Vulnerable young people still inadequately protected against exploitation

We should be seriously concerned about young Dutch victims of sexual exploitation and foreign victims of sexual and criminal exploitation. National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children Herman Bolhaar concludes in the Human Trafficking Victims Monitoring Report 2015-2019 once again that there needs to be a structural focus on the most vulnerable groups of victims. 'Otherwise, we risk not only giving inadequate protection to victims but also unintentionally playing into the hands of the offenders.'

Despite the rise in 2019 in the number of reports of victims of human trafficking to CoMensha, the Coordination Centre against Human Trafficking, the information on certain vulnerable groups of victims is still insufficient. While the number of reports about Dutch victims of sexual exploitation is decreasing, it is unlikely that the actual number of victims has fallen.

'We are dealing with a large number of children and young people whose personal integrity is being seriously breached. This often has serious and long-term implications for the future of these young people, with all its potential societal consequences,' says National Rapporteur Bolhaar.

The problem of exploitation

Despite the increased number of reports, very little is known about the group of child victims of sexual exploitation. 'There is no room for complacency here,' says Bolhaar. 'We need to know who they are and what they are going through. In-depth insight into the circumstances in which they are exploited is crucial to ensure optimum protection for the most vulnerable groups.'

The Minister for Migration's recommendation that insight into this group of victims needs to be improved echoes a similar recommendation made last year. 'This is not a simple problem that can be solved by means of a simple intervention,' says Bolhaar. ‘We must remain resolute and determined. Continuous learning and development increases organisations' ability to improve their understanding of the nature and scale of the problem and how to tackle it. This in turn will enable us to ensure the best protection and care for victims.'

Human trafficking within migration flows

The increased number of reports is mainly due to the growing number of predominantly Nigerian victims. Despite the large number of reports, little is known about the actual content of the reports. Cases almost always come to nothing before they can be properly dealt with or are handed over to foreign investigative services. So it remains unknown what happened to this group of victims, and what steps can be taken to prevent more people falling victim to human trafficking.

In the National Rapporteur's opinion, it is therefore essential to seek and understand the nature of the phenomenon and the human trafficking-related causes of the increase in this group of victims. ‘This is crucial if we are to effectively combat human trafficking within migration flows, stop criminal organisations and, in doing so, protect victims.’

Technological developments

Technology offers an opportunity to create knowledge and awareness about human trafficking and as such can have a preventive effect. 'Technological developments are having a significant impact on the possibilities for exploiting victims as well as the possibilities for bringing the offenders to justice,' says Bolhaar. 'This underlines the importance of studying the various roles that online platforms, such as websites, social media, and (dating) apps, can play in facilitating as well as combating human trafficking in the Netherlands. Particularly since young people spend so much of their time on these platforms, where they are particularly vulnerable.'