Thursday 25 February 2021

Thousands of modern slaves in the Netherlands, says report

Red light district in Amsterdam.


A new report estimates that 17,500 people are ‘modern slaves’ in the Netherlands, working as forced labourers or victims of sexual exploitation.

The Global Slavery Index, created by Australian human rights organisation the Walk Free Foundation, claims 45.8 million people ‘are subject to some form of modern slavery in the world today’.

It ranks 167 countries based on the extent of their suspected slavery problem, putting the Netherlands in 50th place of 52. Slaves are defined as people who are exploited but cannot leave due to threats, violence, coercion or abuse of power.

Slavery in the Netherlands – estimated at 0.1% of the population – is suspected in the construction, agriculture, transport, sex and catering industries, as well as amongst people forced by criminals to beg.

The Telegraaf reports Corinne Dettmeijer-Vermeulen, national rapporteur on human trafficking, as saying: ‘These are huge numbers. It undermines our society to have this happening under our very eyes. More people need to be aware of this and raise the alarm. For example, customers at market stalls where a child is always helping, or family doctors who see inside people’s homes.’

Dutch estimates were based on reports to CoMensha, a foundation dealing with victims of human trafficking, and work by criminology professor Jan van Dijk of Tilburg university.

He said slavery can happen in diplomatic families, for instance: ‘Maids from the Philippines and from African countries are terribly exploited,’ he told the Telegraaf. ‘It is an absolute disgrace that diplomats might be guilty of such offences, purely because of their immunity.’

Van Dijk said most victims are African, Asian and Eastern European, but there are also native Dutch victims, often enslaved by pimps. More men have been exploited in recent years, he added.

Even so, the Australian report ranks the Dutch government as having one of the world’s strongest responses to modern slavery, saying such countries are ‘characterised by strong political will, sufficient resources, and a strong civil society that holds governments to account’.

It identifies the worst places for slavery as North Korea, Uzbekistan, Cambodia and India.

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