Human trafficking is today’s modern day slavery. It is the exploitation of people as cheap labour by coercion or deception. This can happen in the hospitality industry, agriculture and horticulture and the cleaning industry, but also in the sex industry. People were brought to the Netherlands under false pretences or they are migrant workers who, once here, got into trouble. Dutch citizens, however, can also be exploited. Victims are not able to escape because they are completely dependent on their trafficker and are sometimes even being held captive. Not only do they get paid too little or nothing, but they are also frequently abused or threatened. Their passport is often taken from them and the employer often charges extremely high fees for their travel, housing or food. Victims are usually unaware of their rights.
Exploitation in prostitution is the most common form of human trafficking. Human trafficking nevertheless occurs in all conceivable sectors, such as horticulture, cleaning and temporary employment. Since 2005, labour exploitation – a form of human trafficking – is also punishable by law in the Netherlands.
Yes, Dutch people can become victims of human trafficking too. If you are forced to work in very bad conditions, for instance, working long days without any breaks, performing dangerous and or hazardous work, receiving little or no pay and feel that you cannot escape from this situation. If all this sounds familiar, then you are possibly a victim. It can happen to both Dutch and non-Dutch nationals.
Here at FairWork, we focus on non-Dutch victims of human trafficking. More information about (Dutch) victims can be found on the CoMensha website. You can also find more information in the Victim Guide.
Yes. For instance if you come here from Poland or Hungary it is possible that here in the Netherlands you can be a victim of human trafficking. This can happen when you are forced to work in very bad conditions, receiving little or no pay and you cannot escape from the situation that you are in. This happens to people with both a work permit as well as to those without valid papers.
You can find more information on:
Yes, you can. You are a victim of human trafficking when you are exploited or misused by someone and you are not able to escape. It makes no difference if you were brought to the Netherlands or if you came here of your own free will.
No, you can become a victim of human trafficking in other sectors too. These sectors may include: horticulture, food service and the shipping industry, where people sometimes get paid too little. In some cases, they even have to hand in their passports in order to prevent them from escaping. Besides, they are often ill treated or threatened. And, yes, it is true that people working in prostitution are extra vulnerable to exploitation.
If you are not sure if someone is a real victim, look at our list of signs for victims. Try to discuss these signs with the supposed victim, so that he or she can ask for help. If true, then show them where to look for help. If in doubt, you can always report this yourself.
You can do this via:
- our CONTACT form;
- council M: Meld Misdaad Anoniem: 0800-7000; (Report Anonymously)
- a local police station;
- the Inspection SZW.
Be cautious, a victim of human trafficking staying in the Netherlands without valid papers can be arrested by the police and sent back to the country of origin. Victims of human trafficking always have the right to press charges. Initially they are offered three months of protection. A victim can use this period of three months– also called “Reflection Time” – to decide if they want to press charges.
The Dutch authorities do their utmost to prosecute human traffickers. At the same time, they try to protect victims by offering them a safe shelter, medical care, social, psychological and legal support while they are pressing charges. The police have founded special prostitution – and human trafficking teams with specialised inspectors. And the Foreign Police have permanent contact persons in service to treat cases of human trafficking. The same goes for the ‘Openbaar Ministerie’ (Public Prosecutor) and the IND (Immigration and Naturalisation Service), where “contact persons for human trafficking” are in service. This way, cases of human trafficking get special attention.
The 1st of January 2012 started the Inpection SZW. The Labour Inspection and The Social Intelligence- and Investigation Department (SIOD) are now working closely together.
The former Labour Inspection’s task is to identify exploitation and human trafficking. When people are forced to work in unsafe situations, are paid too little or have to work extremely long days, it can be a case of human trafficking. The Labour Inspection takes action when there are indications of exploitation and/or human trafficking. Moreover, the Labour Inspection points out exploitation and human trafficking to other authorities.
