Previous recommendations insufficiently addressed
Trafficking victims’ invisibility to authorities, law enforcement and care organizations means that the exploitation can sometimes continue for a long time. "It is troublesome that our reports keep showing that young victims are often exploited for years,” says CKM spokesperson Shamir Ceuleers. “We therefore appeal to the cabinet not to wait any longer and finally take concrete measures.” The Netherlands are currently in a period of political uncertainty due to the fall of the government cabinet and the upcoming elections in November 2023.
Urgent need for structural investments
It is the fourth time the Centre against Child and Human Trafficking (Centrum Kinderhandel en Mensenhandel, CKM) publishes a report on anonymized help line conversations with those who reached out to the online help platform Chat met Fier. While less people reached out for help related to human trafficking than in previous years, CKM warns that this should not be interpreted as a decrease in human trafficking in the Netherlands. In 2022, a total of 229 people visited the online help platform of Fier to talk about human trafficking, of whom 199 were a victim themselves. Over 40% of them were minors; one in five victims were younger than 15. These were mainly victims of sexual exploitation, although victims of criminal exploitation reached out as well.
The help line data are considered an important addition to official statistics on human trafficking in the Netherlands. Ceuleers: “We know that young victims of trafficking are underreported and hard to reach. The Chat with Fier platform demonstrates once again that it is possible to identify and get in touch with this hard-to-reach group of young victims. In fact, these chat conversations are often the moment of first disclosure of victims.” The visibility of online help lines is essential for victims being able to find this type of help. Ceuleers: “This requires structural financial support for online care."
Sex buyers actively involved in abuse and exploitation of victims
For the first time, researchers analyzed information related to the demand side of human trafficking. They analyzed the information shared by victims about the persons they were forced to have sex with. Ceuleers: "This report shows - for the first time - that there is a sizeable group of sex buyers that actively and consciously abuse trafficking victims.” Based on victims’ accounts, many of them were, or should have been, aware of the young age of the victim and/or the exploitative situation they were in. Additionally, some abusers used violence, filmed the abuse or forced victims to perform sexual acts against their will. Ceuleers: “So far, however, the Netherlands lack proactive policies targeting persons who pay for sex with minors.” Earlier this year, the Dutch Parliament adopted a motion to tackle the demand side of trafficking. However, this has not yet been translated into policy or action. Ceuleers: “It is essential that the Dutch State Secretary for Security and Justice include this in the recently published national action programme Together against Human Trafficking.”
Continuing concerns about parents exploiting their own children
Another matter of grave concern are parents who play an active role in the commercial exploitation of their children. This is something that was highlighted also in previous years. All in all, at least 100 children who reached out to the online help line between 2019 and 2022 were being or had been exploited by at least one parent. Victims who are exploited by parents are often very young, a third of them only 15 years or younger. "Despite three consecutive years of CKM identifying parents as a key category of perpetrators, we are still waiting for the government to take action. The vulnerable position and youthful age of these victims require immediate intervention," Ceuleers said.
Do you need help?
Are you in the Netherlands and being forced to do something you do not want to? Or do you suspect someone you know is in such a situation? You can chat with a counsellor of Fier anonymously at www.chatmetfier.nl. They will listen to your story, give you information and help you if you want them to. Your story and questions will be treated confidentially. In the event of immediate danger, always call 112.
The Centre against Child and Human Trafficking is a part of Fier.
You can download the report (in Dutch) below.
Lees deze pagina in het Nederlands.