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Investigating exploitation. Research into trafficking in children in the Netherlands.


Report presents the results of the research conducted in co-operation with Unicef Netherlands and is supposed to answer the question: "How and where are children exploited in the Netherlands, and how can they be protected from such exploitation?"


There are increasing concerns about trafficking in children, both in the Netherlands and globally. Traffickers bring foreign children to the Netherlands, often under false pretences, and force them to work in the sex industry. Dutch girls and boys also fall victim to such practices. The exploitation suffered by children can take many different forms, in addition to prostitution. Children are forced to do domestic chores, work in the catering industry, or are drawn into drugs trafficking and other criminal activities.

Until recently, the offence of trafficking in human beings was limited in Dutch law to the trafficking of people for sexual purposes. The relevant parts of the Criminal Code have been altered, however, and since 1 January 2005, trafficking in human beings (and by extension, trafficking in children) for purposes other than sexual exploitation has been an offence under Dutch criminal law. This expansion has important implications for how the phenomenon of trafficking in children is dealt with in future.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to find reliable data on the number of children suffering exploitation in the Netherlands. In a short survey of child prostitution in the Netherlands, ECPAT-NL concluded that if preventive measures are to be effective, then more research into trafficking is needed. Indeed, further research is the only means of gaining a clearer idea of the extent of the problem, the identity of the victims, their circumstances, and their needs.

Even less is known about other, non-sexual forms of exploitation. In September 2004, Unicef Netherlands and ECPAT-NL published the report, ‘Unseen and unheard. The trafficking of children in the Netherlands: a first inventory’. This report suggests that many different types of exploitation of children take place in the Netherlands, but that it is unclear in which sectors, and in what ways, such exploitation occurs.

A great deal of clarity is thus lacking concerning children’s circumstances and their vulnerability to exploitation, both in prostitution and trafficking for non-sexual purposes. Combating child trafficking demands that we gain more knowledge about the nature of trafficking, the identity of the victims, risk factors, and how exploitation happens. Better knowledge is an essential precondition to effectively protecting child victims and being able to offer them the help and support that they need – a point as relevant for policymakers as it is for support organisations. Only by doing research can it be established whether the current laws and policies designed to protect children from trafficking are effective, or whether more measures are needed.