Trends in human trafficking

Belgium is primarily a destination country for victims of human trafficking. Foreign victims come mainly from Eastern Europe, Africa, South and East Asia, and Latin America.

On average, 130 trafficking victims were identified each year between 2009 and 2012. Over half of the victims were trafficked for the purpose of labour exploitation, with the major high risk sectors being construction, cleaning and car wash services, the hospitality industry and retail (convenience stores and call centres), agriculture and sweatshops. Around 40% of the victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation. Some other cases in recent years involved forced begging and forced criminal activities, especially within the Roma community. There are also a few reports of cases of foreign workers subjected to forced domestic service, including in the diplomatic community assigned to Belgium.

Traffickers move victims from one city to another across the borders of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Recruitment increasingly happens online through classified job ads, forums and social networks, with the Internet giving traffickers the advantage to find all sorts of information about their victims which they can use to manipulate them.

The institutional background

In 1995 Belgium set up an Interdepartmental Coordination Platform (ICP) for the Fight against Trafficking and Smuggling in human beings to coordinate efforts at national level. Its mandate was then further delineated and expanded in 2004. In addition to its coordinating function, the ICP is tasked to formulate proposals and recommendations for anti-trafficking policy initiatives, particularly with an eye towards combating traffickers’ criminal activities and their networks, protecting victims and monitoring developments and results.

The Unit is chaired by the Federal Department of Justice and it gathers representatives from all the federal entities involved in anti-trafficking, both at operational and policy-making level, amongst others:

  • The Service for Criminal Policy of the Ministry of Justice
  • The Central Service ‘Trafficking in Human Beings’ of the Federal Police
  • The Board of Prosecutors General
  • Social Inspection Services
  • The Immigration Office
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • State Security (Ministry of Justice)
  • Three government-funded NGOs, commonly referred to as specialized reception centres, are officially recognized and authorized to provide shelter and assistance to victims of human trafficking: Payoke for the Flemish region, Pag-Asa in the Brussels area and Sürya in Wallonia.

The role of ICP Secretary is fulfilled by the Federal Migration Centre, an independent federal public service whose mission is to provide analysis of migration flows, protect the fundamental rights of foreigners and promote the fight against human trafficking. The Federal Migration Centre is also mandated to establish performance standards for the three specialized reception centres.

The National Rapporteur is responsible for monitoring the implementation of anti-trafficking policy at the national level and plays a key role in data collection on trafficking in human beings at national and EU level. A Royal Decree entered into force in 2014 stipulates that the rapporteur consists of two organs namely the ICP as rapporteur of the State and the Federal Migration Centre as independent rapporteur who produces an independent report every year. Within the ICP, the Ministry of Justice is responsible for the drafting the government’s biannual report.

As a representative of civil society, Child Focus also sits on the ICP, as a contributor in the fight against trafficking in children. In addition, representatives of the regions and the communities and regional social inspection services have also been members of the ICP since 2014.