Rapporteur: generate more insight into networks, facilitators and money. New quantitative report on human trafficking

Human traffickers usually do not operate alone. It is therefore essential to gain a clear picture of human trafficking networks. It is also important to devote greater attention to identifying persons and organisations that facilitate the crime, intentionally or otherwise. Investigation, prosecution and trial of perpetrators all benefit from a clear understanding of all the links in the human trafficking process, research by the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children has shown. The report contains new information about victims and their protection, perpetrators and their methods, and about investigation, prosecution and trial. A lot of data are already available and facilitate an information-driven approach. The new statistics provide organisations with a context in which to reflect critically on their own efforts, and improve them where necessary. The report was presented to the Minister of Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten.

Who are the suspects?

Effective investigation of human trafficking depends on knowing who the traffickers are and how they operate. The Rapporteur’s report is intended to help provide that information. Suspects come most often from the Netherlands (45%), followed by Hungary (8%), Bulgaria (8%), Romania (6%) and Surinam (6%). Eighty percent of suspects are male, according to the study. On average, they are around 32 years of age. In 2012, the Public Prosecution Service once again registered more suspects of human trafficking than in the preceding year: 311 in 2012 compared with 257 the year before.

Identifying every link in the human trafficking process

The law enforcement agencies could invest more heavily in identifying criminal gangs and legal organisations that facilitate human trafficking, consciously or otherwise. For the report, the Rapporteur analysed 77 criminal investigations involving 165 suspects and 249 victims. In at least 38% of the investigations, the police, the Royal Dutch Marechaussee and the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment identified a criminal organisation comprising more than two members.

The Rapporteur also analysed legal organisations that facilitated human trafficking, often unwittingly. In the fight against human trafficking, growing attention is being devoted to tackling legitimate organisations that facilitate the offence. For example, the Public Prosecution Service, the National Unit of the national police force and the trade association of the hospitality sector, Koninklijke Horeca Nederland, have launched a project designed to enhance the ability of hotel staff to recognise signs of human trafficking. According to the report, in at least 48% of the investigations that were studied legal organisations (such as operators of window prostitution) had been facilitating human trafficking, knowingly or otherwise. If organisations intentionally facilitate human trafficking, action must also be taken against them.

‘Human trafficking must not pay’

Human trafficking is all about money. It is still often unclear precisely how much is earned with human trafficking and where the money goes. Insight into the money flows and the financial gains for human traffickers would yield more extensive and more diverse evidence. It would also reduce the dependence of investigators on complaints and other incriminating statements by victims. The financial investigation could also provide better underpinning for claims for compensation by victims. In only twelve (3%) of all the judgments in human trafficking cases in the period 2010-2012 were criminal proceeds confiscated. “That is too few,” according to the Rapporteur. “Human trafficking must not pay.”

Notification of victims

It is not known how many victims there are in the Netherlands. The Rapporteur did not venture an estimate. The number of registered victims depends in part on the agencies that report them. 1.711 possible victims were registered with CoMensha in 2012, a substantially higher number than in 2011 (1,222). The increase does not mean that there is more human trafficking. The Royal Dutch Marechaussee, in particular, reported more sightings of possible victims. They were often women from Central and Eastern Europe who were identified at airports or along the border and who intended (or wished) to work as prostitutes in the Netherlands. There is not necessarily any question of coercion or (the intention of) exploitation.

The registered possible victims are generally women (88%). Their average age is 25. Most victims (25%) come from the Netherlands, closely followed by Bulgaria (18%), Hungary (13%) and Romania (8%). In the period 2008-2012, 15% of the registered victims were minors and 62% of them were Dutch. The figures show that there is still too little known about exploitation outside the sex industry, in sectors such as agriculture and horticulture and shipping and inland shipping, for example, or for begging. In 2012, 15% of the victims were exploited outside the sex industry compared with 71% in the sex industry. The remaining 14% were persons who had not yet worked or of whom it is not known in which sector they were exploited.

Are African victims becoming invisible?

The police receive a great many complaints that contain few leads for further investigation and which are almost immediately dismissed, particularly from possible victims from (West) Africa. The figure was probably around 200 in 2012. However, as the Rapporteur points out, the absence of leads does not necessarily preclude the existence of human trafficking: “There have been various examples of (West) African human trafficking networks that were operating in the Netherlands, whose victims were also sometimes unable to provide many leads about where they were exploited and by whom.” A national analysis to discern trends and links could provide the police with relevant information for determining how they could deal with these complaints. The first requirement for this is the proper registration of the complaints by the Public Prosecution Service.