Results of the human trafficking campaign
Last week the minister of Justice Ivo Opstelten presented together with the government's own anonymous crime report organisation Meld Misdaad Anoniem it's new campaign against human trafficking. And before they presented the new campaign, they wanted to give an overview of the results of the last campaign (news article here).
The last campaign which ran from 2012 until this year got 392 anonymous tips on possible human trafficking, so called reports of human trafficking. These could involve forced prostitution, extortion but also illegal prostitution. The reports came from a campaign which was based on signs of human trafficking, like I wrote about in this blog here. According to minister Opstelten this was a great success, since they got 93% more reports then the years before.

But now let's look at some details about those results. Because to begin with, 392 reports out of 20.000 estimated legal working prostitutes in Holland isn't very much. In fact, it's only about 2% of the legal prostitutes in total, while the police themselves reported in their own 'report' Schone Schijn (read my post here for more about that) that it was somewhere between 50 and 90%.
So what is the success minister Opstelten is talking about? Is it the success of not being able to find those victims they claimed that are victims? Or is the success the fact that they apparently can hardly find any real cases of human trafficking, and that thereby apparently the problems of human trafficking for 90% has been solved?

But it get's even funnier if you read through the rest of the presentation of their results. Because of those 392 reports that they got, the police only decided to investigate 250 of them, which is about 64%. So apparently about 36% of the reports where already considered to be false alarm to begin with. But wait, it get's better!
Because from the 250 investigations, a whopping 28 arrests where made, which comes down to about 7% of the total amount of reports that they got.  This means that only 7% of the reports leads to an actual arrest, and apparently 93% of the cases are false alarm.

Now do you remember that Opstelten mentioned that it was such a huge success that they got 93% more reports of human trafficking then the years before they had this campaign? Then isn't it funny to think about the fact that it's also exactly 93% of the reports that apparently turned out to be false alarm, since they only arrested in 7% of the cases people? In short, people report it much more then before, but the actual number of people arrested has not changed at all. So people are apparently more concerned, because they get 93% more reports, while in fact nothing has changed because the same 93% also turns out to be false alarm. So we're just making people a lot more worried, while facts are that nothing has changed even though there was a huge campaign.

The only success the last campaign seemed to have had, was the fact that apparently a lot of more people started reporting human trafficking, because they worry about it, a proof of the fact that prostitutes are being stigmatized as victims, because the same amount of reports also turn out to be false alarm. So we're just making a lot more people worried over something that isn't really as big as a lot of people claim.
On top of that, the police seemed to have gotten it 93% busier then before, of which exactly 93% also turns out to be nothing, since they've still arrested only 7% of the total cases. Fact is, that the police now gets a lot more work ahead of them, while the results remain the same. In short, more work for the police, without any new results. Great job!

Another interesting fact about the anonymous reports that where made, was the fact that 240 reports from the 392 (61% of the reports) where about prostitution in places where it wasn't allowed, so called illegal prostitution. Which means that the majority of the reports about human trafficking didn't even come from the legal prostitution, which is logical since it's hard to get control over something that happens illegal and out of sight of the police and other authorities. It also shows that closing down the windows in Amsterdam, but also in Utrecht and other cities have not improved anything.

But perhaps the most interesting details about the last campaign where the fact that only 7 cases where solved, of which only 4 revolved around human trafficking. Are you serious, 4 cases of human trafficking?! This means that from the 7 cases you had, only 4 (57%) turned out to be human trafficking, and the rest was not human trafficking related?! So even apparently those 28 arrests weren't even all related to human trafficking, but if you use the statistics of 57%, only about 16 arrests where related to human trafficking, and the rest wasn't? This would bring the number of human trafficking, based on the 20.000 legal prostitutes working in Holland to even such a low number that it's not even worth mentioning, a shocking 0,08% of the total!

