The Government of Germany fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore Germany remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by strengthening criminal statutes on trafficking, convicting more labor traffickers, and sentencing some traffickers to longer prison terms. Although the government meets the minimum standards, the high number of suspended sentences for trafficking convictions, with only 30 percent of convicted traffickers in 2016 serving prison time and a high number of convicted labor trafficking perpetrators receiving only fines, undercut efforts to hold traffickers accountable. Approximately half of identified victims did not receive specialized care and NGOs noted inadequate availability of assistance for adult male and child victims, including insufficient accommodation options. Prostitution is legal in Germany and, although the government increased protections for commercial sex workers through laws regulating the prostitution industry, there were limited efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex.

Sentence convicted traffickers to punishments proportionate to the severity of the crime for both labor and sex trafficking; extend more specialized care and services based on trafficking victims’ specific needs, particularly for youth and male victims; increase the number and percentage of victims who receive government-funded services; increase efforts to address labor trafficking through proactive identification of victims and public awareness campaigns on criminal code reforms; increase the capacity of investigators, prosecutors, and courts to minimize delay in bringing cases to trial; increase cooperation on anti-trafficking standards across the 16 federal states; conduct awareness campaigns targeting beneficiaries of forced labor, and targeting clients of prostitution in order to reduce the demand for commercial sex; develop and implement a strategy to fully implement and enforce the new law regulating the prostitution industry and increasing protections for commercial sex workers; ensure government procurement policy addresses trafficking in supply chains; and implement programs under general OSCE standards and guidelines toward eliminating trafficking in supply chains.

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The criminal code criminalized sex and labor trafficking under sections 232 and 233, and punishments prescribed range from six months to 10 years imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Amendments enacted in 2016 went into effect on July 1, 2017, including provisions criminalizing forced begging and other types of coerced criminal behavior and imposing stronger penalties when victims are under age 18. For sex trafficking the law did not require proof of force or coercion to prosecute perpetrators for victims under age 21. The law also imposed criminal penalties for knowingly purchasing sex from a trafficking victim. The complex wording and scope of section 233 reportedly resulted in prosecutors sometimes charging suspected traffickers with offenses considered easier to prove than coercion in labor and sex trafficking.

In 2016, the most recent year for which comprehensive statistics were available, police identified 551 sex and labor traffickers, compared to 597 traffickers in 2015. Of these, courts convicted 72 defendants, compared to 77 convictions in 2015. Courts sentenced 38 defendants to prison terms greater than one year in 2016, although suspended 24 of those sentences where the prison term was less than two years. Within those investigations were 524 suspected sex traffickers, a slight decrease from 573 sex traffickers investigated in 2015; 28 percent of suspects were German citizens. State and federal authorities completed 365 pre-trial sex trafficking investigations in 2016, compared to 364 in 2015. The government prosecuted 90 defendants for sex trafficking in 2016, compared to 89 in 2015. Courts convicted 60 sex traffickers in 2016, compared to 72 in 2015 and 79 in 2014. Government statistics for all crimes in multi-offense cases reported only the longest sentence imposed and, therefore, did not include cases in which a defendant was found guilty of trafficking but received a longer sentence by being convicted for a different offense, which may have lowered the reported number of trafficking offenses. The criminal code allowed suspension of prison sentences under two years, a provision which is commonly used across the spectrum of offenses, and especially for first-time offenders. Convicted traffickers frequently avoided imprisonment and received suspended sentences or fines, which weakened deterrence, undercut efforts of police and prosecutors, and created potential security and safety concerns, particularly for trafficking victims who cooperated with investigations and prosecutions. Of the 60 convictions, 35 received suspended sentences and served no prison time, four received fines, and 21 (or 35 percent) received prison terms, a slight increase in prison sentences that were not suspended compared to 2015. Of 21 defendants sentenced to serve prison time, sentences ranged from nine months to five years, with 12 defendants sentenced to prison terms between two and five years. Of 27 defendants sentenced to prison terms between one and two years, courts suspended 24 sentences and only three defendants served prison time, all for sex trafficking. In comparison, a higher percentage of defendants convicted of rape in 2016 served prison time (57 percent for rape compared to 35 percent for trafficking), and on average received longer prison terms. In 2017, courts sentenced four traffickers to seven years imprisonment, marking an increase from prison sentences issued in 2015 and 2016, which ranged between two and five years. One of the defendants sentenced to seven years imprisonment was convicted in the highly publicized “Artemis” brothel case in Berlin that followed an investigation involving 900 law enforcement personnel.

