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.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS

Increase efforts to identify victims. • Provide all potential trafficking victims with care services, regardless of their ability to cooperate with an investigation. • Issue uniform and clear guidance on reflection period criteria for the government’s three investigative bodies. • Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence traffickers to significant prison terms. • Improve data collection quality for law enforcement and ensure the timely release of victim identification data for policy evaluation. • Incorporate measurable goals into the national action plan. • Increase outreach to potential victims in labor sectors and identify forced labor. • Implement results-based training and mentoring of officials in the islands of Bonaire, St Eustatius, and Saba (BES islands) to increase identification of victims and prosecution of traffickers. • Expand the rapporteur’s mandate or assign another independent body to evaluate anti-trafficking efforts and assess trafficking prevalence in the BES islands.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Article 273f of the criminal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed punishments of up to 12 years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to €83,000 ($95,180) for trafficking offenses involving an adult victim, and up to 15 years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to €83,000 ($95,180) for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Police brought 142 new trafficking cases to the prosecutor’s office for further investigation, compared with 141 in 2017. The government prosecuted 138 alleged traffickers, compared with 157 in 2017. The government convicted 111 traffickers, compared with 127 in 2017.

The government did not report complete sentencing data but confirmed several cases in which traffickers received significant prison terms. For instance, in April 2018, a district court in The Hague sentenced a man to 11 years in prison and a fine of €250,000 ($286,700) in compensation to six victims of sex trafficking. In June 2018, a court in Groningen sentenced a man to eight years in prison for human trafficking, sexual exploitation of a child, and producing child pornography. In August 2018, a district court in Arnhem sentenced a man to seven years in prison and a fine of €100,020 ($114,700) in compensation to three victims of sex trafficking. The BES islands (fully under the authority of the Netherlands) did not prosecute or convict any traffickers in 2018. There were investigations but none resulted in trafficking charges. Bonaire law enforcement implemented a database for human trafficking, which served as a repository for future leads on human trafficking.

The government continued to participate in international investigations and led joint investigation teams with other EU nations. Strong coordination between the Dutch police, an NGO, and Nepali authorities led to the conviction of two child traffickers in Nepal. Both traffickers received sentences of seven and eight years in prison, respectively, and paid compensation to the victims. Through an in-country liaison, Dutch police provided information to Philippine police that led to the arrest of a child sex trafficker exploiting children to perform sexual acts through internet webcams. Judges with trafficking-specific training heard all trafficking cases in 2018. The government delivered a high volume of anti-trafficking training to law enforcement and allocated €2 million ($2.29 million) to increase the number of police certified to investigate trafficking cases and boost overall law enforcement capacity. Anti-trafficking police officers were required to pass examinations in a training course focused on policing commercial sex. Authorities trained custom and coast guard officials in the BES islands. Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys continued to receive specialized training in applying the anti-trafficking law and dealing with traumatized victims. In February 2019, a district court sentenced a deputy chief prosecutor investigated for soliciting sex from a child in sex trafficking to 10 months in prison under the charge of sexual misconduct with a minor. Prosecutors reported the government frequently did not charge child sex traffickers under the trafficking law but under a sexual abuse law (article 248b), which carried lesser penalties. The Ministry of Justice and Security elevated trafficking to one of its four top law enforcement priorities in its strategic agenda for 2019 to 2022.

PROTECTION

he government maintained efforts to protect victims. In 2017, the most recent year data was available, the government-funded national victim registration center and assistance coordinator registered 958 possible trafficking victims, compared with 952 in 2016. Of these, 534 were victims of sex trafficking, 249 of labor trafficking, 42 of both labor and sex trafficking, and 133 of uncategorized trafficking. Children comprised 194 of the victims (227 in 2016). The top countries of victim origin in 2017 (in order of prevalence) were the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Nigeria. The police reported identifying 432 victims (446 in 2016); regional health care organizations, 320 (240 in 2016); labor inspectors, 38 (38 in 2016); border security, 21 (12 in 2016); and the remainder from other organizations. The BES islands did not identify any victims in 2018. The government continued to identify fewer victims than in years prior to 2016, but officials and civil society did not interpret this trend as a decrease in trafficking prevalence. Both attributed the identification of fewer victims to a shift in police resources away from trafficking to new priorities, which led to staff turnover and a loss of accumulated trafficking expertise. Additionally, civil society reported victims preferred to register for residency permits under the asylum process rather than the specialized process for trafficking victims. 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 to include 50 shelter beds with 16 beds designated for male victims. The government provided €800,000 ($917,430) to the shelters, a significant decrease from €1.6 million ($1.83 million) in 2017. 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. Local governments also funded shelters for domestic violence victims, which had dedicated space for trafficking victims. Children remained vulnerable in the protection system; in May 2018, police arrested two men for trafficking 12 girls in a youth care facility. Authorities funded several shelters designated for “lover-boy” trafficking victims (girls coerced into sexual exploitation through a sham relationship). The government did not provide data on the number of victims referred to care facilities in 2018, but from 2013 to 2017, 824 of the 5,433 identified victims, or 15 percent, chose to receive services at the shelters. In 2018, the number of health care regions with a trafficking victim coordinator increased to 24, compared with 16 in 2017. The government issued a grant to an NGO to fill all 35 regional coordinator positions by 2020.

