Approach to trafficking in human beings: more focus on minors, prostitution sector and new forms of exploitation required

The Dutch approach to trafficking in human beings, in which increasingly more organisations are involved, is doing relatively well. Concerns, however, remain. This is evidenced by the new periodical report of the National Rapporteur. It her recommendations, rapporteur Corinne Dettmeijer discusses the most urgent topics: victims, the prostitution sector and new forms of trafficking in human beings. The government should focus more on the protection of victims; especially Dutch girls who are a victim of trafficking in human beings. There are major concerns about the latter group. It is necessary to decrease the vulnerability of the prostitution sector to trafficking in human beings and to appeal to the sense of responsibility of customers. Finally, the government should become more alert to new forms of trafficking in human beings outside the sex industry. Minister Opstelten of Security and Justice received the report today.

More trafficking in human beings identified due to investments in training

The police and the Public Prosecution Service cannot deal with trafficking in human beings alone; an accumulation of signs from various parties is necessary in order to identify it. Over the past few years, increasingly more organisations have focused on raising awareness and training. The results thereof are shown by the number of identified victims and suspects. Where they failed to recognise human trafficking situations in the past, they do so now. The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee has been identifying and reporting victims more and more. The Repatriation & Departure Service identifies an average of 35 victims of trafficking in human beings per year during the return phase.

Setting up a referral mechanism for victims

Victims of trafficking in human beings have a right to protection and assistance. It is therefore necessary that each agency knows what to do during this process, from the first moment of discovering a victim to providing after-care. The rapporteur's research shows that the procedure followed by victims after identification is still full of bumps and potholes. There may be a lack of clarity about matters such as the criminal proceedings, the immigration procedure or the reimbursement of interpreting expenses. In the Netherlands, there is no complete overview of the tasks of agencies during these processes. In order to prevent victims from becoming a victim again, this time a victim of the system, it is necessary to set up a so-called 'referral mechanism'. This could be regarded as a victim support guideline, providing a binding description of the tasks of agencies.

Dutch minor victims should be identified and protected better

An ongoing point of concern is the identification and protection of Dutch minor victims of trafficking in human beings, often referred to as victims of 'loverboys' or pimp boyfriends. This name, which is interpreted differently by social workers, results in youth care institutions recognising victims insufficiently. “Victims of pimp boyfriends are victims of trafficking in human beings. They should also be considered as such”, says Ms Dettmeijer. The assistance and treatment they receive must therefore focus on being a victim of trafficking in human beings – not on adolescent problems. This reduces the risk of repeat victimhood. The underreporting of minor victims means that the actual number of minor victims is probably higher than the approximately 200 registered victims; the rapporteur therefore argues that a duty to report should be imposed on youth care institutions.

Prostitution sector less vulnerable: uniform policy and responsibility of customers

Prostitution is not a synonym for trafficking in human beings. The sector is, however, vulnerable to trafficking in human beings. Although the new prostitution act (Wrp) is a positive step towards uniform policy, the further implementation of prostitution policy will strongly depend on cooperation between municipal authorities. Supervision and enforcement are of vital importance here. Municipal authorities should expressly include the reinforcement of the position of prostitutes in their policy. The negotiating position of prostitutes compared to controllers is often weak; it is difficult to open a bank account or take out a loan.
Customers also have a responsibility to make the sector less vulnerable. Situations exist in which a customer knows or should reasonably suspect that a prostitute is a victim of trafficking in human beings. This could be because of the way in which a prostitute is contacted, because of information that is shared on websites about prostitution, or the situation in which he finds the woman. For these cases, the rapporteur recommends that an explicit penalisation be included in a new section of law in the Dutch Penal Code.

New forms

There is insufficient focus on exploitation outside the sex industry. This category of trafficking in human beings is often - wrongly - regarded as “less serious” and not as a form of subversive crime. Concluded criminal investigations remain on the shelf and seldom turn into criminal proceedings. In 2012, only one case resulted in a court decision. There is also no alertness to new manifestations of trafficking in human beings, such as forced begging, forced street paper selling and forced applications for benefits. This results in new concerns. Training is required in order to keep increasing alertness to these new forms.