1- What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is defined in the Netherlands as recruiting, transporting, transferring, admitting or housing a person, using force (in the broadest sense) with the aim of exploiting that person. Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery.

Exploitation can take place in the sex industry, think for example of involuntary prostitution, but also in other economic sectors. Human trafficking victims work under such poor working conditions and circumstances that their human rights are affected. Recruiting, transporting, etc a person with the aim of removing that person's organs is also punishable as human trafficking.

What is the difference between human trafficking and human smuggling?

Human smuggling involves helping persons to enter and stay in a country illegally. The smuggled people are mostly illegal foreign nationals. Human smuggling is therefore not necessarily aimed at exploiting a person as in the case of human trafficking.


Relevant legislation: art. 273f of the Dutch Criminal Code

Article 273f

1.) Any person who:

1o. with the intention of exploiting another person or removing his or her organs, recruits, transports, transfers, accommodates or shelters that other person, including the exchange or transfer of control over that person, by means of duress, violence or another hostile act, or the threat of violence or other hostile act, or by means of extortion, fraud, deception or the abuse of power arising from a specific state of affairs, or by means of the abuse of a position of vulnerability, or by means of giving or receiving payments or benefits in order to obtain the consent of a person having control over that other person;

2o. recruits, transports, transfers, accommodates or shelters a person, including the exchange or transfer of control over that person, with the intention of exploiting that other person or removing his or her organs, if that person has not yet reached the age of eighteen years;

3 o. recruits, takes away or abducts a person with the intention of inducing that person to make him or herself available for sexual acts with or for a third party for payment in another country;

4o. forces or induces another person by means referred to under 1o to make him or herself available for work or services or to make his/her organs available, or takes any action in the circumstances referred to under 1o which he knows or may reasonably be expected to know will result in that other person making him or herself available for work or services or making his or her organs available;

5o. induces another person to make him or herself available for sexual acts with or for a third party for payment or to make his or her organs available for payment, or takes any action in relation to another person which he knows or may reasonably be expected to know will result in that other person making him or herself available for these acts or making his or her organs available for payment, if that other person has not yet reached the age of eighteen years;

6 o. intentionally profits from the exploitation of another person;

7 o. intentionally profits from the removal of organs from another person, if he knows or may reasonably be expected to know that the organs of that person were removed under the circumstances referred to under 1o;

8o. intentionally profits from the sexual acts of another person with or for a third party for payment or the removal of that person’s organs for payment, if this other person has not yet reached the age of eighteen years;

9 o. forces or induces another person by the means referred to under 1o to provide him with the proceeds of that person’s sexual acts with or for a third party or of the removal of that person’s organs;

shall be guilty of trafficking in human beings and as such liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding twelve years or a fifth category fine.

2.) Exploitation shall include, at the minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced or compulsory labour or services, including begging, slavery or practices comparable to slavery or servitude, servitude or the exploitation of criminal activities .

3.) The following offences shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding fifteen years or a fifth category fine:

1o. offences as defined in paragraph 1 if they are committed by two or more persons acting in concert;

2o. offences as defined in paragraph 1 if they are committed in respect of a person who is under the age of eighteen or in respect of a person whose position of vulnerability is being abused.

3o. offences as defined in paragraph 1 if they are preceded by, committed by use of or followed by violence.

4.) If one of the offences defined in paragraph 1 results in serious physical injury or threatens the life of another person, it shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding eighteen years or a fifth category fine.

5.) If one of the offences defined in paragraph 1 results in death, it shall be punishable by a term of life imprisonment or temporary imprisonment not exceeding thirty years or a fifth category fine.

6.) A position of vulnerability includes a situation in which a person has no real or acceptable alternative but to submit to the abuse involved.

7.) Article 251 shall apply mutatis mutandis.



Reflection period

Pursuant to the Aliens Act of 2000 (Section 8(k)), actual or potential victims of human trafficking are given a reflection period of up to three months during which to decide whether they wish to report to the police or otherwise cooperate in a criminal investigation or in criminal proceedings. The reflection period entails that the Immigration and Naturalisation Service will suspend the departure of the suspected victim of human trafficking from the Netherlands during this period.