The former Social Intelligence- and Investigation Department (SIOD) is a special department of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment which combats labour exploitation and human trafficking. They cooperate closely with the police and local authorities.
For more information, refer to the website of the Inspection SZW
When you work in the Netherlands, you have a right to fair wages according to Dutch standards. You can also join a trade union which defends your interests.
For more information: www.newinthenetherlands.nl
The people who did not pay you must be found. Before this can happen, you must press charges. A lawyer specialised in labour law can assist you in getting your unpaid wages. FairWork can help you in finding these lawyers. If you need help, you can contact us via our CONTACT FORM.
Yes, even without a permit or a valid passport you have rights in the Netherlands. You have the right to fair wages and the right to press charges when exploited. You also have the right to essential medical care and your children have the right to go to school.
If you want to know exactly what your rights are in the Netherlands when you do not have legal papers, then contact us or refer to the websites below:
Here in the Netherlands, children have many rights. They have the right to an education, a right to shelter and medical care even if they do not have a Residence Permit and are staying undocumented in the Netherlands. To read more about the rights of children, please refer to the www.illegaalkind.nl. This is a Dutch website which is dedicated to the rights of children of undocumented residents.
Yes, even without having legal papers, a Residence Permit, or a valid passport you can press charges in the Netherlands without being sent back immediately. Whenever you are a victim of a crime in the Netherlands, you can always press charges. Do not let yourself be sent away by the police. Be sure to tell them clearly that you are a victim of a serious crime. It is the duty of the police to note down your charges.
Note: The police also have the authority to deport undocumented foreigners. Therefore, you should contact the police together with a social worker. This way, you avoid any misunderstanding and the risk of being deported in error. Contact us via our Contact Form about this subject.
If you report yourself to the police as a victim of human trafficking, the police will give you three months time to decide if you really want to press charges. This ‘Reflection Period’ of three months starts with the first conversation you have with the police. This first conversation, is called an ‘Intake’. During this Intake, the police will ask you to tell or explain your story in general. Do not yet give all the details. The Intake conducted by the Police is to simply determine if you are a possible victim of human trafficking and thus you will now have the right to the ‘Reflection Period’.
During this Intake, you will receive information about your possibilities and rights. It is possible to receive (protected) shelter. After this Reflection Period is over (after three months) you must decide if you really want to press charges, or, if you do not want to tell your complete story to the police. If you decide to press charges you are eligible for protection via the B8/3-arrangement.
If you decide during this reflection period not to press charges, your protection expires. You must leave the Netherlands freely, unless you decide to ask for another type of stay, for example, due to a medical emergency or with motives for seeking asylum.
Questions about workers rights
The B8/3-arrangement offers protection to victims of human trafficking, who have pressed charges. The IND or the Ministry of Justice decides on residence permits. You have the right to shelter (sometimes in a secret location) and to medical and legal support. You will receive social security (compensation) if you cannot work. To be clear, “protection” does not mean getting a body guard or being protected by the police, it means you will be housed in a safe place or shelter.
Part of the B8/3-arrangement is a temporary residence permit which allows you to work and to go to school. During this time, you are entitled to a study grant which means you can receive money towards an education. You are also allowed to hire independent accommodation. This residence permit will only be granted for a one year maximum and will be extended only as long as an investigation and prosecution against the trafficker takes place. This permit ends when the criminal case ends, for example, when the perpetrators have been convicted, or when the investigation is closed without results, or if the court decides to dismiss the case.
When your B8/3-arrangement ends, you can ask for a “Continued Stay”. This is a permit for five years which you are eligible for when the perpetrator has been convicted, if the case has lasted for three years, or when you can show that you cannot return to your country because of the danger of reprisals.
There are many lawyers in the Netherlands; a number of them specialise in cases of human trafficking. Via the ’Juridisch Loket’ (Legal Desk) (where can I find the Legal Desk?) you can find a lawyer, but you can also contact a lawyer yourself. FairWork can also refer you to these specialised lawyers. CONTACT us if you need more information.
