FlowchartTransnational Referral Mechanism


A victim is detected on the basis of her or his account or on the basis of indicators and red flags that help identify signs of victimization. Frontline responders must meet the person’s urgent and basic needs, and inform him or her about the victim protection scheme through a multilingual information leaflet. The leaflet, available in 27 languages, helps victims understand their situation and the support they can expect. It explains what trafficking is, contains contact information for the three reception centres and describes their services.

Whether the interview is conducted by the police or trained social workers, certain quality standards must always be upheld. Interviews should take place in a safe and confidential environment and in a language the victim can easily understand. It is crucial to involve carefully screened and qualified interpreters, possibly trained to work with vulnerable groups, or educated on trafficking. Victims should be informed of their rights, in line with the ‘four Cs’ approach:

  1. Confidentiality,
  2. Control from the side of the victim over the possibility to stop the interview at any time, to have someone present for support, to ask questions, and to have his or her privacy and confidentiality respected,
  3. Cooperation with the police, judicial authorities and/or NGOs,
  4. Consent of the person to the interview.

The application of the ‘four Cs’ approach shall ensure that the human rights of victims are respected. 

There are currently three recognized support centres in Belgium: Pag-Asa, in Brussels, Sürya, in Liège, for Wallonia, and Payoke, in Antwerp, for Flanders. Child victims are usually housed in centres for unaccompanied minors such as Esperanto, in Wallonia, and Minor N’Dako-Juna in Brussels.

The assistance program, similar for all three centres, usually last two to three years. It is designed to support the victim from initial referral to the end of the judicial proceedings, and is focused on helping the client reach full autonomy and self-reliance. First the person is identified as victim, his or her eligibility for assistance is determined, and he or she enters the counselling program. In most cases, victims are referred to the centre by the police and therefore have already been identified as victims of trafficking.

The reception centres are the providers of most of the services made available to victims, and namely:

  • Individual support package -Case managers work with each victim to develop a customized support package to cope with trauma, restore a sense of control over his or her life, and support social reintegration.
  • Residential Care – The centres offer housing in the form of unidentified protected shelters. Alternatively, victims can choose private accommodation and are offered floating support by the centre’s staff, but it is recommended that the victim be housed in a shelter if the alternative accommodation would be within the same milieu in which he or she has been abused or where he or she may be endangered.
  • Psychological Support –Victims receive psychological support and counselling to support the healing process.
  • Legal Assistance –Legal advice, such as counselling and information, is offered to inform the client about his or her legal rights and obligations, in a language that the victim can understand. Legal support is given to pursue cases against the victims’ perpetrators in the Belgian court system. The victim is also guaranteed access to an interpreter and a lawyer, if desired or needed. These services are meant to help clients make an independent and informed decision about whether to file a complaint against their exploiters. The reception centres can also take civil action either on their behalf or on behalf of the victim.
  • Administrative Support – The centre assists victims with their application for residence, work permits and travel documents, and they help them access healthcare and other social services.
  • Support for social inclusion– The centres play an important role in helping victims rebuild their lives. They provide information on options available to victims for continuing education, vocational training and job placement to facilitate integration into the Flemish or French-speaking regions, to also address the socio-economic aspects of reintegration. They may also help clients find suitable housing once they leave the shelter.
  • Assistance in Repatriation –The centres work closely with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Caritas to facilitate repatriation of clients who wish to return to their country of origin. The centres also utilize referral networks, both within Belgium and in the countries of origin, to ensure the best possible return home for their clients.
  • Information and training – The centres are further committed to educating the public on the issues surrounding trafficking, they can submit recommendations to relevant authorities, and provide information concerning the protection and assistance for victims.

The victim is encouraged to prove his or her identity by means of a passport or equivalent travel document, or by presenting his or her national identity card. In the absence of a residence document, the reception centres are empowered to submit, on behalf of the victim, the application for a residence certificate to the Immigration Office


The Netherlands

Different organisations use different standards to identify a situation of exploitation. Exploitation is the foremost condition to determine whether there is a question of THB. Exploitation in itself however is considered an unclear concept.

