically. Criminal investigators of the Inspectorate SZW (which specialises in labour exploitation) can carry out criminal investigations into trafficking for the purposes of labour exploitation in co-operation with the Public Prosecutor.
There are judges specialized in trafficking in human beings serving within several courts in the Netherlands. Each court has its own way of dealing with trafficking in human beings cases. Some courts, such as the Court of Amsterdam, have a specialization on trafficking in human beings. Out of the 180-200 judges that work within the court, approximately 20 judges deal with trafficking in human beings cases. In order to deal with these cases properly, the judges have been educated by The Training and Study Centre for the Judiciary (SSR) on this subject. In addition, there is more information available on criminal prosecution in the Netherlands.
The National Action plan contains an action line specifically aimed at the prevention of victimhood of trafficking in human beings as well as the prevention of perpetrators. In prevention, we do not only focus on the Netherlands, but also on countries of origin and transit.
The focus on criminal exploitation will increase. As this phenomenon concerns various policy areas, a comprehensive approach is called for. For that reason, the combating human trafficking programme encourages collaboration with the broad offensive against subversive crime. The main focus is on preventing criminal careers. As people are sometimes coerced into following such careers, the fight against criminal exploitation is also part of several pilots at the municipal level to be conducted within the context of the prevention pillar. In addition, the CKM (Centrum tegen Kinderhandel - Centre against Child Trafficking) has been engaged to find better methods to combat criminal exploitation.
In close collaboration with the national expert group on criminal exploitation of minors, the Ministry of Justice and Security has created an information film about the criminal exploitation of minors. The film was presented during a national network meeting in Amsterdam on 26 April 2019. Alongside the film, a factsheet and a toolkit were developed to use during information sessions.
Research on trafficking in human beings
Centre against Child Trafficking (CKM) research
As part of the integrated approach, the CKM conducts research into the nature and scope of criminal exploitation in relation to other forms of criminality, including drug criminality. This research is going to be conducted in 13 large and medium-sized municipalities throughout the Netherlands. The results of this study are expected to be published in the first half of 2022.
Alongside the previously mentioned research, the CKM conducts a study in collaboration with the centre RIEC Noord-Holland. This research is focused on evaluating the feasibility and added value of an online help platform where victims of forced crime can talk to care providers to get victims out of their current situation.
A study is conducted into the possibilities of an online outreach programme to promote a proactive approach of actual and potential victims of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. The CKM was involved in exploratory talks on the best way to test such a tool within the Dutch context. In addition, talks on this issue have been held with the police, the Public Prosecution Service, municipal authorities and care institutions. The research report of CKM “Invisible victims of human trafficking 2020” (NL) is accessible.
In order to improve identification at youth care institutions, CoMensha has worked together with Youth Care Netherlands and the Dutch Knowledge Centre on Mild Intellectual Disabilities (LVB) on action perspectives and cooperative relationships. The investigation is completed. The outcomes and recommendations were discussed with the parties involved. Youth Care Netherlands will discuss the report and (possibility for) follow-up with youth care institutions.
Investigation coordinated by Dutch ministries
There is currently a broad range of help and advice services available for victims of sexual exploitation and other forms of violence due to forced crime. Therefore, the ministries of Justice and Security, Health Welfare and Sport, together with the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) intend to have a thorough investigation that aims to evaluate the before mentioned help, advice, and reporting services. More specifically, they mainly intent to understand whether the current quality of these services align with the needs of possible victims.
Instrument compass of the Centre for Crime Prevention and Safety
The Centre for Crime Prevention and Safety (CCV) has developed an instrument compass for municipalities to highlight the barriers that stand in the way of a nationwide integrated approach of complex families (Roma). The compass offers insights into strategies to break the intergenerational transfer cycle of criminality and victimhood. These barriers and insights have been combined into a programme that forms the basis of the Field Lab on criminal exploitation to be launched this autumn. Thereby, we are stimulating a culturally sensitive approach to tackling exposure and sexting and the negative consequences of these practices, such as sextortion and sexual exploitation. Preparations are under way for a seminar on a culturally sensitive approach to tackling exposure and sexting and their negative consequences.
Trainings against trafficking in human beings
We are also committed to training various professionals. Specifically, we will also be paying attention to professionals in the authorities involved in asylum and migration matters, care organisations, youth services, municipalities and the hotel industry. The idea here is that potential victims are recognised on time and no longer end up in an exploitative situation. CoMensha has prepared an overview of all information and training materials available in the field of human trafficking. And The Human Trafficking Academy is publicly accessible.
Cross-border cooperation to address trafficking in human beings
Three police liaison officers focusing on human trafficking have been posted to:
- Poland (with accreditation for Hungary),
- Croatia (with accreditation for Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro)
The police aims to maximise the advantages of having local liaison officers for human trafficking and benefit from their meaningful contributions.
