Legislative proposal: Better protection against human trafficking

The criminalisation of human trafficking is being expanded and simplified. This will make it possible to more effectively detect and prosecute the perpetrators. As a result, victims of human trafficking and labour exploitation will have better protection. This is the substance of the legislative proposal put forth for consultation today by State Secretary for Justice and Security Eric van der Burg, also acting on behalf of Minister of Justice and Security Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius and Minister of Social Affairs and Employment Karien van Gennip. 

More effective prosecution of offenders

An important component of the proposed legislation is the improved ability to impose sentenced for serious abuses on the work floor. To that end, the law will be amended to include a new crime: ‘serious disadvantage’. This will ensure that offenders may be prosecuted if they abuse another person’s vulnerable position on the work floor.

Eric van der Burg, State Secretary for Justice and Security:

‘Human trafficking leads to personal tragedies and is harmful to society as a whole. It is up to us to protect victims. Perpetrators of human trafficking and exploitation must be dealt with severely.’

In addition to abuse, the law must cover cases when workers are extremely disadvantaged. Examples include substantial underpayment, violations of the rules for working hours and times, poor housing or infringement of liberty such as confiscating a person’s passport. At the moment, these distressing forms of abuse are difficult to address through the criminal justice system. Vulnerable groups such as migrant labourers are often the victims of such practices.

‘All too often, migrant labourers are still encountering abuses on the work floor and dealing with substandard housing. But the bar for criminally prosecuting the perpetrators is too high, despite the socially undesirable situations that are coming to light. This legislative proposal will make it easier to prosecute offenders for serious abuses with regard to living and working conditions. This is a new step to improve the position of migrant labourers in the Netherlands.’

This according to Minister Karien van Gennip of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.

The proposed legislation would also expand the possibilities for pursuing offenders who obtain financial benefit from human trafficking. In addition, it will provide a clearer description of which behaviours are punishable by law. And for organisations who work in this area – the Police, the Netherlands Labour Inspectorate, the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service and the courts – the statutes will become easier to interpret and apply.

Broad strategy against human trafficking

The legislative proposal is part of a broader strategy aimed at combating human trafficking. Heavy investments are being made in the ‘Samen tegen mensenhandel (Together Against Human Trafficking)’ programme. This programme unites various parties in a common fight against human trafficking. As a result, it represents an important contribution to increasing awareness of how to prevent human trafficking.


Would you like to share your thoughts on this topic? The Ministry of Justice and Security and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment have invited stakeholders to respond. This input will enable further improvement of the legislative proposal. Via the internet consultation, comments may be submitted for a period of eight weeks.