For labor trafficking, police identified 27 individuals suspected of labor trafficking in 2016, compared to 24 in both 2015 and 2014. The government investigated 12 cases in 2016, compared to 19 in 2015. Authorities prosecuted 19 labor traffickers in 2016, compared with 12 in 2015. Courts convicted 12 traffickers, compared with five in 2015 and eight in 2014. Three of these traffickers received a suspended sentence, eight received a fine, and only one received a prison term. Of the 72 combined convictions for labor and sex trafficking, 10 were against persons between age 18 and 21, wherein the court is required to consider the maturity level of the offender and then determine whether to apply juvenile or adult criminal law. In 2016, asset seizures from defendants increased significantly. Authorities seized €2.5 million ($3 million) in assets from suspected traffickers, compared to €512,000 ($614,650) in 2015. The revised law eased the burden of proof and time limits for asset seizure.

Although sex trafficking cases were frequently led by prosecutors with experience assisting victims through trial processes, labor trafficking cases were mostly assigned to financial, economic, or organized crime sections with less experience with trafficking or victim-centered prosecutions. According to NGOs, the duration of the average criminal investigation for any criminal prosecution remained too long, sometimes years, and police in many jurisdictions lacked sufficient staff to process the workload in a timely manner. The Berlin state-level police added a third specialized human trafficking investigation unit in 2018 in an attempt to address this need. Judges generally could not be compelled to take mandatory training, viewed as infringement of judicial independence. However, many judges and prosecutors continued to participate in the German Judicial Academy’s annual anti-trafficking training which covers the sexual exploitation of women and children in connection with cross-border crime. Officials in various German states, including Lower Saxony, Bavaria, and North-Rhine Westphalia, also organized judicial trainings on trafficking, including emphasis on victim-centered approaches. The Federal Criminal Police organized specialized seminars to educate investigating officers on trafficking. Police academies in various German states had incorporated trafficking courses into their training. Federal and state-level police collaborated with EUROPOL and foreign governments, notably Romania, Bulgaria, and Nigeria, conducting trainings and investigating trafficking cases. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses.

The government maintained victim protection efforts. In 2016, the most recent year for which comprehensive statistics were available, authorities identified 536 trafficking victims, an increase from 470 in 2015. In this total, there were 488 sex trafficking victims in 2016, an increase from 416 in 2015. More than two-thirds of sex trafficking victims were German nationals, followed by Hungarian, Bosnian, and Romanian victims. There was an increase in the number of victims from Africa, mostly Nigeria. Of the sex trafficking investigations concluded in 2016, police initiated 60 percent of the cases, mostly from third party tips, while victims initiated contact in the remaining 40 percent of cases. For labor trafficking, the government identified 48 victims in 2016, compared to 54 in 2015, with one-fourth in the construction sector. The majority of these victims (25) came from Ukraine, following a major investigation spanning five German states. The Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) continued measures to identify potential victims in the asylum protection system and made referrals to counseling centers. Each of the 50 BAMF offices across the country included at least one representative to assist in identifying and supporting potential victims of trafficking.

