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Meaures to Tackle Human Trafficking (netherlands)

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In the words of Martin Luther King Jr. (1967) “There comes a time when silence is betrayal”. Trafficking in human beings is not a new phenomenon however now more than ever effective measures to reduce and ultimately eradicate the problem need to be enforced (Jonsson, 2012). Following the report by CNN on slave auctions in Lybia, the world has been stunned and has responded with petitions and requests for governments to intervene promptly. Anyone that has internet connection or a social media presence has voiced in some form or manner their dismay on the situation (Elbagir et al, 2017). This alone has put pressure on non-governmental organizations, governmental organizations and governments to tackle the complex problem. Although exposure on human trafficking is good in terms of information and general awareness, it is crucial to make known that the problem has been prevalent long before the CNN report and Lybia is one out of numerous destination and/or transit countries (Human Rights First, 2017). According to the International Labour Organization, over 20 million people are victimized by modern slavery which involves forced labour and sex trafficking. Trafficking in human beings has become one the most lucrative business worldwide, in 2014 it was estimated that it generated up to $150 million annually (ILO, 2017). This paper will aim to focus on one country and discuss the different measures in place to tackle the issue namely victim and criminal centered approaches as well as propose recommendations on the solution to the problem.  

The Netherlands is categorized as a destination, transit and source country for victims of human trafficking. According to a report by the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children (2017), an estimate of over 6000 people are victims of human trafficking yearly of which 4000 are victims of sexual exploitation. The group of victims are reported to be mostly Dutch women and children who are enticed by “lover boys” and foreigners who are exploited by organized criminal organizations. This phenomenon was also the case back in 2008, the only difference would have to be the number of victims which has considerably increased over the years. (Figure 1) The Dutch victims were reported to have been women who were led into prostitution through coercion and emotional manipulation/abuse commonly observed in victims; the “lover boy phenomenon”. (Crisafis, 2009)

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Figure 1: Respective Shares of Foreigners and Nationals among Victims Registered in The Netherlands (2008)

The prevalent countries of origins of the foreign victims are Nigeria, Romania, Bulgaria and China (U.S. Department of State, 2017). Figure 3 shows other nationalities somewhat decreasing (Russia, Ukraine) and countries like Nigeria remaining constant throughout the years (UNODC, 2009).

In the early nineties, prostitution in the Netherlands was illegal, a ban on brothels followed however in an attempt to combat human trafficking, a decision to legalize prostitution was made in 1999 and the ban was lifted. The aim of the legalization was to distinguish “voluntary sex work” (legal) and “forced prostitution” (criminal offence). The “Regulation of Prostitution and Suppression of Abuse in the Sex Industry” bill which was being debated upon at the time was directed at sex workers to be required to register with authorities, increase the age limit and encourage clients to ask for documentation and not solicit undocumented workers (Outshoorn, 2012). However, with the legalization of prostitution, this creates a means for traffickers to bring in unsuspecting victims that are poor, vulnerable and seeking better lives. This then makes it difficult to ascertain who is a legal worker and who is a victim of forced labour. As of 2014, the Netherlands was the country with the most registered victims of human trafficking (McCarthy, 2016). Although figures are difficult to interpret due to the difficulty in ascertaining who are victims and proving they are being exploited; it is important to factor in that some of the figures may be inflated or may not be accurate due to victims not coming forward and/or the differentiation and categorization of victims.

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Figure 2: The EU’s Hotspots for People Trafficking

One remarkable step in tackling trafficking in human beings in the Netherlands has been the establishment of the National Rapporteur who is an independent figure who gives reports to the Dutch government on the scale of human trafficking and offers recommendations on the legislative and policy framework. This is an efficient way for the government to monitor and concentrate their efforts in a methodical and systematic manner (NRTHBSVC, 2017). In terms of legislation, the Netherlands has several divisions and seems to be hands-on on the human trafficking issue. In 2009, the maximum penalty was increased, traffickers can face up to 12-18 years’ imprisonment depending on the severity of the case. For victims, the Chapter B9 regulations gives them the opportunity to reflect on if they want to go ahead with criminal investigations and prosecution. In that period, they are offered a renewable residence permit for the duration of the proceedings with the condition that they cooperate with investigations. On a national level, twice a year, all ministries (Minister of Justice, Minister of Interior, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Labour) meet with NGO’s and the Rapporteur to discuss matters on human trafficking. The implementation of the strategies has included campaigns like the “Exploitation in the Workplace” card which was made available in all municipalities and welfare agencies or the Meld M, funded by the Justice Ministry urging the public to report suspicions on an anonymous hotline between 2006 and 2008 (European Commission, 2017).

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Figure 3: Trends in The Main Origin of Victims of Human Trafficking Detected in The Netherlands

In 2005, it was reported that the Dutch government prosecuted 189 traffickers but only convicted 139 compared to 2014 where 192 were prosecuted but only 134 were convicted. There is a significant rise between 2014 and 2015 of 70-74 percent. However, this is still not enough due to the increasing supply and demand. The government then decided to give specialized training to defense attorneys, judges and prosecutors in terms of anti-trafficking laws and victim handling. A collaboration between countries is necessary in tackling the issue, although the Netherlands enforces trainings on police officials, in other countries the police are easily bribed. The solution to this would be to increase wages but depending on the economy of the country in question. In some regions, 3rd world countries for example it is difficult to increase wages and rid them of corruption. (UNODC, 2011)

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