Residence Scheme for Victims of Human Trafficking

Victims of human trafficking without a residence permit who report to the police may, under the Residence Scheme for Victims of Human Trafficking (included in the Aliens Act of 2000, Section 3.48, Paragraph 1(b)), be granted a temporary residence permit for the duration of the criminal investigation and proceedings. If victims are unable to cooperate in a criminal investigation due to medical restrictions or due to a serious threat, they may be eligible for this residence permit provided that their application is supported by a statement from the police and/or a medical declaration.

Continued residence on humanitarian grounds

The residence permit under the Residence Scheme for Victims of Human Trafficking expires at the end of criminal proceedings. The victim may then submit an application for a permit of continued residence on humanitarian grounds, pursuant to Section 3.51, Paragraph 1(a), of the Aliens Act of 2000. Victims are eligible for this type of residence permit if:

  • the accused has been prosecuted for human trafficking offences and proceedings have resulted in a conviction;

  • the criminal trial has resulted in an acquittal, but the victim has held a residence permit under the Residence Scheme for Victims of Human Trafficking for three years or more at the time of the judgement becoming irrevocable;

  • the criminal proceedings are ongoing and the victim has held a residence permit under the Residence Scheme for Victims of Human Trafficking for three years or more;

  • there are exceptional, individual reasons to allow the victim to remain in the Netherlands (for example, the risk of reprisal upon return).

Shelter and support

Victims with lawful residence status

Under the Social Support Act (Wmo), victims who reside lawfully in the Netherlands – including victims with a temporary residence permit under the Residence Scheme for Victims of Human Trafficking – are entitled to the same shelter as Dutch victims. In addition, these victims will have access to work, training and education under the Foreign Nationals (Employment) Act. If necessary, they shall also be entitled to social welfare benefits pursuant to Section 11, Paragraph 2, of the Participation Act.

Victims during the reflection period

Under the Regulations on Provisions for Certain Categories of Aliens (Rvb), victims within the reflection period will be entitled to a monthly allowance set at the level of the social welfare benefit allowance in the Netherlands (paid by the COA). The calculation of the allowances is based on the standard amounts referred to in the Work and Social Assistance Act. With the exception of the category of Minor Foreign Nationals, the Rvb also provides insurance for medical costs in addition to a monthly financial allowance.

Victims in ongoing asylum procedure

Victims who are in an ongoing asylum procedure are entitled to accommodation at an asylum seekers’ residence centre. This right to reception comes into being from the moment at which the asylum seeker requests asylum and lasts until they are either granted a residence permit or ordered to leave the Netherlands. At the asylum seekers’ centre, the asylum seeker will have access to basic facilities such as shelter, cooking and laundry facilities, and computers. In addition, asylum seekers are given a weekly living allowance under the Asylum Seekers (Provisions) Regulations (Rva).

Underage victims with lawful residence status

Victims who are minors and who are Dutch nationals or have lawful residence status may receive ambulatory support through Youth Care The Netherlands ( Jeugdzorg Nederland).
There are several institutions that offer specialised accommodation for domestic underage victims (for example, victims of pimp boyfriends), in addition to other forms of shelter and accommodation:

Underage victims without lawful residence status
Unaccompanied underage victims without lawful residence status may be referred to Nidos for supervision or for placement in secure protection.

Adult victims without lawful residence status

Male victims
Shelter is available specifically for male victims of human trafficking at the COSM of the Jade Zorggroep and at the men’s shelter for victims of violence in dependency relationships and human trafficking inside the four major cities. The website www.mannenmishandeling.nl refers visitors to the relevant institutions in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.

For more information: https://english.wegwijzermensenhandel.nl/Protection/


The Public Prosecution Service has developed a specific directive pertained tot he prosecution of traffickers and perpetrators ‘Instructions for Human Trafficking’. The directive can be found through the following link: https://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0033564/2013-07-01. The directive sees to many aspects of THB, for example, according to the Directive on THB, a financial investigation must always be conducted in a THB case. The assets of a perpetrator can be seized after conviction but also before judgement has been reached, in order to ensure payment of a claim.

The Expertise Centre on Human Trafficking and People Smuggling (EMM) is an agency set up in 2005 and co-run by the National Police, KMar, IND and the Inspectorate SZW. Among its tasks, the EMM pools information on suspected trafficking situations reported by the different investigation authorities. It also receives information from other organisations, including the Chamber of Commerce, the COA and the Foundation for Compliance with the Collective Agreement for Temporary Workers (SNCU). The information gathered can be used to propose the launch of investigations.

