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.