The Conference


people do not live in freedom


modern slaves in Europe


in the Netherlands

Slavery does not exist anymore, right? We all live our lives freely, especially in well-developed Europe. For most people, this is true. But what about the 40.3 million people worldwide for whom this is not the case? The 800.000 modern slaves in Europe, of which 30.000 live in the Netherlands?  According to the United Nations slavery is prohibited, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude: slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” Although Europe is not often associated with modern slavery, it remains a destination, and source for the exploitation of men, women and children in forced labour, commercial sexual exploitation, as well as forced child marriage.

Recently, the problem of modern slavery in Europe became extra relevant. The massive influx of migrants and refugees in 2015 and 2016 has given Europe a new source for slavery: immigrants. It is estimated that as many as 10,000 children registered as refugees are now unaccounted for…

During the 71st Dies Natalis conference on the 29th of November, organized by SIB-Groningen, we will try to provide an overall view of the topic by means of more general talks, and interactive focussed masterclasses. 

We will welcome Katharine Bryant who is part of the Walk Free Foundation where she works on the Government Responses Index, which shows how much governments are doing against modern slavery. Next to this, we will have several other speakers, all with their own perspective. The police will be represented, as well as the Dutch National Rapporteur of Human Trafficking and Child Abuse. Also, more personal stories will be told, such as the unknown story of male forced sexual labour. It is incredibly important that the story of modern slavery is told and more awareness is raised. 

Day schedule

12.30 PM 
Arrival time for participants

1.00 PM 
Opening of the conference by Elze Bulstra (moderator), the Presidents of the SIB and the Dies Natalis Committee, and a short talk by the mayor of Groningen.

1.15 PM 
Plenary lecture I by Katharine Bryant.

2.10 PM 
Masterclass round I by Maarten Abelman, Donna Peach, Rinske Bijl & Marlies Pilon, and Frederike Ambagtsheer.

2.55 PM 
Break with coffee and tea.

3.10 PM 
Plenary lecture II by Julia Batho.

4.00 PM 
Masterclass Round II by Nadine Vaes, Rob Kelder, Simon Beijer and Wendeline Flores.

4.50 PM 
Plenary discussion led by the moderator

5.30 PM 
Drinks with one free consumption

Plenary speakers

Julia Batho

Julia has over eight years’ experience in the fields of forced labour and human trafficking, including providing expert advice to governments, companies and multi-stakeholder initiatives and conducting research and capacity building activities. From 2015 to 2018 she was based in Southeast Asia, where she worked for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) on improving anti-trafficking responses, promoting migrant workers’ rights and addressing labour exploitation in global supply chains and in countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Originally from Brazil, Julia worked at the ILO’s Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour in Geneva between 2009 and 2014. She has also worked as CSR risk analyst in the UK, advising multinational corporations on the implementation of due diligence processes on labour and human rights. Julia is a qualified lawyer and has an MA in Human Rights and Democratisation from the European Inter University Centre, Venice (Italy) and an LLB from Mackenzie University, São Paulo (Brazil). She is now based in the UK.

Katharine Bryant

Katharine Bryant will speak to the global nature of modern slavery. Her presentation will cover the most recent findings from the 2018 Global Slavery Index, highlighting the scale of the problem and the actions that governments are currently taking to respond. The presentation will conclude with what we currently know about what works and what steps governments, business and individuals should take to tackle modern slavery by 2030.

Katharine Bryant is a research manager and European representative for The Walk Free Foundation, an NGO concerned with ending modern slavery. Since 2013, Katharine has been the policy and research manager for The Walk Free Foundation and has overseen the production of a government response index as part of the ‘Global Slavery Index’. The Index provides a detailed, country by country, estimate of the number of people who are globally living in modern slavery and the actions governments are taking to respond to the issue.


Rinske Bijl - The ideal victim?

Investigative journalists Marlies Pilon and Rinske Bijl were quite surprised when an African asylum seeker told them his story. For one-and-half year he was forced into illegal prostitution from a house in Amsterdam. We barely hear about male victims of sexual exploitation in the Netherlands. This is why Pilon and Bijl decided to write a longread on the topic for OneWorld Magazine, in order to raise awareness about this invisible group. During their masterclass they will discuss their mission, the dilemmas they encountered, and the impact of their work.

Rinske Bijl is a freelance journalist and photographer who uses both words and images to tell her stories. As constructive journalism adepts they are always looking for solutions instead of just pointing out problems.

Marlies Pilon - The ideal victim?

Investigative journalists Marlies Pilon and Rinske Bijl were quite surprised when an African asylum seeker told them his story. For one-and-half year he was forced into illegal prostitution from a house in Amsterdam. We barely hear about male victims of sexual exploitation in the Netherlands. This is why Pilon and Bijl decided to write a longread on the topic for OneWorld Magazine, in order to raise awareness about this invisible group. During their masterclass they will discuss their mission, the dilemmas they encountered, and the impact of their work.

Marlies Pilon is an investigative journalist who writes about people, power and borders in a global world. 

Simon Beijer - Forms of slavery and human trafficking in the Netherlands

Slavery is more common than you might think and presents itself in multiple, changing forms. Manifestations of modern slavery, which the National Police encounters on a daily basis, will be examined in this masterclass. Recent criminal investigations will be discussed, showing forms of modern slavery whilst challenging the public to think about ways to combat and investigate these crimes.