Everyone in the Netherlands has the right to legal assistance. Your lawyer can ask the ‘Raad voor Rechtsbijstand’ (Council for Legal Assistance) for an addition to the costs of your case. The Raad voor Rechtsbijstand decides how much you will have to pay yourself. This will normally be € 127,00. The higher your income, the more you will have to pay. For more information refer to the website of the Raad voor Rechtsbijstand.
If the police cannot find the perpetrator, or has insufficient proof for arrest, the Public Prosecutor can dismiss your case. This is called a ‘sepot’ (dismissal). After a dismissal your permit according to B8/3 expires.
If you do not agree with the dismissal by the police and the Public Prosecutor, you can with the help of your lawyer file a complaint at the Court of Justice. By filing a complaint you will show your determination to find and convict the perpetrator. During this complaint procedure, your permit continues, so your stay in The Netherlands during this time is legal.
If the Court of Justice decides after this time, not to prosecute the perpetrator, your temporary permit expires and you have to leave the Netherlands freely. If you are sure you cannot go back to your country because you are in danger of reprisals, you can then submit a request of Continued Stay.
If a perpetrator is arrested and convicted, you can lay claim to a permit “Continued Stay” (Voortgezet Verblijf).
If the IND judges your claim positively, you will receive a permit for five years. After those five years, you can apply for another continuation and then consider becoming a Dutch national (naturalisation).
Victims of humans trafficking, who receive a B8/3-permit, can ask for a stay in the Netherlands for humanitarian reasons. This ‘Continued Stay’ is a request called ‘Voortgezet Verblijf’, and is submitted to the Immigration and Naturalisation Department (IND).
You are eligible to a “Voortgezet Verblijf” when:
- the perpetrator has been convicted,
- the criminal case has run for three years,
- due to humanitarian reasons you cannot return to your country of origin (for example: danger of reprisals, stigmatisation, and discrimination, medical or mental problems for which there is no treatment in the country of origin).
- When you submit a request for ‘Voortgezet Verblijf’ it is important you have a lawyer who can assist you in every respect. A detailed case file has to be made with enough evidence for the IND. You must also pay the fees as well.
For more information about the legal costs, refer to the IND website.
When the IND approves your application, you will receive a permit for five years. After those five years, you can then ask for a continuation or you can consider becoming Dutch a national.
The ‘Schadefonds’ Damage Fund Acts of Violence, pays money to people who were victims of a crime on Dutch territory and who have had severe injury as a result. It means a once-only compensation for relief of mental suffering caused to victims. In addition, to this compensation, you can also receive money for medical care or compensation for loss of income now that you are unemployed. Ask your lawyer or your social worker for more information or consult the website of the Schadefonds.
After your Intake with the police you have a right to shelter. This right to shelter also applies to the Reflection Time, the period in which you have to decide whether or not to press charges. There is special shelter for victims of human trafficking, sometimes in a secret location.
When you decide to press charges and you receive a B8/3-permit, you can try to find your own accommodation. You can hire a room and live independently, but that may not be easy. Some men and women prefer to stay in a special centre for a longer time.
In the Netherlands, there are several centres that provide shelter to victims of human trafficking. This shelter is coordinated by Coordination Centre ‘Mensenhandel’ (= Human Trafficking), in short CoMensha. They will arrange your shelter especially after you have had your intake with the police. If you wish, the police will contact CoMensha for you to find a safe place.
During the time in which you have not yet pressed charges against human trafficking there are also centres available for you. Contact CoMensha via telephone number: 033-4481186 for more information or consult their website. Local authorities can help you too.
For more information and your rights consult www.illegalevrouw.nl
In the Netherlands there are a lot of organisations which help people with practical or personal problems. Our advice for victims of human trafficking is to contact a social worker. After your Intake with the police and after your Reflection Time for B9, you have a right to shelter. When you are placed in a shelter, you will be linked to a Care-Coordinator for Human Trafficking working in that area, or to a mentor or social worker within the shelter itself.