There is at least one senior prosecutor specialised in THB in each of the public prosecution regions, as well as at the national level Prosecution Service. Altogether there are about 20 prosecutors specialised in THB in the Netherlands. They meet regularly to discuss cases and have created an electronic communication platform for operational exchanges of information and advice. At appeal court level there are three specialised prosecutors who meet periodically. Criminal investigators of the Inspectorate SZW (which specialises in labour exploitation) can carry out criminal investigations into trafficking for the purposes of labour exploitation in co-operation with the Public Prosecutor.

There are judges specialized in THB serving within several courts in the Netherlands. Each court has its own way of dealing with THB cases. Some courts, such as the Court of Amsterdam, have a specialization on THB. Out of the 180-200 judges that work within the court, approximately 20 judges deal with THB cases. In order to deal with these cases properly, the judges have been educated by The Training and Study Centre for the Judiciary (SSR) on this subject.

For more information: https://english.wegwijzermensenhandel.nl/Criminal_prosecution/


The National Action plan contains an action line specifically aimed at the prevention of victimhood of THB as well as the prevention of perpetrators. In prevention, we do not only focus on the Netherlands, but also on countries of origin and transit.

· We will discuss existing training courses and teaching methods with aid institutions and schools. Various local youth aid and other aid institutions have developed good methodologies that they can share as best practices. Examples are campaigns in which fake ‘lover boys’ and ‘lover girls’ are used as bait to make potential victims aware of the risk of ending up in an exploitative situation.

· In 2017, the Dutch Knowledge Centre on Mild Intellectual Disabilities (Landelijke Kenniscentrum LVB) made the Azough Committee’s products suitable for professionals working in the MID and mental health care institutions. The Knowledge Centre will disseminate the knowledge about this problem and about the vulnerability of this group for use among institutions.

· The knowledge gained in the programme Tackling Roma child exploitation (‘Aanpak uitbuiting Roma kinderen’) is being disseminated nationwide to municipalities by the Centre for Crime Prevention and Public Safety (CCV). We are also stimulating taking a culturally-sensitive approach to tackling exploitation by drawing attention to the consequences of sexting and exposing.

· We are also committed to training various professionals. Specifically, we will also be paying attention to professionals in the authorities involved in asylum and migration matters, care organisations, youth services, municipalities and the hotel industry. The idea here is that potential victims are recognised on time and no longer end up in an exploitative situation. Two information films are also being developed for these and other professionals, on criminal exploitation and the sexual exploitation of boys and men.

· We pay specific attention to the phenomenon of ‘credit boys’, (mostly) young people who force their victims to take out credit. This often involves multiple telephone subscriptions. The associated phones are then taken away and sold on. The victim has to pay for the subscription costs and is left with high debts. This can take place in combination with sexual exploitation by ‘lover boys’ / people traffickers. It is often very difficult to prove that there has been coercion. However, there may also be other offences such as fraud, scams and stolen goods. Fraud prevention is of great importance and there are different ways of preventing it. First and foremost, citizens – in this case young people – should be alert themselves and should not take out credit or telephone subscriptions at the request of others. Telecom providers also take this form of fraud very seriously. They have taken various measures to prevent fraud by ‘credit boys’. For example, they actively warn consumers via their websites about this form of fraud and train their shop employees to recognise this phenomenon and to inform customers properly. The telecom sector is also developing a teaching programme to educate young people. The sector also monitors how many telephone subscriptions a single person has within a company. In addition, restrictions are imposed on the number of subscriptions and credit facilities young people are allowed to take out. If the use of criminal law is effective and there are sufficient leads to take criminal action, this can also be used to tackle this form of fraud.

· We are also stimulating taking a culturally-sensitive approach to tackling exposing and sexting and the negative consequences of this, such as sextortion and sexual exploitation. Although all young people may become victims of online cross-border behaviour, young people from a migrant background appear to be particularly vulnerable to exposing and sextortion because sexuality is more often taboo within their cultural background. This is why sharing knowledge about a culturally-sensitive approach is of great importance. We share knowledge about the culturally-sensitive approach in two ways. We organise a seminar with knowledge institutes for the most important stakeholders in the social domain, namely health care, education, municipalities and the criminal justice chain, where knowledge and good practices are shared and disseminated. And we develop information material and tools for professionals. The aim of these activities is to promote the national roll-out of knowledge and expertise about a culturally sensitive approach to sexting and exposing, thereby also fulfilling the commitment made by the Minister of Justice and Security.

