Human and child trafficking are problems too important to leave up to the government. Social workers can sometimes provide early intervention when the police are still waiting for permission.

By Gideon van Aartsen and Shamir Ceuleers

Inefective detection

A week and half ago, the latest figures on the the fight against human and child trafficking were published. The outcome was both simple and sad: the persecution of traffickers is going on the blink; the amount of prosecutions is dropping. This news seamlessly matches the existing trend: the average sentence of punishment in convictions has fallen to about a year and a half, and a third of all cases is dismissed by the Public Prosecution Service due to lack of evidence. The government announced last year that this is a logical and foreseeable consequence of other priorities (migration) and sharp cuts (economic crisis). Of course, our eyes too are aimed at the leading parties to turn the tide. However, the fight against trafficking is too important, the victims too vulnerable and the criminal offences too severe to leave this to politics alone.

Too dependent on politics

Recent years have shown that the battle on organised crime, which includes human trafficking, is too dependent on political The Hague whilst local authorities are given more responsibility at the same time, without the necessary expertise. Of course, the new government can and must give the fight against human trafficking the priority it deserves, but a structural and steady improvement can’t lean on the shoulders of government policy alone. Therefore, civil society should not only critically monitor that government, but must also be able to support it too. The recognition of this reality makes us anything but political cynics, but creates space for the realisation of initiatives of our own.

Suspicions of child trafficking

This awareness was an important motive for the Centre against Child- and Human Trafficking (CKM) and Terre des Hommes to join efforts and establish WATCH Nederland. In this project we are working closely together with the police to improve the detection of perpetrators and the protection of victims. Because the police are regularly confronted with suspicions of human and child trafficking but can not (yet) act, because the suspicion is nothing more than a hunch. However, such legal restrictions do not apply to civilians and social initiatives. Within this project, such suspicions are investigated further which resulted in dozens of cases being transferred back to the police since last January, because further investigation has uncovered concrete leads.

Fake profiles

In addition, the project is working on innovation. Think of a web crawler searching the internet for possible exploitation and the use of fake profiles to depict the customers of minors. These technologies are also offered to investigation offices for free. This benefits both: the investigation offices receive better detection indicators and citizen participation is encouraged.

Look abroad

It’s just one example, but the possibilities are endless. It’s already quite common abroad. A well-known example is Thorn, an American NGO founded by Aston Kutcher and Demi Moore. They work closely together with businesses and the government on an innovative approach to trafficking in human beings.

Innovation fund

Such initiatives do not take away from the need to keep pushing the government for structurally more expertise, resources and (inter)national cooperation, but complement this plea by jointly picking up the gauntlet. This requires a change of mind-set of the government. For example, why not introduce an innovation fund, which makes financial recourses available to civil initiatives which can demonstrably contribute to tracking down human traffickers and / or the protection of victims. It would be a step forward if the (forming) political parties would recognize and support the added value of such initiatives.

Learn more about Watch Nederland >>

This article of Gideon van Aartsen (Terres des Hommes) and Shamir Ceuleers (Centrum tegen Kinderhandel en Mensenhandel) was published the Nederlands Dagblad on the 30th of augustus 2017.


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