Exploitation, as defined in article 1 of the council framework decision of 19 July 2002 on Combating Trafficking of Human Beings is, ‘at a minimum, exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs’ and this equals article 3.§a of the UN protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime except for including a general purpose of exploitation and except for the trafficking in human beings for the purpose of the removal of organs. This definition is still vague and it leaves margin for authorities to interpret the possible acts that fit within this overarching definition. This is why the act of exploitation has many different facets. Moreover, depending on the organization identifying a victim of human trafficking, different signs may be noticed.

For instance, the inspectorate unit of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment lists the following examples of situations as being exploitative when employees/victims:

  • are required to do dangerous and unhealthy work;
  • are required to work long hours;
  • are paid too little, are not paid, or payment of their wages is postponed;
  • do not have access to their own passports;
  • are lured to the Netherlands under false promises;
  • are mistreated, blackmailed, forced or threatened
  • are forced to pay off a large debt to the employer;
  • do not have access to the money on their own bank account;
  • are paid incomes which are not declared to the tax authority, or are not insured, for example against accidents;
  • are housed in an industrial building or in an industrial area, or are accommodated  poor conditions
  • do not know the address of their own accommodation;
  • are placed under pressure in another way.
  • Exploitation can be found everywhere

While the police consider situations to be exploitative when people:

  • did not arrange their own travels or visa;
  • are in possession of a false passport;
  • are illegally residing in the Netherlands;
  • do not have accommodation of their own which they are responsible for;
  • are afraid of deportation or abuse;
  • have severe debts;
  • have to pay out an unreasonably large share of their income;
  • do not receive necessary medical care;
  • have no or limited contact with others;
  • have limited autonomy;
  • are being blackmailed, extorted or threatened;
  • have to work exceptional long days;
  • bear signs of physical abuse.



Most of the Hungarian victims identified in Switzerland are young women exploited in prostitution. Based on the experience of the Swiss experts, many of them have grown up in underprivileged Romani families and originate from  Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county (in particular Miskolc), Heves county, Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok county and Budapest. They often have children in Hungary. Most of the Hungarian victims are recruited via “personal contacts” (through family members or acquaintances, “loverboys”). Several Hungarian victims identified in Switzerland were sold (also by their own family). Physical, psychological and sexual violence by traffickers and their environment is often used towards the victims to keep them in the exploitation situation.

There is no institution or body that formally defines who is a victim of trafficking. Identification can be done by the police, specialized NGOs, victim assistance centers, the State Secretariat for Migration or others, depending on the purpose (not specifically determined by Swiss legislation). Early identification (detection) is difficult, because trafficked persons hardly report themselves as victims of trafficking. Therefore street work and specialized NGOs are extremely important in terms of identification. In some cantons or cities, specialized units of the police who received training on assisting trafficked persons are out in the streets establishing direct contact in the field with potential THB victims.

Regarding the identification procedure in Switzerland, there is no list of indicators determined by law. However, a group of federal and cantonal experts together with specialists from NGOs compiled a set of guidelines on co-operation in fighting human trafficking under the lead of the KSMM. The guide was published in late 2005 and it offers a survey of the tools available for fighting human trafficking and recommendations to cantonal authorities on how to co-ordinate work with victim assistance services when dealing with this particular crime. In the guide’s annex there is a“Checklist for the identification of victims of trafficking in human beings”. This list is currently being revised and adapted to new phenomena of trafficking.

While the Swiss federal state is responsible for human trafficking legislation; cantons are basically responsible for prosecuting perpetrators and protecting victims. With regard to prosecution, many cantons and cities in Switzerland have specialized units against trafficking in human beings in their police forces or prosecutor’s offices.

Switzerland is a federal State and the main responsibility for fighting human trafficking, including victim protection, lies with the 26 cantons. Consequently, there is no referral mechanism at national level but at cantonal level. So far, 18 of the 26 cantons have established so-called cantonal roundtables, which are platforms for coordinating anti-trafficking activities at operational level. The institutionalized cooperation of the various organizations and authorities participating in the different cantonal roundtables ensures providing victims with the necessary assistance and protection.

The Victims Assistance Act provides for counselling and assistance to anyone who has been directly harmed physically, sexually or psychologically by a criminal act on Swiss territory regardless of their nationality or residential status.  With regard to victim assistance, all cantons have their own victim counselling services (for victims of any type of crime) but in most cantons the specialized NGOs are responsible for victim assistance.

Assistance consists of a series of measures tailored to the needs and situation of the individual victim. The measures include accommodation, care and counselling during the stabilisation phase, medical assistance and legal aid.