The government permitted potential victims to stay in shelter care for a three-month reflection period to begin recovery and 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. Labor authorities stated criteria for granting non-EU victims reflection periods remained unclear. In 2017, the most recent year data was available, 131 of the 584 foreign victims made use of the reflection period. During the reflection period, non-EU victims had access to specialized shelters but could not work. After the reflection period, victims who agreed to assist police could continue to stay in shelters. According to civil society, foreign victims who ceased cooperation with authorities lost their residency permit and consequently all support services. NGOs reported non-EU victims were increasingly unwilling to report to the authorities as they were concerned with participating in a long court process, fearful of retribution from convicted traffickers due to light sentencing, and uncertain of obtaining permanent residency. In an effort to address concerns regarding assistance linked to criminal investigations, the government completed a pilot project that assigned a multidisciplinary team to review victimhood designation without dependence on cooperation with a criminal investigation; project results were pending. Victims willing to testify against their alleged trafficker were eligible to receive a temporary residence permit (B-8 permit), if authorities decided to prosecute a suspected trafficker. Victims received permanent residency when the court convicted the trafficker in their case or when they maintained temporary B-8 status for three or more years. In 2017, the most recent year data was available, 131 (160 in 2016) foreign victims applied for the permanent B-8 permit. A victim could apply for asylum if their case closed without a conviction or they declined to assist in an investigation. The government did not report 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. Authorities worked with civil society to repatriate foreign victims unable to acquire residency permits.

PREVENTION

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The Human Trafficking Task Force, composed of local and national government authorities, the private sector, and NGO representatives, set long-term anti-trafficking policies, while the Ministry of Justice and Security led the implementation and coordination of anti-trafficking efforts. In November 2018, the government issued its new national anti-trafficking action plan, designed as a “living document” that allowed for ad-hoc updates and revision. The action plan focused on improving information sharing across stakeholders, identifying more victims, strengthening local governments’ anti-trafficking programs, and increasing efforts against labor trafficking. Several NGOs criticized the action plan for its lack of measurable goals and monitoring tools. The government increased efforts to target illicit financial flows from trafficking by expanding a public-private pilot project that notified law enforcement about suspicious transactions. The rapporteur and the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research published statistical reports that evaluated the country’s anti-trafficking landscape. The government continued multiple 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 screening for signs of trafficking. Authorities trained immigration, hotel, aviation, customs, and labor inspection staff in methods to identify victims and child sex tourism. Three more market sectors (pension, insurance, and food services) joined the government’s Covenant on Reducing Human Rights Violations in Supply Chains. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government continued to implement a national plan against child sex tourism, and in cooperation with foreign governments, screened for potential child sex tourists at airports. The foreign ministry continued to conduct outreach to foreign diplomats’ domestic workers, without their employers present, on how to report cases of abuse. A government-funded NGO maintained a victim assistance hotline during extended business hours.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in the Netherlands. Most 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. Labor traffickers exploit men and women from Eastern Europe, Africa, and South and East Asia in industries such as inland shipping, leisure river cruises, 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. Refugees and asylum-seekers, including children in government-run asylum centers, are vulnerable to sex trafficking.

BONAIRE, ST. EUSTATIUS, AND SABA (BES)

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit foreign victims in the BES islands. Increasingly, traffickers exploit Venezuelan women in sex trafficking on the BES islands. Local authorities believe labor traffickers exploit men and women in domestic servitude and the agricultural and construction sectors. Women in prostitution and unaccompanied children are highly vulnerable to trafficking. Some migrants in restaurants and local businesses may be vulnerable to debt bondage.

The BES criminal code criminalized sex and labor trafficking under article 286f, prescribing penalties ranging from six to 15 years’ imprisonment. Bonaire prosecuted its first trafficking case in 2012; the case remained ongoing at the close of the reporting period. The mandate of the Netherlands’ national rapporteur did not extend to the BES islands; therefore, the office could not conduct local research. Local governments on the BES islands ran multidisciplinary anti-trafficking teams, which cooperated with each other and with Dutch counterparts; however, there was little evidence of their effectiveness. Victims of violence, including trafficking, were eligible for compensation from the Violent Offenses Compensation Fund.

2019 Trafficking in Persons Report: Netherlands
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