Human trafficking victims still largely invisible in Netherlands: Rapporteur

human trafficking Ira Gelb Flickr. ()

The approach to human trafficking in the Netherlands improved considerably in the past years, but many victims are still invisible to aid agencies, National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking Herman Bolhaar said on Thursday - the European day against human trafficking, NOS reports.

According to Bolhaar, only one in five victims end up on the radar of CoMensha, the coordination center against human trafficking. Current estimations say that between 5 and 7 thousand men, women and children fall victim to human trafficking in the Netherlands each year. 

Dutch victims of sexual exploitation are the largest group when it comes to human trafficking in the Netherlands. And these victims in particular are increasingly disappearing from the radar, according to the Rapporteur. They increasingly work from home or hotels, and there they are less visible to the police and aid agencies.

Bolhaar is also concerned about the number of underage asylum seekers who come to the Netherlands without their parents and who disappear from asylum centers. In 2015 a total of 160 such kids disappeared in the Netherlands, in 2017 that increased to 360. Bolhaar has no idea where these children are, "but I have no reason to be at ease about it."

There are major differences between the 10 police regions when it comes to the number of human traffic reports. A massive three quarters of reports of sexual exploitation come from four police regions. The other six combined account for only a quarter of them. Bolhaar wants to investigate why that is.

Bohlaar also notes that the new privacy law is sometimes at odds with keeping track of victims. Youth aid services must ask victims for written permission before they can report their situation to CoMensha. Bolhaar sees this as a danger. "If they report less, we lack important information. It is important that here, with respect to privacy, a solution is found."

The National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence against Children monitors policy in these fields and advises the government on necessary changes. In the coming weeks the government will present a major plan of action against human trafficking. Five Ministries worked together on this plan.