Netherlands

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Tier 1

NETHERLANDS: Tier 1

The Government of the Netherlands fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, the Netherlands remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by investigating, prosecuting, and convicting a significant number of traffickers and providing care for a significant number of victims. The government released a national action plan on child sex tourism and signed the first of 12 industry-specific covenants aimed at reducing the risk of human trafficking in supply chains. Although the government meets the minimum standards, the number of prosecutions, convictions, and victims identified reported by the government declined from the previous year; the government did not report complete statistics for the reporting period.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE NETHERLANDS

Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence traffickers to penalties proportionate to the seriousness of the crime; provide adequate funding to NGOs to provide victim services; provide all potential trafficking victims with care services, regardless of their ability to cooperate with an investigation; continue outreach to potential victims in labor sectors and identify forced labor; remove the requirement that a trafficker needs to be formally convicted for the official identification of trafficking victims; improve mentoring of officials in Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba to increase identification of victims and prosecution of traffickers; improve data collection on investigations, prosecutions, convictions, sentences, and victim identification; and continue to pursue covenants with companies in 12 identified industry sectors to reduce the risk of human trafficking in supply chains.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Article 273f of the criminal code prohibits all forms of trafficking, including forced begging and forced criminality, and prescribes punishments of up to 12 years imprisonment. The penalty is 15 years if the victim is a minor, or perpetrators act in a group, or there are acts of violence. The sentence for aggravated human trafficking is 18 years to life imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. According to the prosecutor’s office, authorities did not keep data on trafficking investigations that did not result in arrests; in 2016 the police arrested 220 individuals suspected of trafficking, compared with 215 in 2015, the first annual increase since 2011. In 2016, the government prosecuted 174 trafficking defendants and convicted 103, compared with 189 prosecuted and 140 convicted in 2015.

In 2015, the most recent year full data was available, the average sentence for traffickers was 18.3 months; this was shorter than the average sentence for individuals convicted of a single count of rape, which in 2015 was 20.5 months. The average sentencing for traffickers has dropped since 2013, in line with trends for sentencing of other significant crimes. Prosecutorial statistics did not disaggregate labor and sex trafficking cases, but statistics on victims indicated approximately 25 percent of victims identified in the first six months of 2016 were forced labor victims. A September 2016 report by the national rapporteur found judges’ rulings and sentences in sexual offenses, which included sentences for sex trafficking crimes, were inconsistent, with 40 percent of suspects receiving no sentence, and 20 percent serving more than one year in prison. However, judges continued to sentence some convicted traffickers to prison, including a man sentenced to 15 years in prison for exploiting his daughter and foster daughters in child sex trafficking, the longest sentence ever handed down in the Netherlands for human trafficking. In November 2016, for the first time in the Netherlands, a district court convicted a company of human trafficking, fining a mushroom farming company €75,000 ($79,030) and sentencing the director to two years in prison for the labor trafficking of six Polish workers. Judges with trafficking-specific training heard all trafficking cases in 2016. Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys continued to receive specialized training in applying the anti-trafficking law and dealing with traumatized victims. In 2016, labor inspectors referred 17 cases for prosecution for forced labor, an increase from 10 in 2015. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking in 2016. Police officers’ basic training included anti-trafficking courses, and anti-trafficking police officers were required to pass examinations in a training course focused on policing commercial sex.