One key element of identification and assistance to victims of trafficking is that police forces and NGOs in Switzerland are working together to achieve a better common understanding of the indicators of human trafficking.  Police interventions and raids in brothels need to be carefully coordinated with specialized victim support services. If possible, a counsellor meets the victim in a safe space and discusses different escape scenarios prior to the police action. The close cooperation of law enforcement and non-state actors is vital in process of identifying victims of trafficking. Upon suspecting that a person could be a victim of trafficking, the police and prosecuting authorities need to inform victim support services and the migration authorities for the issue of a short-term permit.

The specialised police units offer in collaboration with NGOs training courses at the Swiss Police Institute for police officers who are or might be in contact with potential victims of trafficking. Further examples of collaboration between police forces and NGOs in Switzerland: yearly national conferences concerning victims of trafficking for sexual and/or labour exploitation organized by fedpol, several workshops a year organized by different NGOs in collaboration with specialized police investigators

The Federal Act on Foreign Nationals and the respective Ordinance on Admission, Period of Stay and Employment regulate the stay of human trafficking victims in Switzerland. The legislation is in line with the provision of the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings. According to article 35 of the Ordinance victims of trafficking are granted a period of recovery and reflection of at least 30 days. If the victim decides to cooperate with the law enforcement authorities, she/he may be granted with a temporary permit from the cantonal migration authorities for the duration of criminal proceedings (article 36 of the Ordinance). Furthermore, if there are valid reasons why a victim cannot return to her/his home country, she/he may receive a residence permit on the grounds of serious personal hardship. The latter is provided by federal authorities (the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration, SEM) and does not depend on the victim’s cooperation with law enforcement authorities (article 30 of the Foreign Nationals Act and article 31 of the Ordinance).

Furthermore, article 60 of the Foreign National Act provides for return assistance for foreign victims and witnesses of human trafficking. Subject to certain conditions (e.g. lack of resources) voluntary return and reintegration assistance may be granted by the State Secretariat for Migration and implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) which includes: return counselling, preparation of return and organization of the travel, financial support and in-kind reintegration assistance in Hungary as well as medical assistance. The whole process is organized with a close follow-up and a monitoring visit.

The Witness Protection Act provides the statutory basis for establishing programmes to protect people in federal and cantonal criminal proceedings. To this end, a national witness protection unit has been established at the Federal Office of Police (fedpol).

Some of the main victims’ rights and assistance in Switzerland are:

  • Rights to information and counselling
    • Free, confidential and anonymous counselling
    • Translation
    • Emergency accommodation
    • Financial help
  • Rights to criminal procedure
    • Active involvement in the procedure.
    • Access to documents and records and information about juridical decisions regarding order or reverse of pre-trial detention, custody etc.
    • Legal assistance.
  • Special rights during the criminal procedure
    • Legal representative and accompaniment by a trusted party during police and prosecutor examinations
    • No direct/personal confrontation with the accused
    • In case of sexual offences, interview is made by the person of the same sex upon the victim´s request during the police and prosecutor investigation
    • In case of victims of sexual crime, at least one person in the judging court has the same sex
    • Right to anonymity towards the accused person if special reasons are given (life hazard)
    • In case of children (under 18 years) there are additional rights to protect the child during the criminal procedure
  • Ban on the publication of identity beyond the criminal procedure
  • Protection rights
    • Protection from harm to life and limb for victims who do not participate in criminal proceedings but are nevertheless at risk of being harmed
    • Victim protection during criminal proceedings
    • Extra-procedural victim protection / outside the actual proceedings and after conclusion of the trial (if needed and approved
  • Provisions on the stay of THB victims
    • Migration agencies allow victims to stay for a period of minimum 30 days in the country (time to recover and for reflection).
    • During the reflection period the victim decides whether she / he would like to testify against the offender.
    • Only if the victims decide to cooperate with the authorities, a temporary residence permit can be granted for the duration of the criminal procedure.
  • Residence permit in case of personal hardship
    • Victims may apply for such permit.
  • Right to compensation
    • For material damages and for personal suffering.
  • Assisted voluntary return and reintegration
    • Victims may apply for return assistance.


