Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April 2014, 11:39 GMT

U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - Belgium

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 14 June 2004
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - Belgium, 14 June 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4680d8065.html [accessed 24 April 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.

Belgium (Tier 1)

Belgium is a destination and transit country for trafficked persons, primarily young women from Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Europe, and Asia. Victims are destined for Belgium's larger cities or other European countries, for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Chinese victims are often young men destined for manual labor in restaurants and sweatshops.

The Government of Belgium fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to show a well-coordinated system of protection and law enforcement, leading to numerous prosecutions and convictions. Despite sentencing guidelines allowing for higher penalties, actual sentences imposed by Belgian courts are often light. As a demand country, Belgium would benefit from domestic demand-reduction and awareness programs.

Prosecution

Belgian police continued to take a sophisticated approach to trafficking investigations and obtained a significant number of convictions in 2003. Belgium's anti-trafficking legislation focuses on international trafficking for the purposes of both sexual and non-sexual exploitation. The law provides penalties for severe forms of trafficking commensurate with those for rape and sexual assault, ranging from one to 15 years of imprisonment with the possibility of life imprisonment for crimes against victims under 10 years of age. Penalties in recent years rarely exceeded eight years. In 2003, the federal police opened 126 new trafficking investigations; 97 involved sexual exploitation and 29 dealt with economic exploitation. Conviction data for 2003 was not yet available. In 2002, courts convicted 130 defendants on trafficking-related charges; prison sentences ranged from three months to eight years, with an average sentence of three years. A large proportion of sentences included fines averaging approximately $5,800. In one notable case in 2003, a judge determined that the exorbitantly high transport fee and extremely exploitative transport conditions of a smuggling case amounted to human trafficking and sentenced the offender to 10 years. The government posted liaison officers in source countries to assist in case development, and signed numerous bilateral judicial agreements, most recently with Thailand.

Protection

The government continued to financially support and refer victims to three specialized trafficking shelters. The shelter staff determines a victim's status and informs the police. Victims are initially provided a 45-day "reflection" period to consider whether to assist in the investigation of their traffickers; subsequent government protection is directly linked to a victim's willingness to testify. Residency permits, initially granted for three to six months, are renewable during legal proceedings. The government generally approves long-term residency for victims whose cooperation leads to a conviction. The government repatriates those who choose not to cooperate. Victims may qualify for a humanitarian visa based on a successful showing of hardship upon return. Shelters provide a full range of services, including legal assistance for victims initiating civil suits against their traffickers. The government eased its directive on work permits to allow victims to obtain temporary employment and to change employment without seeking permission. In 2002, the latest year for which statistics were reported, the three shelters reported assisting over 500 victims.

Prevention

The government provided international assistance for preventive education campaigns in source countries; it was weaker with regards to demand-reduction campaigns in Belgium. Belgium funds international organizations conducting regional and global anti-trafficking projects. The government also funds Belgium's independent Center for Equal Opportunity and the Fight Against Racism, which is charged with collecting trafficking data and making recommendations for government action. The King Baudouin Foundation sponsored a major anti-trafficking awareness-raising program in Belgium, which involved the participation of the royal family and the prime minister, and resulted in nationwide media coverage of the problem of trafficking in persons both domestically and abroad.

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