PROTECTION

The government maintained efforts to protect victims. The government reports its protection data through the independent anti-trafficking rapporteur, who monitors government efforts and released five reports during the year. In the first six months of 2016—the most recent reports available—the government-funded national victim registration center and assistance coordinator registered 486 possible trafficking victims, a decrease from 648 in the first six months of 2015. Of the 486 identified, 304 were victims of sex trafficking, 124 of labor trafficking and forced crime, and 69 of uncategorized trafficking; many individuals were identified as victims of multiple forms of trafficking. One-hundred and fifteen of the victims were children. The top countries of origin during the first six months were the Netherlands (30 percent of victims), Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, and Nigeria. Eighty-three of the identified potential trafficking victims elected to stay in shelters in 2016, compared with 146 in 2015; during the first six months of 2016 police identified 45 percent of human trafficking victims; military police, nine percent; labor inspectors, four percent; and other organizations, 42 percent. During 2016, reportedly six potential victims were identified in detention and referred to shelters. The government continued to fund an extensive network of facilities providing specialized services for child, adult female, and adult male victims. However, the government reduced funding for civil society organizations in 2016. NGOs that coordinate victim assistance have reported increased challenges due to decreased government funding.

For victims to be officially designated as trafficking victims, their trafficker must be sentenced in court; without this status, foreign victims could not obtain permanent residency, with some exceptions. Potential victims had access to three government-funded shelters dedicated to human trafficking victims, one of which was dedicated to male victims, as well as various other shelters funded by local governments that catered to domestic violence victims, which also had dedicated beds for trafficking victims. Potential victims were allowed to stay for a three month reflection period to decide whether to assist law enforcement in prosecuting their traffickers. However, this three-month period could be reduced if a potential victim decided not to assist the police, or if the police determined not to file a case. The government did not release information on the number of potential trafficking victims who made use of this reflection period during 2015; this information will be released by the national rapporteur in October, along with the numbers for 2016. In 2014, the most recent year data was available, 174 victims made use of the reflection period. During a reflection period, non-EU victims were not allowed to work. After the reflection period, victims who agreed to assist police could stay in available shelters. All shelters provided medical and psychological care, schooling, language and skills training, and legal assistance; some also provided self-defense classes and most had facilities accessible to disabled individuals. Adult victims were permitted to leave shelters at will and unchaperoned, and child victims were placed in special shelters for children or in specialized foster homes. Seven shelters were specially designated for “lover-boy” trafficking victims, one of which was opened during the reporting period. The government worked with and funded NGOs to provide information on available services over the internet and to operate an interpreter fund to enable shelters to hire interpreters to assist with foreign victims. The government did not disclose the amount of funding for the shelters.

Victims willing to testify against their alleged trafficker were eligible to receive a B-8 permit, a temporary residence permit for trafficking victims, if authorities decided to prosecute a suspected trafficker. The government did not release information on the number of potential trafficking victims who applied for B-8 status during 2015; this information will be released by the national rapporteur in October along with the numbers for 2016. In 2014, the most recent year data was available, 251 victims applied for B-8 status, compared with 268 in 2013. Victims were granted permanent residency if the trafficker in their case was convicted or when they maintained B-8 status for three or more years. Authorities worked with civil society to repatriate foreign victims unable to acquire residency permits. If a trafficker was not prosecuted or was acquitted in a victim’s case, or if a potential victim did not want to assist the police investigation, the victim could apply for asylum. While NGOs reported this was a regular occurrence, the government did not collect statistics on the number of potential victims who applied for asylum. A procedure also existed to circumvent B-8 eligibility requirements for residency in cases where victims were seriously threatened or had serious medical or psychological conditions. In January 2017, the government implemented measures from a 2012 pilot program to reduce potential B-8 fraud by shortening authorities’ decision time to launch a criminal investigation to within 10 days of a report. Some experts contended this program forced victims in a vulnerable state to decide whether to press charges too quickly, possibly before they had met with an attorney. While the anti-trafficking law contains a non-punishment clause, defense attorneys reported instances in which the clause was not always properly understood or implemented.