In Hungary, all victims of crimes irrespective of gender, age or disability are provided with assistance, not only victims of human trafficking. In order to provide special treatment for child victims, the Office of Justice prepares a child-friendly protocol.

The Hungarian coordinated system of victim identification and referral was established by Government Decree 354/2012 (XII. 13.) on the identification order of victims of trafficking in human beings, valid as of 1st January 2013. Bodies entitled to identification:

  • Health service provider
  • State health administration body
  • Personal care provider
  • Public educational service provider,
  • Police
  • Labour authority
  • Consulate official
  • Border police authority
  • Office of Immigration and Nationality
  • Voluntarily collaborating bodies

Identification conversation

Annex 1 of the Government Decree contains an identification data sheet which provides instructions for the identification conversation. Identification form - Annex 1 of the Government Decree has to be used in the identification process. Before the conversation

  • the person involved in the identification process has to be informed about the purpose of the discussion.
  • the person involved in the identification process has to be informed that if he/she is a presumed victim of human trafficking, or he/she is not a victim of human trafficking and does not wish to give its consent to further proceeding, the identification data sheet will only be used for statistical purposes without using any personal data that can be used for identification purposes. 

According to Government Decree No. 354/2012. (XII.13) on the identification order of victims of trafficking in human beings:

The purpose of the identification data sheet is to assess if the person involved in the identification procedure is a victim of human trafficking. During the identification conversation screening questions shall be asked based on the indicators on the identification data sheet. Based on the answers it can be determined whether the identified person is probably a victim of trafficking in human beings. In all cases all questions shall be asked for each category. Based on the indicators and responses it shall be determined in each category whether the identified person is likely to be a victim. The identified person is likely to be a victim of trafficking in human beings in the following cases:

  • two signs of high probability
  • one sign of high probability and one sign of medium/low probability
  • two signs of medium probability and one sign of low probability was identified and the probability of being a victim is identified in all categories.


Signs of victimization


High probability

  • The person is probably underage
  • The person has visible injuries (bruises, burns, cuts, scars, etc.)
  • The person has signs of untreated infections
  • The person is visibly undernourished
  • The person has a physical disability
  • The person is pregnant

Medium probability

  • The person shows signs of exhaustion
  • The person has clothing which is in poor condition
  • The person is not dressed adequately for the work
  • The person is dressed typically for sexual activity

Low probability

  • The person shows signs of fear and anxiety


Personal circumstances

High probability

  • The person does not possess ID documents
  • The person has limited freedom and his/her free movement is restricted or controlled

Medium probability

  • The person lives, sleeps and works in the same place
  • The person does not know his or her location or address
  • Continuously changing accommodation
  • The sleeping area is in poor condition and is inappropriate for living


Working conditions

High probability

  • Long working hours
  • The person cannot keep the money earned
  • The person does not know the address of the workplace
  • Excessive fees for transportation, accommodation, food
  • If the person is female and is identified abroad - the person has a child or children  under 3 left in Hungary

Medium probability

  • The person has no employment contract or the conditions do not correspond to the contract
  • The working conditions are unilaterally set by the employer
  • The person believes that he/she owes money to the employer
  • The workplace is not appropriately equipped for accidents
  • Continuously changing workplace


The Hungarian State provides the following assistance to all victims of crime through the Victim Support Service:

  • (general) information
  • victim support service (immediate financial aid, helping to promote the interests of the victim, legal help, psychological assistance, shelter) and
  • state compensation (only for victims of intentional assault and offence; see details later).

Based on Act CXXXV of 2005 on Crime Victims Support and State Compensation (VS Act) the following types of assistance are provided to victims of human trafficking:

  • if the crime took place in Hungary, the person identified as a victim of human trafficking is entitled to Victim Support Services and to state compensation (if conditions of state compensation are met);
  • if the victim of human trafficking has Hungarian citizenship or is a person with the right of free movement and residence – regardless of the criminal prosecution – he/she is entitled to be accommodated in a shelter;
  • alongside general information the victim is provided additional information;
  • if the victim of human trafficking is a third-country national then the following additional support is provided
    • the victim is given a 30-day reflection period to decide whether he/she is willing to cooperate with the authorities investigating the crime. For this period of time the victim is entitled to a certificate of temporary residence.
    • if the victim is willing to cooperate with the authorities, he/she is entitled to a residence permit for the period of cooperation with the authorities.