There was a sharp drop in the number of reports of human trafficking in the Netherlands last year but there is still no reason to be optimistic, national reporter Corrine Dettmeijer said on Tuesday.
In total, 1,321 possible victims were registered last year, down 240 on 2014.
‘It is worrying because we have no reason to think there are fewer victims,’ Dettmeijer said.
Instead, the reduction is likely to be due to changed police priorities, she said.
In particular, the military police now focus on human smuggling rather than trafficking and this could explain the 46% drop in cases identified by them.
The figures show that some 66% of the cases are related to the sex industry and the proportion of Dutch nationals being sexually exploited has risen from 35% to 46% over the past year.
Dutch nationals account for one third of the victims of some form of sexual exploitation, with Bulgarians, Romanians, Poles and Hungarians also accounting for a large proportion.
A quarter of last year’s trafficking victims were under the age of 18.
‘Refugees, who are often brought here by people smugglers, are vulnerable to being trafficked so it is important to be extra alert,’ Dettmeijer said.
She wants the justice ministry to take steps to make sure that people working with refugees are better able to recognise the signs of human trafficking.