Combating people smuggling

Central government uses various measures to combat people smuggling. These include operating a specialised team to investigate people smugglers and introducing more severe criminal penalties.

People smuggling

People smuggling is providing people with assistance and transport for the purpose of smuggling them over a border. People smugglers take advantage of migrants’ desperation, charging them huge sums of money to smuggle them into the Netherlands or other European Union (EU) member states. Migrants’ lives and health are often put at risk in the process.

Investigative measures

Combating people smuggling is a priority for Dutch central government. The following measures are among those designed to improve the government’s ability to investigate people smugglers:

  • The establishment of a team to combat people smuggling. The team consists of representatives of:
    • the Public Prosecution Service (OM)

    • the Royal Military and Border Police (Koninklijke Marechaussee; KMAR)

    • the National Police

    • the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND)

    • the Ministry of Justice and Security

    • the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

    • the Expertise Centre on Human Trafficking and People Smuggling (EMM)

    • the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA)

  • Random border checks conducted by KMAR’s Mobile Security Monitoring Operations team. These checks take place on highways, at airports, on international trains and at maritime border crossings.
  • A network of liaison officers from the police, KMAR and OM, working with counterparts both within and outside Europe. This collaboration ensures information about smuggling networks can be shared rapidly, and it bolsters efforts at EU and international level to investigate and prosecute people smugglers and their organisations.
  • Measures included in the ‘barrier model’ for combating people smuggling, such as joint investigations with other countries and Europol. These partnerships have already led to the arrest of a number of people smugglers. The barrier model gives insights into which government measures are effective in the fight against people smuggling.

More severe penalties for people smugglers

On 1 July 2016, the maximum prison sentence for people smuggling was raised. People smugglers now face a minimum of 6 years and a maximum of 18 years in prison.

The difference between human trafficking and people smuggling

People smuggling is not the same as human trafficking, though they often occur in combination. Here are the two important differences:

  • In the case of people smuggling, migrants consciously choose to deal with a smuggler. They do not know whether the smuggler will treat them badly. In the case of human trafficking, people are forced to work or to perform sexual or other acts. The aim of human trafficking is to exploit people. 
  • People smuggling always involves transporting migrants over the border to another country. But human trafficking can also take place within a country’s borders.