Legislation - BE

The Belgian National Referral Mechanism –

At the heart of the Belgian national referral mechanism is the Interdepartmental Coordination Platform (ICP) for the Fight against Trafficking and Smuggling in human beings, a body for multi-agency cooperation set up in1995.

Chaired by the Federal Department of Justice, it gathers representatives from all the federal entities involved in anti-trafficking, amongst others the Police, the Board of Prosecutors General, the social inspection services, the Immigration Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the three government-recognized specialized reception centres that provide shelter and assistance to victims: Payoke for the Flemish region, Pag-Asa in the Brussels area and Sürya in Wallonia. The Platform 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.

First responders follow a national victim referral protocol to identify victims and refer them to care. A victim is first detected on the basis of their account or on the basis of indicators. Frontline responders must meet the person’s urgent and basic needs, and inform them about the victim protection program. They often use a leaflet, available in 27 languages, to help victims understand their situation and the support they can expect.

Any person suspected of being a victim of human trafficking can benefit from the protection program, regardless of gender, nationality, immigration status or age. Also included are victims of trafficking through the loverboy method, which involves recruitment through romance and emotional bonding. 

Assistance is conditioned on three criteria: victims have to break off all contact with their exploiters, agree to counselling at a specialized shelter, and be willing to assist in the investigations.

The victim support model is modelled on the ‘four Cs’ approach to ensure that the human rights of victims are respected:

  1. Confidentiality to protect the victim’s privacy and safety,
  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 between the police, judicial authorities and/or NGOs,
  4. Consent of the person to the support and cooperation with the judicial authorities.

The assistance program 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.