The government-funded services through the government-funded NGO Network Against Trafficking in Human Beings (KOK), also charged with coordinating and overseeing victim support efforts. The government mandated counseling centers, operated by NGOs, to provide services to both labor and sex trafficking victims, although many provided such services only to female sex trafficking victims. NGOs operated centers in 45 cities, providing or facilitating shelter, medical and psychological care, legal assistance, vocational support, and other services. Trade union-affiliated and migrant counseling centers coordinated with trafficking NGOs to offer some support to labor trafficking victims. There was limited comprehensive or long-term support available across the centers for children and male trafficking victims. Some counseling centers focused on male victims in their programming, although no designated accommodations were available for them. An October study by KOK noted that for all groups there remained challenges providing adequate accommodation. Government funding for the KOK’s management operations was €343,000 ($411,760) for 2017, an increase from €316,000 ($379,350) in 2016. Funding for actual services to trafficking victims and survivors came from state governments and private contributions, and no national total was available. For example, the Bavarian government provided €563,000 ($675,870) in 2016 for victim support, and North-Rhine-Westphalia funded €1 million ($1.2 million) for eight counseling centers. Government-funded counseling centers or youth welfare organizations together provided assistance to approximately 34 percent of victims identified, while 55 percent did not receive specialized care, and there was no information on the remaining 11 percent of victims.

The government offered undocumented victims a reflection period of three months to decide if they would testify in court, although in some jurisdictions such as Berlin, the period was routinely extended to six months. Victims who agreed to testify were allowed to remain and work in Germany beyond the reflection period, which was limited to the duration of the trial. Victims who faced injury or threats to life or freedom in their countries of origin or in cases of humanitarian hardship could apply for residence permits. Family members were eligible for residency in certain circumstances. State interior ministries circulated instructions on completing an application for humanitarian residence permits for victims, and NGOs confirmed the application system seemed to work in practice. The law entitled victims to an interpreter and a third-party representative from a counseling center to accompany them to all interviews. The law also exempted trafficking victims from criminal prosecution for minor crimes committed during the course of their trafficking. Subject to certain requirements, victims could join criminal trials as joint plaintiffs, and were entitled to free legal counsel and pursuit of civil remedies; however, victims often had difficulty obtaining compensation in practice. Under law revised in 2017, a court could award compensation and damages as part of the criminal proceeding without a separate civil action.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. Germany had no formal national action plan as recommended by GRETA; however, three distinct federal-state working groups (Labor Trafficking, Sex Trafficking, Exploitation of Children and Trafficking) met several times during the year and disseminated best practices, provided input and evaluation on the government’s efforts, and collaborated with anti-trafficking coordination bodies at state and local levels. Officials noted anti-trafficking strategies were developed at the state level and then coordinated between states. Working with NGOs, the government co-funded and implemented various public awareness campaigns, including media and film production, poster contests and exhibitions, and brochures on identifying labor trafficking. The government, in cooperation with an NGO, continued to hold informational events for domestic workers on their rights. Authorities also conducted annual in-person interviews with domestic workers employed by embassies in Berlin without the presence of their employers. The government continued to fund a hotline in 17 languages for women affected by violence that received more than 100 calls from potential trafficking victims in 2016. The revised law required registration of those involved in the legal commercial sex industry and background checks on brothel management employees. However, the government did not make significant efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor. The government-funded bilateral and EU anti-trafficking programs in source countries in 2017, notably in Nigeria and Burkina Faso. The Labor, Economic, and Development Ministries collaborated on programs to comply with OSCE guidelines on trafficking in supply chains. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel, but did so for troops prior to deployment on international peacekeeping missions.

As reported over the past five years, Germany is a source, transit, and destination country for women, children, and men subjected to sex and labor trafficking. Most identified sex trafficking victims in Germany are EU citizens, primarily Bulgarians, Romanians, and Germans, although victims also come from most other regions of the world, particularly China, Nigeria, and other parts of Africa. Labor trafficking victims are predominantly European, including Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Poles, and Romanians, as well as Afghans, Pakistanis, and Vietnamese. Traffickers exploit victims of forced labor at construction sites, hotels, meat processing plants, seasonal industries, restaurants, and as caregivers in private homes. Roma and foreign unaccompanied minors were particularly vulnerable to trafficking, including forced begging and coerced criminal behavior. The large influx of migrants during the 2015 and 2016 refugee crises, and a continuing flow of irregular migrants northward from Mediterranean crossings, continue to strain government resources at all levels and among agencies responsible for combating trafficking. Several foreign governments also reported German citizens engaged in sex tourism abroad.

U.S. Department of State

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