Organizers of illegal Latin American prostitution network arrested; Concern for exploited transgender immigrants
The Public Prosecution Service (OM) confirmed the arrest of a 62-year-old woman from Amsterdam and a 69-year-old man from Weert on suspicion of people smuggling. The woman allegedly arranged living and working places for sex workers from Latin America for a fee, though the sex workers were not legally living in the country. The man is accused of transporting them to the addresses, according to the OM.
Advertisements were also placed on the internet for a fee and negotiations were made with clients. The sex workers had to hand in a relatively large amount of their earnings for this, the OM said. The contacts of 1,600 prostitutes and people who provided them with shelter and a workspace were found on the telephone of the Amsterdam woman. All of the contacts were sent a message to inform the sex workers that they can contact police for assistance if needed, and to tell those who aided the suspects that they may be guilty of people smuggling.
“Latin American prostitutes are usually in a vulnerable and dependent position. They are not fluent in the Dutch language, and often also not in English. They are generally on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for often completely risky sex,” the OM stated. “They do not work in the same place for more than a week and then move on to another place. This is done to maintain diversity in what is offered in a city, but also prevents the prostitutes from building a social network.”
Transgender people trapped when seeking a better life
There are many transgender people among the Latin American sex workers, the OM said. In recent years, the judiciary has seen an increase in this group in checks on prostitution services throughout the Netherlands. They travel to Europe in the hope of a better life, according to the OM.
"In their native countries, they are faced with the choice of becoming a hairdresser or a prostitute, if they are not killed because of their identity," said the Public Prosecution Service.
At least 700 Latin American transgender sex workers reside in the Netherlands, the OM speculated. "This estimate is based on the number of ads by this group on two of the largest sex websites. The actual number is probably higher."
Europol has also seen an increase in human trafficking cases in Europe involving suspects and victims from Latin America. “There is believed to be a carousel of Latin American transgender prostitutes who work for short periods of time from homes across the country, and throughout Europe,” the OM said.
The examining magistrate in Zwolle ruled on Friday that the woman should remain in pre-trial custody for at least two more weeks. The man was released by police on that day, but he remains a suspect in the investigation.
The prosecution office did not say that the suspects in this case were accused of human trafficking. “People smuggling involves assistance with illegal entry [into the country], transit and residence,” while human trafficking is a “modern form of slavery,” according to the OM. “Forced prostitution and labor exploitation are forms of human trafficking, but other examples are forced begging and forcibly committing criminal activities.”
Reporting by ANP and NL Times.