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Together Against Trafficking in Human Beings



Efforts to prevent human trafficking in the Netherlands have included regular projects and awareness-raising campaigns. For example:

  • In February 2009, the government introduced an information card entitled 'Exploitation in the Workplace', which was made available to all municipalities and social welfare agencies. The card provided examples of labour exploitation, information on where to seek help, and details on victims’ rights, in several languages.
  • The Justice Ministry funded the 'Meld M' multimedia campaign (Crime Stoppers) targeting the general public to report suspicions of trafficking to an anonymous hotline in 2006 and 2008.
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs website includes travel information warning Dutch travellers that sex with children is prosecutable in the country of destination as well as in the Netherlands. The government funds several initiatives to prevent child sex tourism including a project to assist tour operators in Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines to adopt and implement a code of conduct aimed at preventing child sex tourism.
  • The Dutch military provide training to all military personnel on the prevention of trafficking. Additional training on recognizing trafficking victims is provided for Dutch troops being deployed abroad for duty as international peacekeepers.

Assistance and support provided to victims

In the Netherlands, the Coordination Centre for Human Trafficking (CoMensha) is the focal point for initial assistance to and registration of possible victims of trafficking. CoMensha is an NGO that receives government funding, and closely collaborates with police and other national authorities. As soon as these partners suspect a person is a victim of trafficking, they have to notify CoMensha. Victims can also approach CoMensha directly. The responsibility for keeping a national register of suspected victims has also been delegated to CoMensha. According to the Dutch Rapporteur, CoMensha identified and registered 826 trafficking victims, 46 of whom were male, in 2008. According to CoMensha Report (in Dutch), 909 victims were registered, 138 of whom were male, in 2009.

In 2008, the government opened a number of shelters specifically aimed at male victims of violence, including human trafficking. In June 2010, the government started a pilot project of three new shelters specifically equipped to assist female and male victims of human trafficking.

In addition, victims of trafficking may claim compensation from the perpetrator within the criminal proceedings. They can be entitled to state financed compensation under the Violent Offences Compensation Fund Act. The Fund is a division of the Ministry of Justice and is financed by general tax revenues.

Residence permit

As set out under section 2.1, Dutch authorities provide a temporary residence mechanism to allow foreign trafficking victims to stay in the Netherlands for a reflection period of three months, during which they can decide whether or not to cooperate in criminal proceedings. If a victim chooses to do so, a temporary residence permit may initially be granted for a year, and is renewable for up to three years. During both these periods, the government provides victims with the necessary legal, financial, and psychological assistance, including shelter, medical care, social security benefits, and education financing.

According to the 2010 report of the National Rapporteur, 235 victims of human trafficking have received a temporary residence permit (as compared with 143 in 2007).

Special protective measures for children

The Netherlands has developed a policy plan for dealing with all manifestations of child abuse (including child prostitution and child trafficking).

Since January 2008, the government has provided single underage asylum seekers with awareness training in secure shelters to protect them against traffickers.

The Dutch criminal procedure contains specific provisions for under aged victims. The judge can order the testimony of the victim in court to take place behind closed doors to protect the personal privacy of the young victim. This can also be requested by the victim who is called as a witness (Article 269 of the Dutch Code of Criminal Procedure). The Dutch criminal procedure is also structured in such a way that a direct confrontation between the victim and the suspect in the public hearing can be avoided. If the judge feels that the victim needs to be interviewed further, s/he will usually refer the case to the examining judge, who will not interview the victim during a public hearing, but will do so in the presence of the defence lawyer(s), who will be given the opportunity to ask the victim questions. In serious cases, it is possible for a young victim to write a statement about the effects of the crime. This statement is added to the file. It is common practice for the judge to read such a statement during the hearing. In addition, it is possible to exercise the right to speak during the hearing.

Investigation and prosecution

Human trafficking is also one of the selected themes in the Programme on Strengthening the Fight against Organised Crime of December 2007, with the result that many preventive, administrative and criminal law initiatives have been implemented. This approach has local as well as regional, national and international aspects and requires intensive collaboration between all the parties involved, including private parties and local administrations.

