Human trafficking offenders monitoring report 2017–2021 | Summary

Domestic sexual exploitation offenders often and quickly commit serious offences again. This concludes the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children in the Human Trafficking Offender Monitoring Report 2017-2021 that was published today. There is currently no specific rehabilitation programme for this group of offenders. According to National Rapporteur Conny Rijken, however, this programme is necessary.

High recidivism among sexual exploitation offenders

Repeat offences of human trafficking offenders in the Netherlands was investigated for the first time. The Human Trafficking Offender Monitoring Report shows that over a third (36%) of the domestic sexual exploitation offenders reoffend within two years.

This is high in comparison to other offenders, as 26% of all adult offenders reoffend within two years. The reoffending percentage of domestic sexual exploitation offenders increases to 58% within 5 years and to 65% within 7 years.

For domestic sexual exploitation, offenders often recruit their victims in the same country as where they exploit them. These are predominantly Dutch offenders and victims.

Again serious offences such as violence and human trafficking

Domestic sexual exploitation offenders also often reoffend with serious offences. Within 5 years, 28% of the offenders commits a property offence, 25% a violent offence, 12% a drug offence and almost one in ten offenders repeats human trafficking.

Domestic sexual exploitation offenders are relatively young. Previous research by the National Rapporteur shows that a third is under the age of 23 at the time they offend. Precisely this young group of offenders often reoffends: of the repeat offenders, no less than 42% is younger than 23 years.

‘This high, fast and serious recidivism of predominantly young domestic sexual exploitation offenders is disturbing and emphasizes the need for imposing supervisory processes and effective rehabilitation’, say National Rapporteur Conny Rijken. ‘That is why a specific rehabilitation programme for this group of offenders should be developed and should be applied consistently.’

Criminal justice approach of labour exploitation lags behind

Furthermore, the National Rapporteur finds it worrying that the over a 100 reports of labour exploitation submitted annually to the Netherlands Labour Authority result in eight criminal investigations into labour exploitations on average.

The Netherlands Labour Authority is responsible for investigating labour exploitation in the Netherlands. The investigation into the criminal justice approach for labour exploitation shows that a mere 7% of the reports of labour exploitation comes from the Netherlands Labour Authority itself. Most reports are filed by the police, civilians and NGOs.

Victim protection at risk

The Netherlands Labour Authority divides the reports into serious disadvantage and labour exploitation. While labour exploitation falls under criminal law, serious disadvantage is generally processed under administrative law. The criteria for this distinction overlap, causing potential cases of labour exploitation to be treated as serious disadvantage.

‘Much is unclear during the identification phase. By distinguishing too early, the investigation into and prosecution of offenders can fall short and victims do not receive proper protection,’ says National Rapporteur Conny Rijken. Due to this procedure, victims of exploitation do not receive the protection and remedies they should as a potential victim of labour exploitation.

‘That is why it is important to not immediately distinguish between serious disadvantage and labour exploitation during the identification of labour exploitation,’ says Rijken. ‘Currently, the criminal justice approach seems to be aimed at the most severe forms of labour exploitation, while all labour exploitation should be tackled. The threshold should be low during the identification phase and the question of whether prosecution will be successful should not play a decisive factor. Offenders must know that exploitation does not go unpunished. A fine will not make the difference.’

No full overview of criminal justice approach

A positive development is the rise in human trafficking cases being registered with the Public Prosecution Service. The target figure from the security agenda was achieved for the first time in 2021. National Rapporteur Rijken: ‘It is positive that human trafficking is and remains a theme on the security agenda. This can give an impulse to the prosecution of human trafficking. Target figures are a great first step.’

However, the Offender Monitoring Report also shows that the number of instituted criminal investigations and the number of identified suspects decreased in 2021. ‘This shows an erratic picture. For an effective criminal justice approach, it is of great importance that we identify and improve all aspects within the criminal justice system, from the moment of identification up to the rehabilitation after the trial.’