Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 October 2014, 15:54 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Netherlands

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Netherlands, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee5a3c.html [accessed 22 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Netherlands (Tier 1)

The Netherlands is primarily a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Women from the Netherlands, Nigeria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Sierra Leone were the top six countries of origin for identified female victims of forced prostitution in 2010. Approximately 113 victims identified last year in the Netherlands were male; these men and boys were subjected to sex trafficking and various forms of forced labor, including in agriculture, horticulture, catering, food processing, cleaning, and illegal narcotics trafficking. These male victims were primarily from Nigeria, Slovakia, India, the Netherlands, and Ghana. Groups vulnerable to trafficking include unaccompanied children seeking asylum, women with dependent residence status obtained through fraudulent or forced marriages, women recruited in Africa, and East Asian women working in massage parlors. Criminal networks are often involved in forced prostitution and forced labor involving foreigners, while those involved in forced prostitution of Dutch residents work independently, often recruit through the Internet, and exploit one to two victims at a time. The head of the national police force reported in 2010 that human traffickers increasingly took their victims to customers staying in hotels.

The Government of the Netherlands fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government again showed regional and international leadership on anti-trafficking reforms. The Dutch national anti-trafficking rapporteur and other officials continued to take a pragmatic, self-critical approach to assessing its response to human trafficking, resulting in concrete improvements in its overall anti-trafficking efforts. The government sustained a strong effort to proactively identify and assist trafficking victims and improved its response to forced labor. Sentences for convicted traffickers, however, remained consistently low.

Recommendations for the Netherlands: Continue to improve capacity to investigate and prosecute forced labor and improve outreach to victims of this crime; ensure convicted trafficking offenders receive sentences commensurate with the gravity of the crime committed; continue to build capacity to improve identification of victims and prosecution of traffickers in the Caribbean islands of Bonaire, Saint Eustatius, and Saba (BES islands); continue to self-monitor and critique anti-trafficking efforts to advance the government's response; and expand the government's international leadership role to share best practices with other countries, in particular on victim identification and assistance, protection of unaccompanied foreign minors, and establishment of a self-critical approach to enhance global anti-trafficking efforts.

Prosecution

The Dutch government continued to aggressively prosecute sex trafficking offenders and it increased prosecution of labor trafficking cases, however, the average sentences imposed on convicted traffickers continued to be less than two years. The Netherlands prohibits all forms of trafficking through Criminal Code Article 273, which prescribes maximum sentences ranging from eight to 18 years' imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2009, the last year for which final trafficking statistics were available, police completed and referred for prosecution 141 human trafficking investigations, compared with 215 in 2008. In 2009, court verdicts were handed down in 91 cases, of which 69 were convictions, compared with 79 in 2008. There were 20 acquittals (33 acquittals in 2008), and nine trafficking offenders received community service or a fine as punishment. The average sentence for convicted trafficking offenders was approximately 21 months, the same average for sentences imposed in 2008 and 2007. In the period between October 2009 and June 2010, the National Rapporteur identified 18 labor exploitation cases, of which nine ended in a conviction. Before October 2009, Dutch courts handled 12 labor exploitation cases, of which four ended in a conviction. The National Rapporteur attributed this increase to an October 2009 Supreme Court precedent ruling which annulled a lower court decision that acquitted a Chinese restaurant owner of labor exploitation. The appellate decision rejected the lower court's finding that the Chinese were working in the restaurant voluntarily, emphasizing the vulnerable position of the Chinese migrants.

In December 2010, an appeals court sentenced in absentia a leader of a major Turkish-German human trafficking organization, to seven years and nine months' imprisonment for having forced at least 120 women into prostitution. The defense attorney filed an appeal to the Supreme Court; the appeal is still pending. Another court sentenced the same individual to an additional eight years' imprisonment for his involvement in two other trafficking cases and attempted murder. This case is also in appeal; prosecutors subsequently demanded more than $3.9 million from him in a separate asset seizure trial. However, the defendant fled to Turkey in September 2009 after a Dutch court released him on temporary parole. In September 2010, the Dutch Human Trafficking Task Force publicly presented its second progress report and singled out Chinese massage parlors, nail studios, and restaurants as target areas for trafficking investigations in the coming year. In January 2011, the Judiciary Council adopted a taskforce proposal to limit litigation of trafficking cases to four specialized courts in the country in order to build necessary expertise among judges and to promote a uniform interpretation of the law. There are no reported cases of the involvement of government officials in or tolerance of trafficking at the national, local, or institutional level; there were no prosecutions for trafficking-related complicity in 2010.