We will strengthen cooperation with key countries of origin of victims. For example, the Netherlands will contribute via UN organisations and NGO’s to capacity building of locally involved actors such as prosecutors and supporting victims of human trafficking in countries of origin and transit. The Dutch missions also play an advisory and coordinating role on site.
Cooperation with EMPACT
We remain driver of EMPACT trafficking in human beings the EU project on operational cooperation against human trafficking. In 2018, the Ministry of Justice and Security made money available for the sub-projects Financial Investigation and Chinese Human Trafficking, which are led by the Dutch police. We are also working to make EMPACT trafficking in human beings more multidisciplinary; for example, we are involving municipalities in EMPACT activities and promoting cooperation with NGOs and relief organisations.
Cooperation with African countries
We support programmes aimed at improving the capacity of key African countries of origin and transit to detect, prosecute and convict criminal networks involved in trafficking and smuggling of human beings. For example, we will strengthen our efforts to build the capacity of local governments and the legal sector in West Africa and the Sahel to tackle human smuggling and trafficking. A great deal of attention is also paid to witness protection, the promotion of human rights of migrants and psychosocial and other forms of support for victims. Finally, we promote cross-border judicial cooperation and information exchange, both in the region and – as far as possible – between Africa and West Africa in particular and the EU.
Cooperation with international organisations
Building on the Dutch initiative in the UN Security Council for sanctions against human traffickers in Libya, the Netherlands is continuing to press for sanctions in the UN and EU context against leaders of human trafficking and human smuggling networks in important countries of origin and transit.
The Netherlands contributes, amongst others, to the COMPASS programme of IOM is 12 partner countries and a regional programme of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in West Africa and the Sahel. These programmes supports countries of origin and transit in, among other things, developing a legal framework to counter human smuggling and trafficking and in the detection and prosecution of perpetrators.
Through awareness-raising campaigns in countries of origin and transit, we try to inform potential migrants on the risks of becoming victims of human trafficking along the migration routes.
- Human Trafficking Victims Monitoring Report 2015-2019 Summary, by the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children
- Human Trafficking Offenders Monitoring Report 2015-2019 Summary, by the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children
- Reliance on resilience – The characteristics (of the approach) of sexual violence against young women in Amsterdam (2020)
Relevant links to national authorities/institutions websites and other relevant contacts
Full overview of the different available helplines in the Netherlands.
In case of immediate danger the police needs to be contacted through the emergency number 112.
For non-immediate response, the local police can be contacted via 0900-8844.
For anonymous reports of trafficking in human beings: Crime Stoppers Netherlands (Meld Misdaad Anoniem) can be contacted: https://www.meldmisdaadanoniem.nl/english/
For questions about human trafficking, registration of victims and requests for care, contact CoMensha, the national coordination centre for trafficking in human beings: https://www.comensha.nl/pagina/slachtoffer-aanmelden
For anonymous reports of trafficking in human beings of minors, contact the Child Exploitation Hotline: https://www.melduitbuitingminderjarigen.nl/
For reporting or offering tips about labour exploitation, victims and bystanders can contact the Criminal Intelligence Unit of the Inspectorate SZW: https://www.inspectorateszw.nl/contact/complaints-tips-notifications-and-reports
National rapporteur or equivalent mechanism
National Rapporteur: https://www.dutchrapporteur.nl/
Netherlands Labour Authority SZW: https://www.inspectorateszw.nl/
The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee: https://english.defensie.nl/organisation/marechaussee
Civil society organisations
IOM Nederland: https://www.iom-nederland.nl/en/
La Strada International: https://www.lastradainternational.org/
The Netherlands Trade Union Federation (FNV): https://www.fnv.nl/over-fnv/internationaal/mondiaal-fnv/english/projects/about-fnv/
CoMensha: National coordination Centre against THB: https://www.comensha.nl/
CKM, Centre against Child- and Human Trafficking: https://www.ckm-fier.nl/pages/home.aspx
Defence for Children/ECPAT: https://www.defenceforchildren.nl/
Fier, national expertise and treatment centre in the field of violence in dependency relationships: https://www.fier.nl/english
HVO-Querido, organisation that supports people with a psychiatric disability or socio-economic problems: https://hvoquerido.nl/
The Salvation Army: https://www.legerdesheils.nl/
MJD Groningen, offers care coordination and support services to victims of human trafficking: https://www.mjd.nl/
PMW Humanitas: https://humanitas-rotterdam.nl/essm/
Yadeborg Zorggroep: https://yadeborg.nl/
SHOP The Hague: https://www.shop-denhaag.nl/
National Referral Site for Human Trafficking: https://www.wegwijzermensenhandel.nl/
Government site: https://www.government.nl/topics/human-trafficking