The Dutch justice ministry is going to finish the job started by the Amsterdam city council in December -- to cleanse Amsterdam's red-light district of all its organised-crime and people-smuggling gangs. About 320 prostitution windows will be closed.
More than 300 of the prostitution windows will be closed and more than half of all the coffee shops -- which sell drugs legally -- will also be targetted for closure once they have been identified as forming part of an organised-crime syndicate.
The Dutch justice ministry spokesman today announced the appointment of a special public prosecutor whose team will have just one task: to prosecute all these cases targetting the organised gangs which are smuggling people and drugs and rapidly turning Amsterdam and other Dutch cities into the organised-crime capitals of Europe. They have already taken over more than half of Amsterdam's tiny red light district - and citizens agree that they want these gangs gone - and fast. Most of the gangs are run by criminal gang leaders from the Antilles, the police say.
The 'bona-fide prostitutes' who have not been forced into sexual slavery by such gangs, will however be left alone, officials said -- because they have legal status under Dutch law. Adult prostitutes who carry out the profession by free choice, are not considered criminals in The Netherlands, but must comply with all the usual labour laws, such as paying taxes and registering with the labour department as registered prostitutes.
The justice ministry official said today that the specially-appointed organised-crime public prosecutor and his team won't only be dealing with criminal cases against organised crime lords, but also with ordinary 'street-criminality'. Officially prostitution by registered prostitutes is condoned in The Netherlands in specific, designated areas in Amsterdam and other major cities such as Rotterdam, Maastricht, Groningen and Leeuwarden -- but only if the prostitutes are inside a residence. They are not allowed to peddle their trade on the streets.
The Justice Department 's special team also will focus on rehabilitating drug-addicted sex-slavery victims found during the course of their investigation, and have a programme to have these sex-slaves sent back to their countries of origin.
The clean-sweep was started by an Amsterdam city councillor, Lodewijk Asscher, a year ago..
He first launched a research programme with the local police and, armed with their detailed report, see here received unanimous approval from the city council to close more than half of all the prostitution windows and coffee shops in the inner city's tiny Wall Street-district - called De Walletjes in Dutch.
The report he submitted to the town council shocked many Dutch citizens, as it showed that more than half of the coffee shops and prostitution windows in Amsterdam already were owned by organised crime gangs who were smuggling large numbers of sex-slaves from many other countries and forced them to work in the brothels. Often these prostitutes also were deliberately turned into drug-addicts to force them to continue working there.
Why no public uproar against this sex-slavery in the heart of Amsterdam?
Asscher commented that the fact that there were so many foreign sex-slaves working in the heart of Amsterdam was shocking - but even more shocking was the fact that there was no public uproar against it.
"There are no public protest campaigns against this slavery practice,' he said, lambasting Amsterdam citizens for ignoring the suffering of these men and women. see our previous story here "Amsterdam,' he said, 'is becoming the centre of the sex-slavery industry and organised criminal gangs are increasingly setting up businesses to launder their money in the inner city, too.
Asscher also warned:
'we must protect the security of these men and women who voluntarily chose to do this work, while also wiping out the evil of sex-slavery by closing down those crime-linked windows and coffee shops.' He says at least 50% of all these businesses would have to close. He also proposes a strict control regimen to stop the criminal gangs from getting their hooks back into the small Amsterdam red-light district again.
Another councillor, Marijke Vos, also gained city-wide approval for her working paper to drastically improve the legal rights and working conditions for the window prostitutes and to set up structures which would allow those prostitutes who are being forced through violence or other pressure such drug-addiction or faked 'debts' with the crime gangs who abducted them, to return home to their families.
It rankled Amsterdam town councillors specifically because the Dutch harbour cities had over the past decades, been able to carry out an enlightened programme which successfully helped fight the practice of sex-slavery -- by allowing limited prostitution in specific city districts, by outlawing pimps, and by legalising prostitution to empower the women under the law. They also were encouraged to have their own trade unions.
"We would like it more if there wouldn't be a story of modern slavery hiding behind that smiling woman in the window,' said Asscher last year. It looks as if, after a determined year-long campaign, he's finally getting his wish.