Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July 2014, 14:56 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Netherlands

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Netherlands, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30ca711.html [accessed 23 July 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 a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution and forced labor. The Netherlands, Nigeria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Guinea, Romania, and China are the top eight countries of origin for identified victims of mostly forced prostitution, according to the government, although victims from Macedonia and Uganda also were found. Men and boys are subjected to forced prostitution and various forms of forced labor, including in agriculture, horticulture, catering, food processing, cleaning, and illegal narcotics trafficking. Male victims were primarily from Poland, Hungary, Nigeria, Angola, Sierra Leone, and Guinea in 2011 but also were seen from Ghana, China, Romania, Portugal, Suriname, and the Netherlands. There are some reports that foreign diplomats posted in the Netherlands subject their staff to domestic servitude. 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 often are involved in forced prostitution and forced labor involving foreigners, while those involved in forced prostitution of Dutch residents may work independently and exploit one to two victims at a time. In 2011, the government reported an increased number of underage Dutch residents as victims, who are increasingly controlled through force and violence and recruited over the Internet.

The Government of the Netherlands fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to employ a multi-disciplinary approach to its anti-trafficking efforts, which resulted in the detection of more trafficking victims, increased investigation of forced labor, and an overall increase in the conviction of trafficking offenders. It continued to pursue pragmatic approaches to improve victim care and increase victim incentives to cooperate with law enforcement. Sentences for convicted traffickers, however, remained consistently low during the year.

Recommendations for the Netherlands: Ensure convicted trafficking offenders receive sentences commensurate with the seriousness of the crime; continue to develop pragmatic approaches to victim outreach within illegal and legal labor sectors, including potential victims inadvertently held in detention centers; ensure sufficient shelter capacity for the delivery of comprehensive and specialized services for trafficking victims; continue to employ innovative methods to uncover and prosecute forced labor; continue to offer anti-trafficking training to improve identification of victims and prosecution of traffickers in Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba islands; expand the government's international leadership role to share best practices with other countries, in particular its practices on victim identification and assistance, protection of unaccompanied foreign minors, and its pragmatic, self-critical approach to improving anti-trafficking results.

Prosecution

The Dutch government continued to develop and pursue innovative and effective approaches to addressing human trafficking through law enforcement means. 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 2010, the last year for which final trafficking statistics were available, the government prosecuted 135 suspected trafficking offenders, convicting 107. This is a significant increase from the 69 offenders convicted in 2009. The average sentence for convicted trafficking offenders was approximately 21 months, the same average for sentences imposed in 2009 and 2008. In accordance with the law, convicted offenders generally serve only two-thirds of their sentences, suggesting that many convicted trafficking offenders likely serve little more than a year in jail. Local police complain that low sentences for traffickers continued to result in the reappearance of the same offenders and thus the continued exploitation of trafficking victims within the regulated commercial sex sector. In February 2012, the government submitted a draft amendment to Parliament to amend the trafficking law to increase the maximum prison sentence from eight to 12 years' imprisonment for a single trafficking offense.

The government continued to increase its prosecution for forced labor in 2011; the National Prosecutor's office reported it registered 24 labor exploitation investigations in 2011, compared to 11 in 2010. Furthermore, it reported there were 10 labor trafficking cases since 2010, and the government obtained convictions for 12 persons. In April 2011, police, public prosecutors, and the local government launched a major operation to investigate human trafficking in The Hague's red-light district. The operation resulted in the identification of 54 potential trafficking victims and five ongoing criminal investigations. In December, police launched an investigation of suspected forced labor along the country's highways involving Bulgarian toilet cleaners. In October, police and the labor inspectorate began a joint large-scale investigation into allegations of forced labor involving Philippine seamen working in the country's inland shipping sector. In October, a court imposed a prison sentence of 2.5 years on an asparagus farmer for subjecting Polish, Romanian, and Portuguese workers to conditions of forced labor.

One local official noted judges consistently hand down more severe penalties for rape than for sex trafficking. There were no reported official cases of trafficking-related complicity in 2011; however, Amsterdam police believe that police assigned to anti-prostitution law enforcement efforts carry inherent temptations for corruption. The force therefore requires anti-trafficking officers in Amsterdam to pass three examinations in a specialized, 256-hour training course focused on working with trafficking victims and policing of the sex industry. Potential officers also must sign a code of conduct before they are eligible to work in this sensitive sector.

