GERMANY: Tier 1
Germany is a source, transit, and destination country for women, children, and men subjected to sex and labor trafficking. Most sex trafficking victims in Germany are European, primarily Bulgarians, Romanians, and Germans. Citizens of Nigeria, other parts of Africa, Asia, and the Western Hemisphere are also subjected to sex trafficking in Germany. Most sex trafficking victims are exploited in bars, brothels, and apartments. Labor trafficking victims are predominantly European, including Bulgarians, Poles, and Romanians, as well as Afghans, Pakistanis, and Vietnamese. Victims of forced labor are exploited on construction sites and in agriculture, hotels, meat processing plants, seasonal industries, restaurants, and diplomatic households. Roma and foreign unaccompanied minors are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, including forced begging and coerced criminal behavior. In 2015, approximately 1.1 million refugees and asylum-seekers arrived in Germany, including approximately 67,000 unaccompanied minors; these individuals remain vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking. Several foreign governments reported German citizens engaged in sex tourism abroad.
The Government of Germany fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The influx of migrants to the country during the reporting period placed a significant strain on government resources, including among agencies responsible for combating trafficking. Despite this challenge, the government maintained strong efforts to prosecute and convict sex traffickers, continued to identify and provide protections to sex trafficking victims, and funded various public awareness campaigns; however, weak sentences for trafficking convictions continued to undercut efforts to hold traffickers accountable, and government efforts to identify and assist labor trafficking victims and prosecute and convict labor traffickers remained inadequate given the scope of the problem.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GERMANY:
Increase efforts to address labor trafficking, including by revising section 233 of the criminal code, proactively identifying labor trafficking victims, and vigorously investigating, prosecuting, and convicting trafficking offenders; ensure that all trafficking offenders are punished with sentences commensurate with the severity of the crime; standardize victim assistance measures and cooperation with civil society across the 16 federal states; increase the number of victims provided services through counseling centers; expand longer-term residence permit eligibility for victims not reliant on their willingness to testify at trial; establish policies to encourage victims to self-identify, including by addressing the requirement that officials report migrants’ undocumented status; and conduct awareness campaigns targeting beneficiaries of forced labor and clients of the commercial sex industry.
The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The criminal code prohibits all forms of sex and labor trafficking, the former under section 232 and the latter under section 233. Punishments prescribed in these statutes range from six months’ to 10 years’ imprisonment and are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Section 233, however, posed significant challenges for practitioners due to its complex wording and scope of application. As a result, law enforcement officials and prosecutors often pursued prosecutions for offenses that were easier to prove than coercion in labor and sex trafficking. Tracking of trafficking convictions was limited by a record-keeping system that did not record convictions as involving trafficking when an accompanying criminal charge had a higher statutory sentence than the trafficking statute. Government-reported statistics continued to reveal convicted traffickers frequently avoided imprisonment, creating potential safety problems for trafficking victims, weakening deterrence, and undercutting law enforcement efforts of police and prosecutors.
In 2014, the most recent year for which comprehensive statistics were available, state and federal authorities completed 392 sex trafficking investigations, compared with 425 in 2013. Authorities prosecuted 105 defendants for sex trafficking in 2014, compared with 118 in 2013. Courts convicted 79 sex traffickers in 2014, compared with 77 in 2013. Most convicted traffickers received lenient prison sentences that were suspended due to a provision in the criminal code allowing the suspension of assigned prison terms of less than two years, particularly for first-time offenders. Of the 79 sex traffickers convicted, only 19 were sentenced to prison, with sentences between two and 10 years. The government investigated 11 labor trafficking cases in 2014, compared with 53 in 2013; although there was a significant decrease in the number of investigations compared to 2013, the number of investigations in 2014 was comparable to recent years. Authorities prosecuted 17 alleged labor traffickers in 2014, compared with 15 in 2013. Courts convicted eight of these offenders, compared with 14 in 2013. None of the eight convicted labor traffickers were imprisoned.
