[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

THE NETHERLANDS (TIER 1)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

The Netherlands is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. During 2008, most female victims were exploited in forced prostitution, and the majority of identified sex trafficking victims were from the Netherlands. Within the Netherlands, victims are trafficked by so called “pimp boys” or “lover boys”—men who seduce vulnerable young women and girls and force them into prostitution. During the reporting period, women were also trafficked from Asia, Africa, other parts of Europe, and the Western Hemisphere; the most common countries of origin for foreign female trafficking victims were China, Nigeria, Hungary, and Sierra Leone. Males were trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation as well as forced labor in the catering, cleaning, agriculture and construction sectors. The main countries of origin for male victims were China, India, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and the Netherlands. According to the Dutch National Rapporteur for Trafficking in Persons, the highest risk sectors for labor trafficking are domestic employment, temporary employment agencies, agriculture and horticulture, restaurants, hotels, and construction. Groups vulnerable to trafficking include single underage asylum seekers, women with dependent residence status obtained through fraudulent marriages, and women recruited in Africa, China, and Thailand for work in massage parlors.

The Government of the Netherlands fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government sustained strong anti-sex trafficking law enforcement efforts, sustained protections provided to female trafficking victims, and improved services available to male trafficking victims. It also expanded prevention activities, including a program targeted at raising trafficking awareness among clients of the sex trade.

Recommendations for the Netherlands: Vigorously investigate and prosecute, and convict and punish labor trafficking offenders; enhance forced labor awareness training for prosecutors and judges; continue anti-trafficking awareness initiatives aimed at educating clients of the commercial sex trade as well as beneficiaries of forced labor about the causes and consequences of trafficking; continue efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims in the prostitution and relevant labor sectors of the Netherlands.

The government demonstrated progress in investigating and prosecuting sex trafficking offenses, though its prosecutions of labor trafficking offenses diminished. Since January 2005, the Netherlands has prohibited all forms of trafficking through Criminal Code Article 273, which prescribes penalties for any form of trafficking of six to 15 years’ imprisonment, with fines of up to $58,000. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes. There were no new labor trafficking prosecutions or convictions during the reporting period, compared with five during the previous reporting period. The government prosecuted 221 persons for human trafficking offences in 2007, the last year for which comprehensive statistics are available, compared to 216 during the previous year. In 2007, verdicts were handed down in 120 cases, 81 percent of which resulted in convictions, 12 percent resulted in acquittals, and 7 percent were dismissed. According to the National Rapporteur's office, average prison sentences imposed in 2007 ranged from 20 to 23 months, down from 27 months in 2006. The police included a module on trafficking as part of standard police training curriculum. The Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, and Aruba signed a memorandum of understanding on increasing cooperation in combating human trafficking.

The Dutch government made increased efforts to protect trafficking victims during the reporting period. Dutch authorities provided a temporary residence mechanism to allow foreign trafficking victims and witnesses to stay in the Netherlands during a reflection period of three months and, separately, during the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. During these periods, the government provided victims with legal, financial, and psychological assistance, including shelter (in facilities that also serve victims of domestic violence), medical care, social security benefits, and education financing. Child victims had access to a full range of specialized services. The government opened four new shelters specifically equipped to assist male victims of human trafficking during the reporting period. The government provided permanent residence status to some victims, based on particular conditions. The government encouraged victims to press charges against traffickers and to assist in prosecutions. Nevertheless, victims were often reluctant to assist law enforcement personnel, due to fear of reprisals from traffickers. In 2008, the national victim registration center identified and registered 826 trafficking victims, including 46 males, compared with 716 identified victims in 2007. 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 of prison staff on proactive victim identification. Police and prosecutors provided specialized training to help judges, labor inspectors, and immigration officers identify and assist trafficking victims during the reporting period. Local governments were responsible for regulating legalized prostitution sectors and for conducting anti-trafficking inspections of brothels in these sectors. The Hague’s vice squad checked sex establishments at least six times during the reporting period; the Amsterdam vice squad inspected brothels at least four times. The inspections included observation for any signals of trafficking, informal interviews with persons in prostitution, and the review of residence and work permits.

The government demonstrated some progress in preventing trafficking during the year. In February 2009, the government introduced an information card entitled "exploitation at the workplace" that was made available to all municipalities and social welfare agencies during the reporting period. The card provides examples of labor exploitation, information on where to seek help, and details on victims' rights in several languages. The Justice Ministry funded the "Meld M" multimedia campaign, targeted at clients of the sex trade and persons in prostitution, as well as residents, shopkeepers and taxi-drivers in areas where prostitution occurs. The campaign encouraged people to report suspicions of trafficking to an anonymous hotline. In December 2008, the Interior and Justice Ministers released a draft act containing new regulations for legalized prostitution; the regulations reportedly would boost efforts to counter sex trafficking. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs funded $2.5 million for anti-trafficking programs in trafficking source countries in Europe, the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa. The National Rapporteur for Trafficking in Persons in July 2008 published its sixth report, which is available on the Justice Ministry’s website. Since January 2008, the government provided single underage asylum seekers with intensive counseling in secured shelters to protect them against traffickers. The Foreign Ministry website includes travel information warning Dutch travelers 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 Philippines to adopt and implement a code of conduct aimed at preventing child sex tourism. The Justice Ministry estimates several dozen convictions annually in the Netherlands of Dutch residents found guilty of child sex tourism offenses abroad. The Dutch military provided training to all military personnel on the prevention of trafficking and additional training on recognizing trafficking victims for Dutch troops being deployed abroad for duty as international peacekeepers.