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; increasing the number of convictions; and identifying a significant number of victims. The national rapporteur increased monitoring and evaluation of trafficking and law enforcement increased efforts to fight child sex tourism. Although the government meets the minimum standards, authorities identified fewer victims for the fourth consecutive year, did not uniformly offer the three-month reflection period to foreign victims, and the government did not report complete statistics for the reporting period.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE NETHERLANDS
Increase efforts to identify victims and provide all potential trafficking victims with care services, regardless of their ability to cooperate with an investigation; improve data collection on sentences and victim identification; increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence traffickers to penalties proportionate to the seriousness of the crime; finalize the national action plan; continue outreach to potential victims in labor sectors and identify forced labor; fill all regional victim care coordinator posts; pursue more covenants with business sectors to reduce the risk of human trafficking in supply chains; and improve mentoring of officials in Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba to increase identification of victims and prosecution of traffickers.
The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Article 273f of the criminal code criminalized sex and labor trafficking, including forced begging and forced criminality, and prescribed punishments of up to 12 years imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2017, the police received 186 reports of possible human trafficking and arrested 141 trafficking suspects, compared with 184 and 220 respectively in 2016. In 2017, the government prosecuted 157 trafficking defendants, compared with 150 in 2016. The government convicted 127 on trafficking crimes in 2017, compared with 103 in 2016.
The government did not report complete sentencing data but confirmed several cases in which traffickers received strong sentences during the reporting period. For instance, in December 2017, a district court in Leeuwarden sentenced a man to five years in prison and a fine of €350,000 ($420,170) in compensation to two victims of forced prostitution. In July 2017, a court of appeals in The Hague convicted a woman to three years in prison for forced labor of a child in domestic servitude. In October 2017, a district court in Utrecht convicted four Bulgarian men for forced prostitution with prison sentences respectively of 23, 43, 53, and 64 months. Prosecutorial statistics did not disaggregate labor and sex trafficking cases, but according to the national rapporteur’s 2016 official statistics, 25 percent of victims were subjected to forced labor. The government increased investigations of child sex tourists; most notably, the Dutch police coordinated with Nepalese authorities to arrest two suspects on trafficking charges. The government continued to participate in international investigations with Europol and led joint investigation teams with other EU nations. Judges with trafficking-specific training heard all trafficking cases in 2017. The government allocated €2 million ($2,400,960) to train 30,000 first-line police officers on victim identification in 2018 and train 20 anti-trafficking investigators each year. 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. Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys continued to receive specialized training in applying the anti-trafficking law and dealing with traumatized victims. In 2017, labor inspectors referred 12 cases for prosecution for forced labor, an increase from 10 in 2015. The government arrested a deputy chief prosecutor in the national prosecutor’s office for soliciting a child; the investigation was ongoing.
The government maintained efforts to protect victims. In 2016, the latest year for which these data were available, the government-funded national victim registration center and assistance coordinator registered 952 possible trafficking victims, a decrease from 1,150 in 2015. Of the 952 identified, 523 were victims of sex trafficking, 244 of labor trafficking and forced crime, 35 of both labor and sex trafficking, and 150 of uncategorized trafficking. Two-hundred and twenty seven of the victims were children. The top countries of victim origin in 2016 (in order of prevalence) were the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Nigeria, and Bulgaria. The police reported identifying 462 victims; regional health care organizations, 240; labor inspectors, 38; military police, 12; and other organizations, 352. The number of registered victims identified continued to decline over the past four years, but government and civil society did not interpret this trend as a decrease in trafficking prevalence. Government officials and civil society reported that a shift in police resources away from trafficking to counterterrorism and a reorganization of the force, which led to a loss of accumulated trafficking expertise contributed to fewer victims being identified. In 2017, the national rapporteur conducted a multiple systems estimation study, which estimated 6,250 trafficking victims within the country.
