New figures on identification and protection of victims of human trafficking and prosecution of traffickers

More possible victims of human trafficking were identified in the Netherlands in 2014. The largest group of possible victims were exploited in the sex industry, but the proportion of victims that were exploited outside the sex industry increased. Fewer foreign victims relied on the arrangements for granting temporary residence to victims of human trafficking in 2014. The number of claims for compensation that were awarded to victims actually increased. More human traffickers were convicted, but the average sentence imposed by the Dutch courts was shorter. These are the main findings from research carried out by the Dutch Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children on the basis of data for the period 2010-2014. The Rapporteur has published four quantitative updates of the report “Trafficking in Human Beings: Visible and Invisible II” today (available in Dutch only).

Possible victims of human trafficking who are detected in the Netherlands are registered by CoMensha. In 2014 the organisation registered 1,561 possible victims, compared with 1,437 in 2013. “The increase in the number of of registered possible victims says nothing about the overall scale of human trafficking in the Netherlands,” according to the National Rapporteur, Corinne Dettmeijer-Vermeulen. “For example, it is possible that agencies have become better at recognising and registering human trafficking.” As in previous years, the majority of the possible victims are women (84%) and still almost a fifth are minors. The largest group of possible victims have Dutch nationality (30%), followed by Romanian (14%), Bulgarian (10%), Polish (6%) and Hungarian (6%). The number of registered possible victims from Africa (particularly West Africa) has declined steadily, but it is unclear whether there are actually fewer African victims in the Netherlands or whether this is due to the fact that they are less visible to the authorities than they used to be or because less priority is given to the identification or registration of this category of victims.

More known cases of exploitation outside the sex industry

“Exploitation outside the sex industry must continue to receive constant attention,” the National Rapporteur stresses. Although the sex industry still accounted for the majority of the possible victims of human trafficking (66%) in 2014, more cases of exploitation outside the sex industry were discovered in 2014 than in 2013. These cases occurred mainly in the hospitality, domestic services, shipping and inland shipping sectors, as well as in agriculture and horticulture.

Less use made of residency arrangements for victims of human trafficking

Possible victims are entitled to a reflection period of up to three months if there is even the slightest indication of human trafficking. During that period they have time to recover and reflect on whether to cooperate with an investigation or prosecution. If, after that period, a victim decides to cooperate with the investigation or prosecuton, his or her cooperation is deemed to constitute an application for temporary residence under the Regulations on residency for victims of human trafficking. The reflection period was invoked 174 times in 2014, down from 223 times in 2013. The number of applications for temporary residence also declined slightly, from 268 in 2013 to 251 in 2014. Victims who use the reflection period do not always subsequently apply for a temporary residence permit. This was the case particularly among victims from Central and Eastern Europe and child victims. Applications for temporary residence are generally granted.

More victims of human trafficking receive compensation

Victims of human trafficking are entitled to compensation. In 2014, the courts ordered more offenders to pay compensation. Such orders were made on 45 occasions. Three-quarters of the compensation payments were made to the victims under the scheme to advance the compensation to the victim if the offender had not paid some or all of the amount due within the stipulated period of eight months. Victims can also seek a remedy outside criminal or civil law by filing a claim for financial restitution with the Violent Offences Compensation Fund. In 2013 and 2014, the Compensation Fund issued rulings on 119 applications from victims of human trafficking. Three-quarters of the applications were awarded. This marked a substantial increase, which could be due to the policy changes instituted in 2012, since when human trafficking has been treated as a premeditated violent crime, by virtue of which victims are entitled to financial restitution.

More convictions of human traffickers, shorter average sentence

In the period from 2010 to 2014, an average of 150 suspects of human trafficking appeared in court each year. The courts handed down convictions for human trafficking in 76% of cases in 2014, whereas the conviction rate was only 61% in 2010. Upon a conviction, the courts generally (in 89% of cases) impose an unconditional or partially conditional prison sentence. The average prison sentence had increased every year from 2010, from 617 days in 2010 to 804 days in 2013. In 2014, however, the average length of an unconditional prison sentence declined to 665 days. The National Rapporteur will monitor developments in sentencing in order to determine whether this becomes a trend and, if so, will investigate the cause.