NETHERLANDS: Tier 1
The Netherlands is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children from the Netherlands, Eastern Europe, Africa, and South and East Asia subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, such as inland shipping, offshore oil exploration, agriculture, horticulture, catering, food processing, domestic servitude, and forced criminal activity. Vulnerable populations include Dutch girls enticed by young male traffickers (“loverboys,” who establish sham love relationships with vulnerable girls before intimidating them into sexual exploitation), unaccompanied children seeking asylum, women dependent on residency status obtained through fraudulent or forced marriages, domestic workers of foreign diplomats, Roma, and vulnerable women and men recruited in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. There were reports of Dutch citizens engaging in child sex tourism abroad. In January 2016, media reported police and social workers found concrete signs of human traffickers recruiting in asylum centers, allegedly targeting women for prostitution and men for forced labor.
The Government of the Netherlands fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government investigated, prosecuted, and convicted a significant number of traffickers, and authorities identified a significant number of victims. The government has continued implementing the national referral mechanism plan created in 2014, including creating guidelines and training for identifying and referring victims to care, and setting standard operating procedures for key ministries. There is a government-wide taskforce that coordinates policy. National legislation requires law enforcement officers to refer victims to protection services. The government continued awareness campaigns aimed at educating vulnerable populations and businesses, and the independent anti-trafficking rapporteur monitored government efforts.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE NETHERLANDS:
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence traffickers to penalties commensurate with the seriousness of the crime; screen for trafficking among those detained for crimes that may be a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; provide adequate funding to NGOs to provide victim services; continue outreach to potential victims in the labor sectors and identify forced labor; improve mentoring of officials in Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba to increase identification of victims and prosecution of traffickers; and reduce the risk of human trafficking in supply chains by following through on the 2014 commitment to develop covenants with companies in 13 sectors.
The Dutch government sustained its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Netherlands prohibits all forms of trafficking, including forced begging and forced criminality, through article 273f of the criminal code. The maximum prison sentence for a single offense of human trafficking is 12 years; it 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 investigated 215 individuals for trafficking in 2015, compared with 280 in 2014. In 2015, the government prosecuted 189 trafficking defendants and convicted 139, compared with 192 prosecuted and 134 convicted in 2014. Between 2014 and 2015, the conviction rate rose from 70 percent to 74 percent. The average sentence for traffickers was not available for 2015 but will become available upon publication of the “Dutch National Rapporteur’s Annual Trafficking Statistics Update” later in 2016. However, judges continued to sentence some convicted traffickers to prison: one trafficker who forced four young women into prostitution over a period of 10 years was sentenced to nine years in prison; a man who forced five Hungarian women into prostitution was sentenced to five years in prison; and a former police officer was sentenced to five years in prison for child sex trafficking. Judges with trafficking-specific training heard all trafficking cases in 2015. Prosecutorial statistics did not disaggregate labor and sex trafficking cases, but statistics on victims indicated that approximately 20 percent of all victims identified in 2015 were forced labor victims. Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys received specialized training in applying the anti-trafficking law and dealing with traumatized victims. In 2015, labor inspectors referred 10 cases for prosecution, down from 16 in 2014. Authorities reported no new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking in 2015. Police officers’ basic training included anti-trafficking courses. 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 officials resulted in the 2015 sentencing of five Hungarians for sex trafficking, with prison sentences of 19 to 38 months’ imprisonment, and the arrest of three men in northern Hungary for sex trafficking in The Hague; the suspects from northern Hungary were extradited, and the investigation was ongoing at the end of the reporting period.
The Government of the Netherlands sustained efforts to protect victims. In the first 11 months of 2015, the government-funded national victim registration center and assistance coordinator registered 944 possible trafficking victims, compared with 1,080 in the first 11 months of 2014. Of the 944, there were 623 in sex trafficking, 172 in labor trafficking and forced crime, and 149 where the kind of trafficking was not established. The top countries of origin during the first 11 months were the Netherlands (almost one-third of the victims), Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Nigeria. The government referred 146 victims to care facilities in 2015, compared with 160 in 2014; 54 percent of human trafficking victims were identified by police, 12 percent by border security, nine percent by labor inspectors, and 25 percent by other organizations. The government continued to fund an extensive network of facilities providing specialized services for child, female, and male victims. However, government funding for civil society organizations was reduced in 2015. In June 2015, the website “Road Map Human Trafficking” went live, providing victims, professionals, and citizens an overview of organizations that assist victims of human trafficking, by region and specialization.
In 2014, the most recent year data was available, 174 victims made use of the three-month reflection period, compared with 223 victims in 2013. During this time, victims received services and time to consider assisting law enforcement in prosecuting the trafficker. During a reflection period, non-EU victims were not allowed to work. If authorities decided to prosecute a suspected trafficker, victims received a B-8 permit, a temporary residence permit for trafficking victims; there is some concern among NGOs that provide shelter services that police did not always immediately advise victims of their B-8 eligibility. In 2014, the most recent year data was available, 251 victims applied for B-8 status, compared with 268 in 2013 and 406 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. A 2012 pilot program to shorten authorities’ decision time to launch a criminal investigation was being implemented nationally. Some experts contended this program forced victims in a vulnerable state to decide whether or not 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.
The government sustained efforts to prevent trafficking. The national rapporteur published three reports addressing human trafficking trends and the government’s response. 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 focused on sectors with an elevated risk of exploitation. Local government officials conducted brothel inspections, which included close observation for any signs of trafficking. Authorities trained immigration, hotel, aviation, customs, and labor inspection staff. A law enacted in 2015, the Tackling Fake Firms Act, enables the government to prosecute fraudulent companies used by traffickers and recruiters to circumvent labor laws, especially in the construction and transportation sectors; contractors are held accountable for any labor exploitation of their subcontractors. The government demonstrated efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. The Anonymous Crime Reporting Center received 182 tips on human trafficking and smuggling (joint category) in 2015, compared with 203 in 2014. The government, in cooperation with NGOs, continued its campaign against child sex tourism aimed at screening potential foreign 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. Since 2010, the Netherlands has registered 12 cases of human trafficking by foreign diplomats. The government provided human rights training, including trafficking in persons training, during orientation for its own diplomatic personnel. The government provided training on human rights and humanitarian law of war, including trafficking in persons, to troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions.
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 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 prohibits 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 2015 in the BES islands. Police reported indicators of human trafficking in Bonaire and sent a multi-disciplinary team with police, tax authorities, labor inspectors, border security officials, and local government officials to search two brothels, but could not build a case. The mandate of the Netherlands’ national rapporteur did not extend to the BES islands, so the office could not do local research. 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. Local governments on the BES islands ran multidisciplinary anti-trafficking teams, which cooperated with each other and with Dutch counterparts.