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Research project

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a very topical social problem, which because of both its social and legal complexity, can only be studied in an interdisciplinary way. Combating human trafficking currently features high on national and international policy agendas.

Masja van Meeteren

One of the questions research in this area addresses is how current criminalization of human trafficking in the Netherlands (art. 273f Sr) can be analyzed and assessed in the light of the legitimacy of the Dutch criminal law. Furthermore, it is assessed how the extent and nature of labour exploitation can be researched and how effective enforcement of anti-trafficking policies can be ensured. Of course, questions aimed at creating a better understanding of the nature of labour exploitation will also have a prominent place.

Human trafficking takes many forms, of which exploitation in the prostitution sector is best known. However, many other forms of exploitation too fall under the umbrella of human trafficking, including forced domestic servitude, criminal exploitation and labour exploitation.

The interdisciplinary study of human trafficking has led to the formation of an informal working group within Leiden Law School, in which academics from areas of law other than criminal law and criminology participate as well. This newly formed working group collaborates in several publications and research proposals, focusing particularly on forms of exploitation outside the sex industry.

The members of this research cluster have very good relations with many organizations and officials in the field of combating human trafficking. The study of human trafficking is also firmly embedded in the Faculty’s educational program through the elective undergraduate course on Human Trafficking  and an annual post-graduate course Human Trafficking (in cooperation with the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings).

Current research projects

Within the research cluster of Human Trafficking, the extent and nature of human trafficking (Masja van Meeteren and Joanne van der Leun) as well as the victims of human trafficking (Maarten Kunst, Charlie Maas and Joanne van der Leun) are currently researched.

In addition, three long-term research projects have been launched:

Criminalisation of trafficking in the context of globalisation and Europeanisation

PhD Candidate: L.B. (Luuk) Esser LL.M

 This PhD research takes the criminalisation of human trafficking in the Netherlands (art. 273f Sr) as a starting point and asks how the legal definition of human trafficking can be analyzed and assessed in the light of international and European law regulations and its positioning within the structure and logic of the national criminal code. The PhD candidate is a researcher at the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children.

The new face of human trafficking: towards a better understanding of labour exploitation

Since labour exploitation has been criminalised as human trafficking, new cases arise regularly. However, it is unclear exactly how labour exploitation comes about. Which types of labour exploitation exist and how can these be understood? These questions will be answered using a newly developed research approach that focuses on both victims and employers. For more information see www.exploitation-research.org.  

Child sex tourism: A systematic examination of responses against a global problem

PhD candidate: Drs. Anneke Koning (NWO Researchtalent-grant)

Child sex tourism, sexual violence against children abroad, is a dynamic and global problem with devastating consequences for victims. In recent years, nation-states have individually and collectively taken measures to combat this phenomenon. Yet serious concerns have been raised with respect to the effects of these responses, and despite consensus on its hurtful nature, reliable research to guide policy on child sex tourism is scarce. The current study aims to gather and integrate knowledge on the phenomenon of child sex tourism – including its online developments – and responses to address it, so as to inform recommendations on how child sex tourism can be combated more effectively.

Key publications

Tielbaard, N., Meeteren, M. van, Commandeur, X. (2016) Slachtoffer van arbeidsuitbuiting? Een kwalitatieve studie naar ideaaltypische trajecten die leiden tot zelfidentificatie als slachtoffer van mensenhandel, Tijdschrift voor Criminologie  58(2): 37-54

Esser, L.B. & Dettmeijer-Vermeulen, C.  (2016)The Prominent Role of National Judges in Interpreting the International Definition of Human Trafficking, Anti-Trafficking Review, 6: 91–105

Cleiren, C.; Leun, J.P. van der; Meeteren & M. van (2015), Beperkingen aan en dilemma’s van de slachtoffergerichte aanpak van mensenhandel; een blik op arbeidsuitbuiting, Proces, tijdschrift voor strafrechtspleging 94(2): 82-97.

Leun, J.P. van der, Schijndel & A. van (2015), Emerging from the shadows or pushed into the dark? The relation between the combat against Trafficking in Human Beings and Migration Control, International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice 44(2016): 26–42.

Aronowitz A.A. & Koning A. (2014), Understanding human trafficking as a market system: addressing the demand side of trafficking for sexual exploitation, Revue international des droits penal 85: 669-696.

Klaver J. & Leun J.P. van der (2014), De Verblijfsregeling Mensenhandel in de praktijk: over oneigenlijk gebruik en niet-gebruik, B en M: tijdschrift voor beleid, politiek en maatschappij 41(4): 279-298.

Leun J.P. van der & Schijndel A. van (2012), Uitbuiting uit zicht? Getuigenverklaringen van gesmokkelde migranten nader bekeken aan de hand van indicatoren voor mensenhandel, Tijdschrift voor Veiligheid 11(3): 20-37

Leun J.P. van der (2011), (EU) Migration Policy and Labour Exploitation. In: Rijken C. (Ed.) Combating Trafficking in Human Beings for Labour Exploitation. Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers. 425-440

Contact person

If you would like to know more about research on human trafficking that is conducted at our institute, please contact Masja van Meeteren.

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