Prosecution – Belgium

1. Crimes
2. Making a Police Statement
3. Consequences

If, in a raid, police pick up an immigrant sex worker who has no residence permit and/or no work permit, they will initiate an inquiry against her regarding immigration offences. Criminal proceedings will also be initiated if the woman has committed an offence in another matter. In these cases the woman is an accused party.


1. Crimes

Working as a sex worker can be penalised as a crime under the following conditions.

Working as a prostitute as such is not illegal, but it becomes illegal if

  • minors are involved in any way, including debauchery addressed specifically at minors or assisting debauchery by minors (all criminal offences punished with long imprisonment depending on the age of the minor)
  • The woman makes publicity for her activities by means of any modus of telecommunication
  • The woman attracts the attention as a prostitute in public places, e.g. streets, lounge of a hotel (“incitement of debauchery”)
Other sex work-related crimes that sex workers may commit are:

  • Facilitating prostitution by renting a room to a prostitute
  • Pimping
  • Advertising for sex related services
  • Being present when a minor is committing/participating in debauchery
  • Employing a prostitute
  • Exploiting someone else’s activities as a prostitute, especially if the illegal or vulnerable position of a migrant sex worker is exploited
  • Working without the correct work permit or residence permit that allows her to work
Please note:
Soliciting sex-related services or advertising activity as a prostitute in public places, e.g. in the street, is always a crime.

2. Making a Police Statement

A. Right to Remain Silent

As a suspect, the woman has the right to remain silent.

B. Interpreter

The suspect/accused is entitled to the services of an interpreter in her own language. If she feels unable to trust the translator, she should tell the police.

C. Custody

The suspect may be held in police custody for no more than 24 hours. Within these 24 hours the investigating judge has either to deliver his mandate of arrest or has to release the woman.

If a woman is detained, she should always contact a lawyer and an advisory centre. The advisor may visit and support her if there is a chance that she might be a victim of human trafficking.

D. Victims of Human Trafficking or other Serious Offences

The woman may be not only an accused person, but also a victim of human trafficking or of other serious offences. If she is being accused (for example of having committed an immigration offence) and is a victim or witness of a severe crime (trafficking in human beings, rape), criminal proceedings against her will not necessarily be halted. Under the discretion of the judge of instruction and the prosecutor, however, the court may deal with the proceedings against the woman as a suspect and the proceedings regarding her involvement as a victim or witness simultaneously.
Please note:
If the woman is a victim of human trafficking or another serious crime she can request that the police contact an advisory centre. See the section Victims of Crime.

3. Consequences

A. Immigration Offences

A woman who has committed an immigration offence (illegal residence, illegal employment) may be expelled if she does not have an adequate work permit or residence permit. In this case, she may be placed in remand pending deportation and subsequently be deported since the administration sometimes does not wait for the criminal court to take action.

B. Other Crimes

Where other offences have been committed (e.g. theft, fraud etc.) the investigation authorities will initiate proceedings against the woman, criminal charge and legal proceedings may follow. If a criminal sentence is passed, the woman may lose her right to residence. This depends on the severity of the sentence and the type of residence permit she holds.
Please note:
If investigation proceedings are initiated against the woman, she should always contact a lawyer.
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