Although sex trafficking cases were frequently led by prosecutors with experience leading victims through trial processes, labor trafficking cases were mostly assigned to financial or economic crime sections with less experience with trafficking or victim-centered prosecutions. NGOs and officials reported mixed experiences with the judiciary; while some judges were sensitive to victims’ trauma, others subjected victims to repeated testimonies or made insensitive statements about their experiences. Judges were not required to take training of any kind, including on trafficking crimes and victim-centered procedures. The German Judicial Academy offered anti-trafficking training to prosecutors and judges and the Federal Criminal Police organized several specialized seminars to educate investigating officers and prosecutors on trafficking topics. Both the Federal Criminal Police and state-level police collaborated with EUROPOL and several foreign governments, including Romania, Bulgaria, and Nigeria, to investigate trafficking cases. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government maintained victim protection efforts. Authorities identified 557 sex trafficking victims in 2014, compared with 542 in 2013; counseling centers cared for approximately 30 percent of those identified. The government registered 26 labor trafficking victims, a significant decrease from 61 in 2013. Requirements that officials inform immigration authorities of any undocumented migrants who come to their attention impaired labor trafficking victim identification and led to under-reporting of trafficking crimes. Thirteen of the 16 states had formal cooperation agreements with trafficking counseling centers, but not all of these agreements addressed labor trafficking. NGOs, funded in part by the government, operated counseling centers in 45 cities, providing or facilitating shelter, medical and psychological care, legal assistance, vocational support, and other services largely for adult female sex trafficking victims. Although most counseling centers offered services for labor trafficking victims, the centers were generally less experienced with labor trafficking; there was also a lack of shelter services available for male labor trafficking victims. Trade union-affiliated and migrant counseling centers coordinated with trafficking NGOs and the partially federally funded labor alliance to offer support to labor trafficking victims. The federal government provided funding to an umbrella organization responsible for NGO-run counseling centers, and many state governments provided significant supplemental funding for the support of victims.
The government offered undocumented victims a reflection period of three months to decide if they wanted to testify in court. Victims who agreed to testify were entitled to live and work in Germany for the duration of the trial. Those who testified were not entitled to stay in Germany following trials; however, victims who faced personal injury or threats to life or freedom in their countries of origin or cases of humanitarian hardship could apply for residence permits. In 2015, the government amended the residency act, which lowered eligibility requirements for residence permits, now giving those who testified or cooperated with the authorities enhanced protections from deportation and offered residency eligibility for members of the core family in certain circumstances. State interior ministries circulated instructions on the application of humanitarian residence permits for victims. Authorities encouraged victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of traffickers. The law under certain requirements enables victims to join criminal trials as joint plaintiffs with free legal counsel and pursue civil remedies; however, victims often had difficulty obtaining compensation in practice. The law also entitles victims to interpreters and for a third-party representative from a counseling center to accompany them to all interviews. The law permits exemption of trafficking victims from criminal prosecution for minor crimes they committed during the course of their trafficking experience; however, prosecutors anecdotally described issuing small or “suspended” fines to some victims for crimes such as narcotics possession.
The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The government did not prioritize labor trafficking as highly as sex trafficking, but it continued to increase efforts to assess and address labor trafficking through a partially federally funded labor alliance conducting research, raising awareness, and providing victim identification training. The federal-state working group on trafficking in persons disseminated best practices, provided input to new laws and directives, and collaborated with a variety of coordination bodies at the state and local levels. The new federal-state working group against labor trafficking held its first workshop in March 2016. The government, in collaboration with NGOs, co-funded and implemented various public awareness campaigns during the reporting period. The Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees conducted training on identifying victims among asylum-seekers and implemented standard operating procedures on handling and reporting suspected trafficking cases in response to the increasing number of potential trafficking victims within the asylum system. The government, in cooperation with an NGO, continued to hold informational events and annual in-person interviews with domestic workers employed by embassies in Berlin without the presence of their employers.
The German Federal Criminal Police continued to publish an annual report on trafficking in Germany, describing law enforcement efforts, victim trends, and challenges in addressing the crime. The government continued to fund a hotline for women affected by violence, including female trafficking victims. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor. Although law enforcement collaborated with foreign officials to investigate German citizens’ participation in child sex tourism, there were no reported prosecutions of German offenders in Germany. Although the government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel, it did so for its troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.