The masterclass will include Forms of sexual-, work related- and criminal exploitation, signs of human trafficking/ slavery, victim and perpetrator characteristics, obstacles in investigating and prosecuting modern slavery and the police investigation process

Simon Beijer is an inspector with the National Police, team human trafficking & migration crime

Donna Peach - Child sexual abuse and exploitation: The role of social workers

Dr Donna Peach is a lecturer in social work at the University of Salford. She has 30 years practice experience in working with children and families where there have been concerns about the safety of children. During the last five years her academic role has included research and developmental projects working with voluntary and statutory health, local government and police services to better understand the phenomenon of the sexual abuse and exploitation of children and our responses to it. You can find out more about me here and connect with me on Twitter @Donna_Peach.

Nadine Vaes - SZW Inspection & Approach Labor Extortion

During her masterclass, she wants to give you a look at the world behind the 273f penal code and give insight into practices at the inspection. She will talk about a few researches in criminal law and her own experiences with taking hold of the exploitation of labour.

Nadine Vaes is active in the field of exploitation of labour as a program manager at the Inspectorate SZW. Before that, she was working at the criminal investigation department at the Inspectorate SZW and fulfilled various functions at the police department, the public prosecutor, and the Ministry of Justice and Security. She studied Law at the University of Utrecht.

Rob Kelder - Sexual Assault

In his presentation, Rob will talk about international human trafficking with a focus on the policy in practice and its obstacles. Furthermore, he will argue for a human rights approach to this issue.

Rob Kelder works as a jurist and care coordinater at Fier. He deals with Dutch human trafficking such as Loverboys as well as international human traffick issues.

Frederike Ambagtsheer - The Battle for Human Organs: Organ Trade in the 21st Century

Being perhaps one of the most complex crimes occurring today, Dr. Ambagtsheer will offer the latest insights into organ trade and trafficking. Drawing from her fieldwork research and the work of others, she will describe the organ trade chain (from demand, facilitation and supply to law enforcement responses) as well as the trade’s embeddedness in the wider transplant industry. Finally, she will discuss the moral debate that surrounds the question: why are we permitted to donate but not to sell our own organs?

Frederike Ambagtsheer is a researcher at the Department of Internal Medicine, Section Transplantation & Nephrology of  Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam. She has a background in Criminology (MSc) and Public International Law (LL.M) and obtained her PhD (cum laude) on the organ trade in 2017. She was the initiator and coordinator of the HOTT project: the first international EU-funded research project on human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal (2012-2015) (

Wendeline Flores - Caribbean and Colonial Slavery

Wendeline Flores MA (1989) is a historian in the field of (post)colonial Dutch Caribbean History. She holfds a BA and an MA in History from the Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam. She received a grant from the Silvia W. de Groot Fonds for her research on the long-distance nationalism in journals by Antillean and Surinamese student migrants in the Netherlands (1950-1975). She is currenctly the curator for Caribbean Cultures and Colonial History at the National Museum of World Cultures.

Maarten Abelman - Human Trafficking

Human trafficking undermines the society; not only are victims directly affected, their families and people close to them are also victims. And also the society as a whole. Human Trafficking does not stop at national borders, but has a strong international context. Do we want to live in a society where people are being used disposable items? The responsibility to act against it lies with us all. During the masterclass, the various forms of trafficking in human beings are placed in an international perspective and the challenges that come with that will be discussed.

Maarten Abelman is the head of the office of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children. Furthermore, he is a member of the OSCE expert group against human trafficking. The National Rapporteur is a government agency that reports on basis of an independent mandate and advises on the approach to tackle human trafficking.

Photo: Arenda Oomen


Elza Bulstra

I am honered to be your moderator at the Dies Natalis Conference ‘Modern Slavery in Europe’. When I was 19 years old, I moved to Groningen where I studied International Business Studies. The majority of the students came from abroad, and it was great getting to know all the different cultures. But in my third year, I went to London to study there for half a year and I experienced what impact culture can have. I met a very nice guy from the United Arab Emirates and we fell in love. Unfortunately, he was facing an arranged marriage once he finished his study. His bride to be and he only met once, and both of them did not want to marry each other. But their parents thought it was ‘a mutually good marriage’. With my Dutch roots, an arranged marriage was unthinkable, but for him, it was a harsh reality that would affect his entire life. Many years later, I had a friend born in Irak. He told me that his mother was forced to marry his father when she was only 15 years old. She had her first baby one year later, and another seven in the years thereafter. It was certainly not the life she had dreamt of. So yes, modern slavery and suppression still exist, and therefore it is a very well chosen subject for the 71st Dies Natalis. 


Registration for this conference has closed.

The theme of this year’s Dies Natalis Conference is Modern Slavery in Europe. The Dies Natalis Conference is a yearly event the SIB organises to celebrate its birthday. Every year the conference has a different subject, concerned with human rights.

This year the event will take place on the 29th of November at the Heerenhuis (Spilsluizen 9) and will cost €5,-. 

This will be a full day (12:30-18:00) of plenary lectures, masterclasses and a final discussion.

If you cannot attend the conference after you signed up, please send an email to stating the reason of signing out. If this is done before the 25th of November, your costs will be reimbursed. After that, it is up to the Treasurer to decide whether or not the costs can be reimbursed. Please do this, because someone else might be able to take your spot.


The conference takes place at Het Heerenhuis, Spilsluizen 9, 9712 NR Groningen.

Het Heerenhuis is only a five-minute walk from the Grote Markt. There is a parking garage next door, at Spilsluizen 25.