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 a growing problem. 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

The following measures are designed to improve the government’s ability to investigate people smugglers:

  • A new joint team to combat people smuggling (GMST) has been set up. The team consists of representatives of:
    • Public Prosecution Service (OM)
    • Royal Military and Border Police (KMAR)
    • National Police
    • Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND)
    • Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA)
    • Expertise Centre on Human Trafficking and People Smuggling (EMM)
    • National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV)
  • 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.

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 don’t know whether the smuggler will treat them badly. Human traffickers, on the other hand, trade in human beings – often women – using threats and violence. They often force victims into prostitution or exploitative labour situations.
  • People smuggling always involves transporting migrants over the border to another country. But human trafficking can also take place within a country’s borders.