Not in a shelter or not able to find a social worker? Then ask the Care-Coordinator what the possibilities are in your area. If you would like to know the name of the Care-Coordinator in your area, call CoMensha via 033-4481186 or consult their website.
A number of regions in the Netherlands have a special coordinator for human trafficking. This Care-Coordinator can refer you to organisations and social workers who can help you with your problems. Do you want to know the name of the coordinator in your area? Then call CoMensha via 033-4481186 or consult their website.
Questions about health and assistance
As a victim of human trafficking you often have to start from the beginning in a new environment. You miss your homeland and you have a lot of problems which you cannot share easily with others. It can also be difficult to make new friends when you have little confidence in people. Where you live doesn’t matter, there are some specific social activities for victims of human trafficking and there may be certain organisations in your town where you can meet your fellow-countrymen. These could be churches or organisations for migrants and sometimes special courses are even organised in community centres.
When you have physical complaints, you should see a doctor. Even if you feel physically well but have problems like sleeping badly, having nightmares or being scared or depressed, the doctor is a good place to start to get help. He or she can refer you to more specialised aid.
Even without a residence permit, you have a right to medical care too. In case of an emergency you can go to the ‘Eerste Hulp’ EHBO or Emergency Room in a hospital. Or you can see a family doctor. Be honest in telling them you do not have a residence permit; then the doctor can have the costs of your treatment paid via the College Zorgverzekeringen (CVZ). A doctor will never report you to the police.
Yes, that is normal. As a victim of human trafficking you have often experienced terrible things and you have lived in fear and suspense for a long time. The way you feel afterwards is a very normal symptom. As a victim, it could be you are troubled with recurring bad memories, you sleep badly or you are not able to remember things well. Or it could be that you are angry or sad all the time and have other physical complaints like headaches.
After these severe experiences you can have a changed image of yourself and people in your environment. For instance, you feel powerless or you are ashamed of what has happened to you. You are often anxious, because you have been exploited and you live in fear or suspense of what is going to happen. Also, you may find it difficult to trust other people as a result of those severe experiences.
If you have a lot of complaints, tell them to your doctor or someone in your shelter. They can often refer you to someone who can help you.
PTSS means Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. PTSS is a trauma or severe experience, or a series of experiences, in which one has been in danger (or has been a witness of danger) and has experienced great fear, horror or helplessness. You have Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome when physical and mental complaints do not disappear within three months after the trauma. The experiences have caused permanent pain from which you suffer in daily life.
When you have PTSS, you have avoidance reactions. This means, you avoid situations that remind you of the trauma. Other symptoms are irritability (having a quick temper) and recurring memories or bad dreams.
For more information about PTSS consult: Psychische gezondheid
You can always get information about sexually transmitted diseases (STD) or called SOA in Dutch, from a family doctor. He or she is familiar with these ailments and if necessary can refer you to a specialist. You can have an STD but few or no complaints. Or, they are so indistinct or small; you do not worry about them. Women especially do not always notice they have an STD. When you have had unsafe sex, we advise you to be tested for STD’s. You can go to your family doctor or to some clinics where you can be tested discreetly and anonymously and where you can go to without a reference.
For more information and addresses for these tests consult: SOA.nl
If you become pregnant, unintentionally or undesired, you can go to a family doctor. He or she can help you with questions you may have about your pregnancy, giving birth and possibly about abortion. In the Netherlands, abortion is not an offence or crime.
For more information about unintentional pregnancy consult: FIOM
With physical complaints, it is always important that a doctor examines you to find out what is causing your pain. If you feel you have not been examined well enough, keep asking your doctor. However, there may be no medical explanation for your complaints. It is quite possible that stress, fear or sadness is “translated” into pain in your body. Then you could seek psychological aid. Talking about your problems or doing relaxation exercises can be of help. Talk about this with a family doctor.