Trafficking in human beings

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Trafficking in Human Beings (THB) is a serious crime and a gross violation of the fundamental rights of the victim.

In Dutch law forcibly recruiting, transporting, moving, accomodating or sheltering another person with the intention of exploiting that other person is punishable as THB. (The intention of) exploitation is at the core of human trafficking. Exploitation occurs in the sex industry, for instance when someone is forced to work as a prostitute. But it also happens in other sectors of the economy, when someone is made to work under such bad conditions and circumstances that human rights are infringed upon.

Also punishable as THB is forcibly recruiting, transporting, moving etc. another person with the intention of removing his or her organs.

Use of force

The use of force, as an element of the definition of THB, is not limited to (the threat) of physical violence, but can also consist of, for example, deception, misuse of a vulnerable position or misuse of authority arising from the actual state of affairs. However, when a minor is recruited, transported, moved etc. in order to be exploited, this constitutes THB, also if no force was applied.

Dutch criminal law

Article 273f of the Dutch Penal Code criminalises THB, regardless of the fact whether this takes place across international borders or within the Netherlands. According this article, any one who wilfully profits from the exploitation of another person shall be guilty of THB. The same applies to any one who forces another person to provide him with the proceeds of that person’s sex work or the removal of that person’s organs.

The maximum penalty for THB without aggravating circumstances is six years of imprisonment. Trafficking under aggravating circumstances is punishable with a term of imprisonment not exceeding eight, ten, twelve or – when the offence results in the victim’s death – fifteen years.


The registered victims of THB in the Netherlands are mostly women, between the age of 18 and 30. The most common country of origin among victims is the Netherlands. Other common countries of origin are Bulgaria, Romania and Nigeria. Due to the broadened scope of the trafficking clause, encompassing exploitation in all economic sectors – no longer in the sex industry only –, as from 1 January 2005, it can be expected that the number of men among the registered trafficking victims will increase.