In 2008, the Justice Ministry took measures to prevent victims from being punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, including through training prison staff on proactive victim identification. Police and prosecutors provide specialised training to assist judges, labour inspectors and immigration officers in identifying and assisting trafficking victims.

In the Netherlands, local governments are responsible for regulating legalised prostitution sectors and for conducting anti-trafficking inspections of brothels. Brothels are inspected at regular intervals by the police, local health authorities, the Labour Inspectorate, and fire prevention authorities. Guidelines drawn up by the National Expert Group on Trafficking in Human Beings (LEM) (see also under Established multidisciplinary groups, special units and police groups etc.) suggest that sex establishments should be checked at least six times a year. The Dutch Government is preparing new legislation with regard to licensing requirements, under which any type of sex establishment would be subject to the licensing system. This will include ensuring that prostitutes who want to work independently will have to register as such, and will be punishable if they have not done so. Clients that circumvent the new system will also be punishable.

Latest number of prosecutions and convictions

According to the 2009 Report of the National Rapporteur, Dutch law enforcement authorities prosecuted 221 persons for human trafficking offences in 2007. Verdicts were handed down in 120 cases, 81 per cent of which resulted in convictions, 12 per cent of which resulted in acquittals, and 7 per cent of which were dismissed.

The United States State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report 2010 reports that in 2009, eleven regional human trafficking prosecutors were appointed to handle complicated human trafficking cases. Police completed and referred for prosecution 215 human trafficking investigations in 2008, the last year for which trafficking statistics were available, compared with 281 in 2007. In 2008, verdicts were handed down in 116 cases, of which 79 were convictions, compared with 73 convictions in 2007. There were 33 acquittals, and 4 dismissals in 2008, compared with 14 acquittals and 2 dismissals in 2007.

According to the National Rapporteur’s office, average prison sentences imposed in 2007 ranged from 20 to 23 months.

Established multidisciplinary groups, special units and police groups etc.

An Expertise Centre for Human Trafficking and Smuggling was established in May 2005, consisting of employees from the National Crime Squad (NR), Royal Military Constabulary (Kmar), Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) and the Social Security Intelligence and Investigation Service (SIOD). Information is collected, analysed and disseminated to all partners.

The National Expert Group on Trafficking in Human Beings (LEM) was established within the National Police Project on prostitution and trafficking in human beings in 1997. Experts on human trafficking and smuggling from all police regions address operational problems and share experiences. Coordination meetings between human trafficking and smuggling prosecutors also take place on a regular basis.

Other latest initiatives/activities

Early February 2012 a bill will be sent to Parliament which contains a proposal to increase the sentences for THB even further (they were already increased in 2009). The maximum penalty for the basic crime will go from 8 to 12 years of imprisonment; from 12 to 15 years if two or more persons are acting in concert; from 15 to 18 years if the serious bodily injury has been caused; and from 18 years to 30 years or life imprisonment in case of death.

In February 2012 a letter will be sent to Parliament, detailing plans for the further development of a shelter for victims. The pilot project for specialized shelter for victims of trafficking will become permanent and the number of specialized places will be increased from 50 to 70. In order to ensure that when victims are ready to move on to (semi-) independent housing, such housing is available, municipalities now have an obligation to provide them with housing. This will free up places in the shelters that are now often occupied by victims who no longer need them. Also, within the specialized shelters, psycho-social diagnostics will be introduced, to make certain that victims receive tailor-made care and assistance, also after they leave the shelter. For the victims of labour exploitation, who often do not need care and assistance, but instead prefer to find another job or to return home, the NGO Comensha will be given a budget to organize temporary shelter. Should any of these victims need care, after all, they can go to the specialized shelters. Finally, for Dutch victims, who are often victims of “loverboys”, the general women’s shelters and youth care facilities will remain available. Measures will be taken to further improve the care given to victims of trafficking in women’s shelters and youth care facilities.