· The government is cooperating with companies, trade unions and civil society organisations in International Corporate Social Responsibility Covenants (‘IMVO Covenants’), in order to realise improvements in the international chains of companies. This is based on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Seven IMVO Covenants have been signed and six are under development. The OECD Guidelines make clear what the Dutch government expects from companies in the field of corporate social responsibility. The OECD Guidelines provide guidance for companies to deal with social issues such as supply chain responsibility, human rights, child labour, the environment and corruption. According to these Guidelines, companies must identify, address risks to people and the environment within their chain, and prevent them in the future, by applying due diligence. If the due diligence reveals that there is a risk of forced labour in a particular sector, the parties to the Covenant may designate this as a priority and make agreements in the Covenant on how to prevent or mitigate it.

· In recent years, the government has taken various initiatives to combat exploitation in the hotel sector, focusing on illegal prostitution and sexual exploitation or on working conditions and labour exploitation. In June 2018 CoMensha, together with FairWork, took the initiative to start working with the hotel sector again, this time joining forces from different disciplines. The focus is on all forms of exploitation in this sector. To this end, a task force has been set up consisting of the Inspectorate SZW, Defence for Children-ECPAT, the National Public Prosecutor's Office for Financial, Economic and Environmental Offences, FairWork and CoMensha. An analysis will be made of the reports and complaints from the hotel sector that have been received by the chain partners in recent years, and a blueprint will be developed for a step-by-step plan to work on preventing various forms of human trafficking throughout the hotel chain, aimed at hotel management and managers. Providing information and training are also part of this.


Combatting human trafficking is a priority of this government. All relevant ministries are committed to the new National Action Plan, which has been sent to the House of Representatives on the 13th of November 2018. The national action plan can be found via this link: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/kamerstukken/2018/11/13/tk-aanbieding-van-het-programma-samen-tegen-mensenhandel. An English translation is currently being worked on. For more information regarding the Dutch Government’s programmes/initiatives addressing THB, please visit: https://english.wegwijzermensenhandel.nl/



Three police liaison officers will be stationed in source countries of human trafficking. The police, the Public Prosecution Service and the Ministry of Justice and Security will look into where these liaison officers will be placed, with what tasks and for how long. It is important that they are given a clear assignment and that they are well managed.

We will strengthen cooperation with key countries of origin of victims. For example, the Netherlands will contribute to capacity building through UN organisations of immigration services, the legal sector, financial institutions and local agencies against human trafficking in Nigeria, Egypt and Tunisia, among others. The Dutch missions also play an advisory and coordinating role on site.


o In order to continue the cooperation with the Italian judicial authorities in tackling human trafficking and human smuggling, a new liaison magistrate will be installed in Rome by the Public Prosecution Service in 2019.


o We remain ‘co-driver’ of EMPACT THB, the EU project on operational cooperation against human trafficking. In 2018, the Ministry of Justice and Security (JenV) made money available for the sub-projects Financial Investigation and Chinese Human Trafficking, which are led by the Dutch police. We are also working to make EMPACT THB more multidisciplinary; for example, we are involving municipalities in EMPACT activities and promoting cooperation with NGOs and relief organisations.

o We support programmes aimed at improving the capacity of key African countries of origin and transit to detect, prosecute and convict criminal networks involved in trafficking and smuggling of human beings. For example, we will strengthen our efforts to build the capacity of local governments and the legal sector in West Africa and the Sahel to tackle human smuggling and trafficking. A great deal of attention is also paid to witness protection, the promotion of human rights of migrants and psychosocial and other forms of support for victims. Finally, we promote cross-border judicial cooperation and information exchange, both in the region and – as far as possible – between Africa and West Africa in particular and the EU.

o Following on from the successful Dutch initiative in the UN Security Council for sanctions against human traffickers in Libya, the Netherlands is continuing to press for sanctions in the UN and EU context against leaders of human trafficking and human smuggling networks in important countries of origin and transit.

o The Netherlands contributes €4.7 million to a regional programme of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in West Africa and the Sahel. This programme supports African countries of origin and transit in, among other things, developing a legal framework for human smuggling and trafficking and in the detection and prosecution of perpetrators.

o Through awareness-raising campaigns in countries of origin, we try to protect potential migrants from the dangerous journey to Libya/Europe and the risk of becoming victims of human trafficking.