PREVENTION

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The government’s Human Trafficking Taskforce continued implementation of the 2014-2017 national anti-trafficking action plan, the full text of which was classified and only the main priorities were publicly available. During 2016, the taskforce, comprised of local and national government authorities, the private sector, and NGO representatives, expanded to include a representative from the shelter community. The national anti-trafficking rapporteur published five reports during the reporting period addressing human trafficking trends and the government’s response, and the Ministry of Security and Justice published two studies on connections between human trafficking and the criminalization of prostitution. The foreign ministry funded an international study on child sex tourism. The government announced a €1 million ($1,053,740) increase to the 2017 anti-trafficking budget, and a €2 million ($2,107,480) increase for the budget for 2018 onwards; authorities primarily assigned these funds for hiring more police detectives and analysts. The government continued several awareness campaigns to educate the public about all forms of trafficking with videos, websites, handouts, and school prevention curricula; the labor inspectorate continued to focus inspection efforts on sectors with an elevated risk of exploitation. Local government officials continued to conduct brothel inspections, which included close observation for any signs of trafficking. Authorities trained immigration, hotel, aviation, customs, and labor inspection staff in methods to identify possible human trafficking victims and signs of child sex tourism. In July, the government signed the first “Covenant on Reducing Human Rights Violations in Supply Chains” with the textile and clothing sector, with signatories representing 35 percent of the Dutch clothing and textile market. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. The Anonymous Crime Reporting Center received 279 tips on sex trafficking in 2016, compared with 182 tips on human trafficking and smuggling (joint category) in 2015. The government, in cooperation with NGOs and foreign governments, continued its campaign against child sex tourism aimed at screening potential foreign child sex tourists at airports. In September, the government released a national action plan against child sex tourism, focusing on prevention, prosecution, and international cooperation.

The foreign ministry continued to conduct outreach to foreign diplomats’ domestic workers, without their employers present, on how to report cases of abuse. In the last five years, according to media sources, the Netherlands has registered 26 reports of labor exploitation by foreign diplomats. The government provided human rights training, including trafficking in persons training, during orientation for its diplomatic personnel. The government provided training on human rights and humanitarian law of war, including trafficking in persons, to Dutch troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, the Netherlands is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. The largest group of identified trafficking victims are Dutch girls enticed by young male traffickers, “lover boys,” who establish sham romantic relationships with vulnerable girls before intimidating them into sexual exploitation. Women and child refugees and asylum-seekers are vulnerable to sex trafficking and child sex trafficking, respectively. Men and women from Eastern Europe, Africa, and South and East Asia are subjected to labor trafficking in industries such as inland shipping, agriculture, horticulture, hospitality, domestic servitude, and forced criminal activity. Foreign workers who are dependent upon recruitment agencies are particularly vulnerable to labor trafficking and sexual exploitation. Media reported that over the last five years, 26 reports have been made to officials of labor exploitation of domestic workers from East Asia, South America and Africa by foreign diplomats representing countries in the Middle East, Africa, South America, and European Union offices. Roma children are forced into pickpocketing and shoplifting rings, and refugees and asylum-seekers, including unaccompanied children, are vulnerable to labor trafficking. The Netherlands is a source country for child sex tourists.

Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba (BES)

The BES islands are municipalities of the Netherlands and a transit and destination area for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Women in prostitution in regulated and illegal commercial sex and unaccompanied children are highly vulnerable to trafficking. Local authorities believe men and women have been subjected to domestic servitude and forced labor in the agricultural and construction sectors. Some migrants in restaurants and local businesses may be vulnerable to debt bondage.

The BES criminal code criminalizes both sex and labor trafficking under article 286f, prescribing penalties ranging from six to 15 years imprisonment. Authorities did not initiate any new trafficking investigations or prosecutions in 2016. The prosecution of Bonaire’s first trafficking case, involving Colombian women in forced prostitution, was initiated in October 2012 and remained ongoing at the close of the reporting period. The mandate of the Netherlands’ national rapporteur did not extend to the BES islands, so the office could not do local research. Local governments on the BES islands ran multidisciplinary anti-trafficking teams, which cooperated with each other and with Dutch counterparts. In January 2017, the Dutch government announced that in 2018, victims of violence, including human trafficking, would be eligible for compensation from the Violent Offenses Compensation Fund.