New privacy laws mean less sight on human trafficking victims

human trafficking Ira Gelb Flickr

There is less and less insight into victims of human trafficking, with especially children who are sexually exploited falling out of sight, according to a new report by the National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence against Children. This puts the protection of victims at risk, Coordinator Herman Bolhaar said. He blames the reduction at least partly on new privacy legislation.

The number of registered human trafficking victims almost halved over the past years. In 2014, the coordination center against human trafficking CoMensha received 1,255 reports. Last year there were only 668 reports. Especially aid agencies file much fewer reports.

According to Bolhaar, the reduction in reports has to do with the new privacy legislation that was implemented last year. Organizations say that they are no longer allowed to report a suspicious situation without the victim's permission. "What are the benefit of privacy rules if you fall prey to a human trafficker?" Bolhaar wants to know. "Then in the first place you want to be protected. And that's why we need to know who you are."

Fewer reports mean less effective action against this crime. It is especially the victims of sexual exploitation that are dropping below the radar, according to the Rapporteur. Bolhaar estimates that every year around 3 thousand people are forced into prostitution in the Netherlands, including 1,300 children. Last year there were only 132 reports, of which 29 about minors.

Youth care institutions and care coordinators are running up against a wall, Ina Hut of CoMensha said to NOS. "While they are extremely important in identifying human trafficking." Investigation services are required by law to report human trafficking to CoMensha. But that obligation does not apply to aid organizations, municipalities, schools, and youth care institutions.

A number of institutions that aid victims confirmed to NOS that they are more hesitant to report due to the new privacy rules. Fairwork previously filed around 125 human trafficking reports per year. Last year the organization filed only five. Aid organization Fier's reports also dropped considerably. "We must now explicitly request permission for every processing of data", Rob Kelder, care coordinator for human trafficking in Friesland, said to the broadcaster. "I estimate that only one in five victims agree. They don't see the benefits immediately."