Protection

The Government of the Netherlands made appreciable progress in its efforts to proactively identify and assist trafficking victims. In 2010, Comensha, the government-funded national victim registration center and assistance coordinator, registered 993 trafficking victims, an increase from 909 victims in 2009, and 826 victims in 2008. The majority of these 993 victims were identified by the police. The Government of the Netherlands has an extensive network of facilities providing a full range of trafficking-specialized services for children, women, and men; the government provided victims with legal, financial, and psychological assistance, shelter (in facilities that also serve victims of other crimes), medical care, social security benefits, and education financing. Victims in government shelters were not detained involuntarily. Dutch authorities provided temporary residence permits to allow foreign trafficking victims to stay in the Netherlands during a three-month reflection period, during which victims received immediate care and services while they considered whether to assist law enforcement. The government provided permanent residence status to some victims, based on particular conditions. In 2009, the government granted 280 out of 299 requests for temporary residency for trafficking victims. Since January 2008, the government has provided unaccompanied children seeking asylum with intensive counseling in secure shelters that protect them from traffickers; it extended this pilot project until the end of 2011 during the reporting period. The government encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers; 39 percent of trafficking victims filed charges against their traffickers in 2010. Nevertheless, victims were often reluctant to assist law enforcement, personnel, due to fear of reprisals from traffickers, fear of law enforcement and lack of understanding of the criminal justice system in the Netherlands.

In June 2010, the Justice Minister officially launched a pilot project to house trafficking victims in three specialized shelters located in different parts of the country to determine whether doing so would increase victim cooperation; the pilot project provided assistance to 40 women, 10 male victims, and their children. There were no reports that any identified victims were punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. To facilitate safe and voluntary repatriation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has developed a system to evaluate victims' safety in five countries of return.

Prevention

The government continued to take proactive steps to prevent trafficking and address demand for commercial sex acts and forced labor during the reporting period. In December 2010, the Rotterdam police launched an information campaign to warn girls at 25 high schools about the ongoing trend of young men of Moroccan and Turkish descent who seduce vulnerable women and girls, and force them into prostitution. In November 2010, national police closed the websites of two escort businesses due to possible involvement in trafficking, some of which involved illegal hotel prostitution. Police simultaneously sent out text messages to approximately 1,300 mobile phone users who had contacted the sites, urging potential clients to report possible human trafficking victims. The Justice Ministry continued to fund a multimedia awareness campaign about trafficking targeted at people in, and clients of, prostitution, as well as residents, shopkeepers, and taxi-drivers in areas where prostitution occurs. In December 2010, the City of Amsterdam re-launched a targeted campaign intended for tourists entitled, "Appearances Can be Deceptive;" the campaign was also put on special websites that are visited by clients of prostitution.

The government-funded, autonomous, Office of the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking monitored the government's anti-trafficking efforts and, during the reporting period, published its eighth public report. In June 2010, the Social Affairs Ministry launched an awareness campaign informing citizens and certain target groups, including trade unions and work councils, about the existence of labor exploitation in the Netherlands. During the reporting period, the government subsidized a training film, called "Shockingly Forced," to raise awareness among labor inspectors and other officials about labor exploitation and forced labor. The government continued efforts to undertake efforts to prevent and identify child sex tourism; estimating it convicts approximately 12 child sex tourists every year. The Dutch military provided training to all military personnel on the prevention of trafficking and additional training on recognizing trafficking victims for Dutch troops being deployed abroad on missions as international peacekeepers.

Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba

In October 2010, the Kingdom of the Netherlands obtained a new constitutional structure under which the "Netherlands Antilles" ceased to exist as an entity within the Kingdom. As of that date, Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba (the BES islands) became part of the Netherlands. On September 27, 2010, the Criminal Code of the BES islands was adjusted to reflect the new structure. The Criminal Code thus includes an article prohibiting trafficking in persons, both for sexual and labor exploitation (Art 286f). The government reported this article is similar to the human trafficking article in the Dutch criminal code, although prescribed penalties are lower, ranging from six years' imprisonment for a single offense to 15 years' imprisonment in the case of a trafficking victims' death. The BES islands are a transit and destination area for women and children who are subjected to sex trafficking and for men and women who are in conditions of forced labor. The women in prostitution in the BES islands' regulated and illegal sex trades are highly vulnerable to human trafficking, as are unaccompanied children on the islands. Local authorities believe that men and women have also been subjected to domestic servitude and other forms of forced labor in the agriculture and construction sectors. Some migrants in restaurants and local businesses may be vulnerable to debt bondage.

Although formal interagency anti-trafficking working groups operated in the BES islands, neither local authorities nor the Government of the Netherlands reported the identification of any potential trafficking victims. Moreover, no trafficking prosecutions or convictions were initiated on these islands during the reporting period. The government continued to provide in-kind support for human trafficking hotlines in St. Maarten and Bonaire, though there were no awareness campaigns specifically targeting potential clients of the sex trade in the BES islands in an effort to reduce demand for commercial sex acts.

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