NETHERLANDS: Tier 1
The Netherlands is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children from the Netherlands, Eastern Europe—including Roma—Africa, and South and East Asia subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in shipping, offshore oil exploration, agriculture, horticulture, catering, food processing, cleaning, and forced criminal activity. Vulnerable populations include Dutch girls enticed by young male traffickers, unaccompanied children seeking asylum, women with dependent residency status obtained through fraudulent or forced marriages, domestic workers of foreign diplomats, and women and men recruited in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. There are reports of Dutch citizens engaging in child sex tourism abroad.
The Government of the Netherlands fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government investigated, prosecuted, and convicted a significant number of traffickers, identified more than 1,500 potential trafficking victims, and referred 160 victims to care facilities. The government continued anti-trafficking campaigns aimed at educating vulnerable populations and businesses, and the anti-trafficking rapporteur monitored government efforts. Observers expressed concerns about the government’s limited identification of and assistance to Dutch child trafficking victims. The government’s program to shorten victims’ reflection periods had potential detrimental effects on victim protection.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE NETHERLANDS:
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence traffickers to penalties commensurate with the seriousness of the crime; finalize the national referral mechanism to enable all front-line responders to identify victims and allow police to interview victims in settings other than police stations; screen all of those detained for acts that may be a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; allow victims to obtain renewable residence permits specifically for trafficking victims when they are unable to cooperate in trafficking prosecutions; provide adequate funding to NGOs to provide victim services; continue outreach to potential victims in the illegal and legal labor sectors and identify forced labor; provide anti-trafficking training to all Dutch diplomatic personnel; continue to mentor officials in Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba (BES) to improve identification of victims and prosecution of traffickers; and share best practices with other countries.
The Dutch government sustained its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Netherlands prohibits all forms of trafficking through Article 273f of the criminal code, including forced begging and forced criminality. A single offense of trafficking prescribes a maximum of 12 years’ imprisonment and aggravated human trafficking prescribes 18 years’ to life imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Authorities investigated 294 new trafficking cases in 2014 compared with 253 in 2013. In 2014, the government prosecuted 242 trafficking defendants and convicted 151, compared with 170 convicted in 2013. The average sentence for traffickers in 2014 was not available; in 2013 it was 26.4 months, of which one-third is typically suspended in accordance with standard Dutch penitentiary law. Specialized judges heard all trafficking cases in 2014. Authorities did not disaggregate labor and sex trafficking cases, but roughly 20 percent of all victims identified in 2014 were forced labor victims. Judges and prosecutors received specialized training in applying the anti-trafficking law and dealing with traumatized victims. Government officials inspected brothels, screened licensed prostitution businesses, and continued to target sectors vulnerable to forced labor. In 2014, labor inspectors referred 16 cases for prosecution, up from 15 in 2013, and had 16 ongoing investigations, including some conducted jointly with Belgian labor inspectors. Authorities did not report new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking; an investigation of a former government official for child rape continued in 2014. Police officers participated in an anti-trafficking course, including working with victims, as part of their standard training. Anti-trafficking police officers were required to pass examinations in a training course focused on policing the sex industry; police officers also had to sign a code of conduct before working in this sector. Dutch officials’ joint investigations with Hungarian and Belgian officials resulted in the arrest of a Hungarian couple for sex trafficking Romani victims in 2014.
The Netherlands continued efforts to protect victims. In 2014, the government-funded national victim registration center and assistance coordinator registered 1,561 potential victims in 2014, compared with 1,437 potential victims in 2013. The top countries of origin were the Netherlands, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and the Philippines. In response to stakeholders’ concern for Dutch girl victims of sex trafficking, the government developed a new action plan to improve identification of such victims and cooperation across government agencies. The government referred 160 victims to care facilities and labor inspectors referred 112 potential human trafficking victims to an NGO. The government continued to fund an extensive network of facilities providing specialized services for child, female, and male victims. Some NGOs reported a decrease in anti-trafficking funding from the government in 2014.
Authorities provided three-month reflection periods to approximately 240 foreign victims in 2013 compared with 257 in 2012. During this time, victims received services and time to consider assisting law enforcement in prosecuting the trafficker, although isolated reports indicated some were not advised of this relief. During this period, victims were not allowed to work. If authorities decided to prosecute, victims received a B-8 permit, a temporary residence permit for trafficking victims. The government granted approximately 250 B-8 permits in 2013, compared with 388 in 2012. Victims were granted regular residency when the trafficker in their case was convicted or when they maintained B-8 status for three or more years. If a trafficker was not prosecuted or was acquitted, a potential victim could apply for human rights asylum. In 2014, four local governments piloted shortening authorities’ decision time to launch a criminal investigation; this was scheduled to be implemented nationwide in 2015. Some experts contended the program forced victims in a vulnerable state to decide whether or not to press charges too quickly, possibly before they met with their attorney, and could dissuade victims from pursuing the B-8 permits. Trafficking victims were often awarded with financial compensation as part of a criminal trial; at least two victims were awarded 130,000 euro ($140,000) each in 2014. Authorities worked with civil society to repatriate foreign victims. While the anti-trafficking law contains a non-punishment clause, NGOs reported instances in which authorities wrongfully arrested and detained victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.
The Dutch government sustained efforts to prevent trafficking. The national rapporteur published two reports addressing human trafficking. The national anti-trafficking taskforce coordinated the government’s multiagency approach. Authorities drafted a national referral mechanism that have yet to be published and implemented. The government continued a national campaign to educate the public about all forms of trafficking and received 203 trafficking tips, compared with 245 in 2013. The labor inspectorate continued to distribute an information card in 14 languages to inform potential victims about labor rights and signs of trafficking. To address demand for commercial sex, the government continued a campaign to educate clients of women in prostitution about trafficking and encouraged them to report signs of exploitation to authorities through a national anonymous crime reporting hotline; the hotline received 117 calls in 2014. The government, in cooperation with NGOs, extended its campaign against child sex tourism aimed at screening potential foreign child sex tourists at airports. Authorities investigated six cases of child sex tourism, but did not prosecute or convict any sex tourists in 2014. The foreign ministry continued to conduct outreach to foreign diplomats’ domestic workers, without their employers present, on how to report cases of abuse. The government did not provide specific anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. The defense ministry established a protocol to prevent troops being deployed abroad on missions as international peacekeepers from engaging in trafficking.
BONAIRE, ST. EUSTATIUS, AND SABA (BES)
The BES islands are municipalities of the Netherlands and are 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 sectors and unaccompanied children are highly vulnerable to trafficking. Local authorities believe men and women also 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 criminal code prohibits both sex and labor trafficking under Article 286f, prescribing penalties ranging from six to 15 years’ imprisonment. No new trafficking investigations or prosecutions were initiated in 2014; police reported indicators of human trafficking in St. Eustatius but could not build a case. The prosecution of Bonaire’s first trafficking case, involving Colombian women in forced prostitution, was initiated in October 2012 and remained ongoing. Local governments on the BES islands ran multidisciplinary anti-trafficking teams, which cooperated with each other and with Dutch counterparts. The Dutch government worked with BES counterparts to improve victim care and to train counterparts. Authorities did not identify any new victims in 2014. On the European Union’s Anti-Human Trafficking Day, officials raised awareness about trafficking through messages in multiple languages on radio stations in the BES islands. There were no reported efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.