Protection

The Netherlands made appreciable progress in its efforts to proactively identify and assist trafficking victims. In 2011, Comensha, the government-funded national victim registration center and assistance coordinator, registered 1,222 potential trafficking victims, an increase from 993 victims registered in 2010 and a consistent increase from previous years. The majority of these 1,222 victims were identified by the police. The government continued to operate 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, medical care, social security benefits, and education financing. Victims in government shelters were not detained involuntarily. Comensha reported a shortage of accommodation for trafficking victims requiring shelter in 2011. 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. In 2011, the government granted 347 temporary residency permits to trafficking victims, approximately the same number it granted in 2010; 280 permits were granted in 2009.

During the year, the government increased its focus on horticultural and agricultural sectors in the country, resulting in an increase in men identified in forced labor sectors. Authorities identified 226 males, compared to 113 the previous year. Since January 2008, the government has provided unaccompanied children who are seeking asylum with intensive counseling in secure shelters that protect them from traffickers; the government extended this pilot until the end of 2014. The government encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers although it lacked figures on the percentage of trafficking victims that filed charges against their traffickers during 2011. The National Prosecutor's Office reported that most victims did not file a complaint, fearing retaliation by traffickers or deportation by officials.

During the reporting period, the government continued to house trafficking victims in three specialized shelters based on the success of an initial pilot project to determine whether the practice increases victim cooperation; according to the government, 72 of the 112 victims participating in the project filed charges against their traffickers. The government also decided to extend a pilot project in which male trafficking victims are offered shelter until the end of 2012. There were no reports that any victims were punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. However, one NGO expressed concern that some unidentified trafficking victims may be mistakenly detained by law enforcement who may have missed signs of trafficking. 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 pursue innovative approaches to prevent trafficking and address demand for commercial sex acts and forced labor during the reporting period. In 2011, the Foreign Ministry began informing foreign diplomats' domestic staff members, without their employers present, how to report cases of abuse. The government-funded victim protection agency launched a social media campaign to raise public awareness about other forms of trafficking outside of the sex industry. Furthermore, in August 2011, national police conducted an Internet chat session to inform young adults about the practice of local pimps seducing young women and then coercing them into sex trafficking and forced prostitution in the Netherlands. The human trafficking task force presented its 2011-2014 action plan in July 2011; one activity includes a field study analysis of seven human trafficking cases involving forced labor and sex trafficking identified as sources of best practices in criminal investigations. The Task Force also published a separate 2011-2014 National Action Plan to address trafficking that occurs within the country involving locally-resident pimps and Dutch girls in December 2011.

The government continued to demonstrate strong anti-trafficking leadership by transparently reporting and publishing self-critical, public reports on its anti-trafficking efforts. According to a survey published by police forces in May 2011, only nine out of 25 regional police forces complied with strict internal guidelines on combating human trafficking. The government-funded, autonomous Office of the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking monitored the government's anti-trafficking efforts and, in January 2012, published an inventory of human trafficking cases prosecuted between 2006 and 2010. In 2011, the Social Affairs Ministry continued its awareness campaign informing citizens and certain target groups, including trade unions and work councils, about the existence of labor exploitation in the Netherlands. The military provided training on the prevention of trafficking and additional training on recognizing trafficking victims for troops being deployed abroad on missions as international peacekeepers.

Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba

On October 10, 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 government adjusted the Criminal Code of the BES islands to reflect the new structure. The criminal code contains a prohibition of 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 country's criminal code, although prescribed penalties are lower, ranging from six years for the lowest-level single offense, to 15 years in the case of a trafficking victim's death. The BES islands are a transit and destination area for women and children who are subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution, and for men and women in conditions of forced labor. The women in prostitution in both the BES islands' regulated and illegal commercial sex sectors are highly vulnerable to human trafficking, as are unaccompanied children on the islands. Local authorities believe that men and women also have been subjected to involuntary domestic servitude and other forms of forced labor in the agricultural and construction sectors. Some migrants in restaurants and local businesses may be vulnerable to debt bondage.

In June 2011, the Netherlands, also representing BES, signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten to increase cooperation on anti-trafficking to improve victim identification and prosecution of traffickers on the islands. Part of the MOU includes establishment of a "twinning" system for officials from the four countries of the Kingdom and the BES to provide each other with technical support toward developing anti-trafficking investigations and prosecutions, as well as shelter and information campaigns. In January 2012, anti-trafficking experts from the Netherlands delivered a two-day anti-trafficking training in the BES islands involving 40 officials from 10 organizations. Although formal interagency anti-trafficking working groups operated in Bonaire, Saba, and St. Eustatius, 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 central government continued to provide in-kind support for human trafficking hotlines in St. Maarten and Bonaire, but 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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