But even saying that 0.08% of the prostitutes in Holland are human trafficked isn't fair, since these numbers did not just come from legal prostitution, but also from illegal prostitution, 61% to be exact. Nobody knows exactly how many illegal prostitutes are working here in Holland, but it would be safe to assume that there are quite a few prostitutes working in this country illegal, since they are 61% of the reported cases. The biggest benefits of working illegal in prostitution in Holland, are the facts that you can for a large part hide from police and other authorities from the human trafficking hunt (not to be harassed), plus the fact that you don't have to pay the 21% taxes that legal prostitutes do have to pay.

Fact is, that again results show that they could hardly find any real cases of girls being forced or exploited in prostitution. The estimations the police made themselves of 50 to 90% in their reports show to be very far away from the truth, which doesn't even come close to 1%. The new campaign has only stigmatized prostitutes into victims, with people seeing everywhere signs of human trafficking on many prostitutes, while facts show that 93% where false alarm. The police has been busy with a lot of false alarms, keeping them from fighting real crimes, and focusing on the hype that this campaign has created. Keeping cops from doing their work with false alarms, stigmatizing prostitutes as victims, and making a lot of people worried over very little, I can hardly call a success. I wonder if the new campaign is going to change anything about that.

Dutch version

9 Responses
  1. Frans Says:

    To top off your tale, the most frustrating thing is that these megacampaigns that cost megamoney and requires efforts of lots of expensive state officials does nothing to improve the situation of sex workers and their work condition, which is assumedly the ultimate pious intention of these good folks' brave actions. Instead, as you say, all that effort and money and morality policy reinforces stigmatization and suspicion in society. So all what these intelligent policy makers and law enforcers achieve is keeping the vicious circle rolling and turning. Ignorance and job protection. Where is simple, objective wisdom instead of self-complimentary bravado when we need it most from a government???

    By the way, not only clients of prostitutes pay 21% BTW (sales tax) over every transaction. As you know, every client of every business and independent laborer in the country does this. You and every business collect that tax in name of the tax collector and must hand it over to him regularly. An efficient tax collecting system.
    Meanwhile the government charges so-called "leges" for its public services at rates that they can set as they please. Their customers usually pay in advance, too, they way they pay prostitutes in advance. It's probably the only thing sex work and government have in common...

    Keep up the good work! Thanks

  2. Swinav Says:

    It is the same in Germany, over 10 years of increasing police activity and there are fewer suspects, convicts and victims.

  3. Ivonn Says:

    Well, it might be a coincidence actually that there are two 93% rates in the report. If this year they got 392 reports and it's 93% more than last year, then last year they got 392/1,93 = 203 reports. The post says nothing about the arrests of last year so we don't know if actually there were more people arrested this year ot not, we know only about the change of the amount of reports. But I don't think either that this amount of forced prostitution is so high and I don't understand either why more report is a success. I would say so if people had not cared about slave work before but I feel too that they just scared people a bit more for no reason.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks for this analysis and making the raw information available (not just in this post but in the others too). Do you know the exact circumstances of the 4 cases that 'revolved around human trafficking'? Were these related to say, illegal prostitution, illegal immigration, or some other illegal activity (like tax avoidance? Were they in line with The Palermo Protocol, which frames trafficking in terms of force.coercion and obvious exploitation or were they simply related to a 'local interpretation' of trafficking, such as assisted economic migration (eg one girlfriend helping out another girlfriend)? Marcus.

  5. Felicia Anna Says:

    No, the report focussed on numbers and not on individual cases, therefore it is unknown what these cases where exactly about.

  6. Marcus Says:

    Thanks for the reply. But I expect you get the idea. What the authorities report as revolving around trafficking may not be (in terms of common sense and the Palermo Protocol (which is consistently abused by the countries that sign up to it). In effect, the actual number of trafficking cases may actually be zero, while there are some criminal cases which are paraded as trafficking..

  7. John O Says:

    Thanks for the fascinating updates Felicia Anna - is there ANY reputable research company/study done on the actual levels of forced/coerced prostitution in Amsterdam that can be read ? It sounds amazing that considering Amsterdam's association with prostitution, that there isn't a single independent quantative study of the industry taken in the last few years.

    Keep up the enlightening blogs!

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