In December 2011 a comprehensive action plan was launched, addressing the issue of “loverboys”. Loverboys are young men who utilize persuasive techniques to force vulnerable girls into the prostitution sector. The action plan focuses on raising awareness, empowering girls, improving the comprehensive fight against loverboys and improving the system of care and shelter for victims of loverboys.

In October 2011 a bulletin was published to inform airline personnel about the signs of THB. The bulletin was drawn up by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (the border guards) and the NGO Comensha. Airline personnel is given this bulletin when they receive training from the Marechaussee.

  • In July 2012, the Court of Leeuwarden awarded a victim of trafficking for sexual exploitation € 950.000,- in damages. She had been forced to work as a prostitute for seven years. The damages were based on the money she earned for her trafficker during those years. The trafficker was sentenced to six years in prison.
  • At the end of August 2012, Comensha/La Strada Netherlands launched a leaflet and website for trafficked persons ( in five languages: Dutch, English, Hungarian, Polish and Bulgarian. The aim of the leaflet and website is to inform trafficked persons about their rights as victims. The leaflet and website have been especially developed at the request of the Ministry of Security and Justice for trafficked persons who have had contact with the police and those who are considering to do so. Readers can find information about a range of issues that trafficked people face and useful tips, such as police contacts and Dutch legal provisions related to the reflection period, residence permit, financial and medical support, compensation, shelter, and return. The leaflets will be distributed to all police stations and counseling centres in the Netherlands so that trafficked persons can be informed about their rights at an early stage.
  • Two things are worth mentioning regarding the fight against “loverboys” or “pimp boyfriends”. First of all, an educational short movie about “loverboys” was made called “The Most Beautiful Chick of the Web” (‘De mooiste chick van het web’: see (the movie is in Dutch)). The movie is meant to educate young people about the risks of using social media, which is increasingly being used by loverboys as a work (recruitment) area. In addition, the movie is meant for victims, friends, parents and teachers: how to make your daughter, friend or student aware that something wrong is going on? Second, a guideline for the approach to loverboys has been drawn up (‘Handreiking aanpak loverboys problematiek’ (also in Dutch)). The guideline was developed involving all relevant stakeholders. The guideline supports the action plan of the Ministry of Public Security and Justice (launched in December 2011) to address loverboys more fully, effectively and innovatively.

It has been a busy year for the Dutch National Rapporteur. In 2012 the cabinet has decided to broaden the mandate of the National Rapporteur. Starting June 2012 the National Rapporteur reports on human trafficking and on sexual violence against children.

On the 6th of June, the National Rapporteur presented the first report on Child Pornography at the United Nations to Ms. Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on violence against children. The report can be found on our website

In 2012 the National Rapporteur published the following reports:

  • A survey of prosecution and judgments on human trafficking cases in the period 2006-2010. Available in Dutch.
  • A survey of the National Rapporteur of cases under the B9 article (a protective measure for victims of human trafficking that work with the police in order to prepare a case). Available in Dutch.
  • A survey of the National Rapporteur on organ removal and forced commercial surrogacy. Available in Dutch and will be available in English in 1 or 2 weeks on our website
  • A survey on al human trafficking cases in the period 2009-2012 will be presented on 18 October. It will be available in Dutch and a summary will probably be translated into English.
  • A survey on the approach of municipalities, the police, the prosecutors' office and the tax officers to THB is pending. We expect to finalize this survey in November. It will be available in Dutch.
  • The 9th report of the National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking in the Netherlands is pending. We expect to present it in the first months of 2013.
  • The first report of the National Rapporteur on Sexual Violence against Children is expected to be published in the last months of 2013.

National Referral Mechanism

The NGO Comensha receives a subsidy from the central government to register all possible victims of trafficking and refer them to shelters if necessary. They receive reports from all 26 police forces, the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (border guards), the Inspectorate SZW (labour inspectorate), shelters, lawyers, NGOs, IOM, social workers and so on. The THB guideline of the Public Prosecution Service, which tells prosecutors and detectives how to handle cases of THB, obliges police chiefs to report victims to Comensha. When new organizations dealing with THB spring up, Comensha contacts them and tries to convince them to report any victims they come across.