The government-funded an extensive network of care facilities for both foreign and domestic victims. The government fully funded three NGO-managed shelters that provided dedicated services for child, adult females, and adult male trafficking victims. In 2017, the government provided €1.6 million ($1,920,770) to the shelters, a slight increase compared to 2016. However, from 2018 to 2021, the government proposed to allocate €800,000 ($960,380) to the three shelters each year, a reduction of 50 percent. Local governments also funded shelters for domestic violence victims, which had dedicated space for trafficking victims. The government did not provide data on the number of victims referred to care facilities, but over the past four years, only 960 of the 5,765 identified victims, or 16.7 percent, received services at the shelters. For victims to receive official designation as trafficking victims, their trafficker must be convicted in court; without this status, foreign victims could not obtain permanent residency, with some exceptions. NGOs reported non-EU victims were increasingly unwilling to report to the authorities under this condition as they were concerned with participating in a long court process, fearful of possible retribution from convicted traffickers due to light sentencing, and uncertain of obtaining permanent residency.
Each of the Netherlands’ 35 health care regions was required to have one coordinator for trafficking to assist victims; however, in November 2017, media reported 16 of the 35 regions had not filled the position. The Royal Dutch Medical Association, upon recommendation from the rapporteur, adopted improved guidelines for doctors to identify victims without violating patient confidentiality. The government permitted potential victims to stay for a three-month reflection period to decide whether to assist law enforcement. The national rapporteur reported the three investigative agencies—the police, the military police, and the labor inspectorate—did not uniformly offer the three-month reflection period to foreign victims. In 2016, the most recent year data was available, 116 of the 584 foreign victims made use of the reflection period. During the reflection period, non-EU victims had access to specialized shelters, but were not permitted to work. After the reflection period, victims who agreed to assist police could continue to stay in 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 could leave shelters at will and unchaperoned, and authorities placed child victims in special shelters for children or in specialized foster homes. Several shelters were specifically designated for “lover-boy” trafficking victims.
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. Victims received permanent residency when the trafficker in their case was convicted or when they maintained B-8 status for three or more years. In 2016, 160 foreign victims applied for the B-8 permit. The national rapporteur reported about 75 percent of all foreign victims apply for the B-8 permit, but indicated this number was declining because more foreign victims applied for residency under asylum status. 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. The government did not collect statistics on the number of potential victims who applied for asylum. Some NGOs criticized the B-8 process, reporting that residency contingent on prosecution and conviction can be detrimental to the victim. The government addressed this concern by creating the multi-disciplinary trafficking victimhood designation program, to better assess victims on a case-by-case basis; the program has received its first cases at the time of this report. Authorities worked with civil society to repatriate foreign victims unable to acquire residency permits. In addition to the new multi-disciplinary trafficking victimhood designation program, 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.
The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The government’s national anti-trafficking action plan was under development at the close of the reporting period. The government’s Human Trafficking Task Force, which was composed of local and national government authorities, the private sector, and NGO representatives, was extended with another three-year term until 2020. The government partially funded the implementation of an action plan developed by NGOs. The 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 reports on the protection of victims of sexual crime and an evaluation of the rapporteur. The government continued several awareness campaigns with videos, websites, handouts, and school prevention curricula; the labor inspectorate continued to focus on sectors with an elevated risk of exploitation. Teams of police, labor inspectors, and health care personnel continued to conduct brothel inspections, which included close observation for signs of trafficking. Authorities trained immigration, hotel, aviation, customs, and labor inspection staff in methods to identify trafficking victims and child sex tourism. The gold sector became the sixth sector to sign the government’s Covenant on Reducing Human Rights Violations in Supply Chains. The number of textile sector signatories to the covenant increased from 55 to 65 in 2017. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. The government had a national plan against child sex tourism, and in cooperation with foreign governments screened potential child sex tourists at airports. The government provided anti-trafficking training assistance to foreign governments. The foreign ministry continued to conduct outreach to foreign diplomats’ domestic workers, without their employers present, on how to report cases of abuse. The ministry of foreign affairs reported one possible incident of labor exploitation by foreign diplomats, but made no arrests. The government provided training on trafficking to Dutch troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions.
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 victims are Dutch girls enticed by young male traffickers, known as “lover boys,” who coerce vulnerable girls into sexual exploitation, often through a sham romantic relationship. Women and child refugees and asylum-seekers are vulnerable to sex trafficking. 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. Criminal groups force Romani children 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 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 criminalized 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 2017. 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 conduct local research. Local governments on the BES islands ran multi-disciplinary anti-trafficking teams, which cooperated with each other and with Dutch counterparts. Victims of violence, including human trafficking, were eligible for compensation from the Violent Offenses Compensation Fund.