GERMANY: Tier 2

The Government of Germany does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government made significant efforts to meet the minimum standards during the reporting period by identifying more labor trafficking victims, launching major investigations into sex trafficking rings, and increasing funding for victim protection and support. The high number of suspended sentences for trafficking convictions, with only 36 percent of convicted sex traffickers in 2017 serving prison time and all three convicted labor traffickers receiving only fines, undercut efforts to hold traffickers accountable, and did not meet the minimum standard generally requiring incarceration for convicted traffickers. Law enforcement data also has shown an overall multi-year decline in convictions for trafficking since 2009. Therefore Germany was downgraded to Tier 2.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS

Vigorously investigate and prosecute suspected labor and sex traffickers, and sentence convicted traffickers to punishments proportionate to the severity of the crime. • Obtain and make public disaggregated data on sentencing where courts convict defendants of both trafficking and one or more other serious crimes. • Extend more specialized care, services, and accommodations for youth and male victims. • Increase availability of training for judges on adjudicating trafficking cases, both through focused courses on trafficking and similar modules in broader training courses. • Create a national referral mechanism for victims across all states. • Increase the capacity of investigators, prosecutors, and courts with specific expertise on trafficking cases to minimize delay in bringing cases to trial. • Appoint a national rapporteur to provide independent review of government efforts on both labor and sex trafficking.

PROSECUTION

The government decreased law enforcement efforts. The criminal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking under Sections 232 and 233 and prescribed punishments of 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. The law did not require proof of force or coercion to prosecute suspected sex traffickers when victims were younger than age 21. The complex wording and scope of Section 233 reportedly resulted in state prosecutors sometimes charging suspected traffickers with offenses considered easier to prove than coercion in labor and sex trafficking. As a federal system, jurisdiction for criminal prosecutions in Germany rested with state courts.

State governments conducted 338 pre-trial trafficking investigations in 2017, the most recent year for which the government had comprehensive statistics (compared to 375 in 2016). Of these, 327 were for sex trafficking (compared to 363 in 2016) and 11 for labor trafficking (compared to 12 in 2016). Of the investigations, 157 (48 percent) involved additional serious crimes, including rape, assault, and kidnapping. Minors were victims in 40 percent of investigations. Police identified 550 suspected traffickers out of those investigations, (523 for sex trafficking and 27 for labor trafficking), compared to 551 suspected traffickers in 2016. German citizens comprised 25 percent of the suspects, followed by Bulgarians (22 percent) and Romanians (18 percent). The number of Nigerian suspects (eight percent) increased threefold from 2016. In a notable case, in April 2018, 1,500 officers coordinated raids across 12 states at 62 locations, including brothels and private apartments, the largest ever for the federal police. The raids resulted in seven arrested suspects who allegedly subjected female and transgender Thai victims to trafficking.

Reported prosecutions and convictions for trafficking in Germany continued to decline significantly in recent years. The states collectively prosecuted 76 defendants for trafficking in 2017, including 71 defendants for sex trafficking and five for labor trafficking. Prosecutions declined from 90 in 2016 and 89 in 2015 and marked the fewest prosecutions in 10 years. Courts convicted 50 defendants, down from 72 in 2016 and 77 in 2015. Of these, courts convicted 47 defendants for sex trafficking and three for labor trafficking. This continued a steady and significant decrease in annual convictions since 2007. During this period, convictions ranged from 88 in 2014 to 123 in 2007 and averaged 116 trafficking convictions per year. Convicted traffickers frequently avoided imprisonment and received suspended sentences or fines. Under German sentencing practices, judges typically suspended sentences under two years, particularly for first-time offenders, for most crimes, including for human trafficking convictions. This weakened deterrence, undercut efforts of police and prosecutors, and created potential security and safety concerns, particularly for victims who cooperated with investigations and prosecutions. Of the 50 convictions in 2017, 26 resulted in suspended sentences and defendants served no prison time, seven convicted traffickers received only fines, and 18 (or 36 percent) received and served prison terms, a slight percentage increase from 2016 (35 percent). Of the 18 defendants receiving prison time, sentences ranged from six months to 10 years, with 12 of those defendants sentenced to prison terms between two and five years, one serving five to 10 years, and five serving less than two years. In comparison, a higher percentage of defendants convicted of rape in 2017 served prison time (55 percent) and on average received longer prison terms. For all cases in which a court convicted a defendant of multiple crimes, government statistics filed it under the charge for which the court imposed the longest sentence. Therefore, official statistics did not include cases in which the court convicted a defendant of trafficking but where that defendant received a longer sentence for a crime the court may have considered a more serious offense. This likely lowered both the reported number of trafficking convictions and the average length of sentences.

Police investigated 12 cases of labor trafficking in 2017, compared to 19 in 2016. In these cases, police identified 27 suspects, the same as in 2016. Authorities prosecuted five alleged labor traffickers, a steep decline from 19 in 2016 and 12 in 2015. Courts convicted three labor traffickers, down from 12 in 2016 and five in 2015. All three were younger than age 21 and received a fine. State authorities reported several cases in which convicted traffickers received significant penalties in 2018. A Berlin court sentenced three defendants to an average of nearly eight years’ imprisonment each in November 2018 in a case of both kidnapping and sex trafficking of several girls from Berlin. In December 2018, a state court sentenced a German defendant to nine years in prison for sex trafficking a minor, along with other criminal charges, one of the longest prison terms to date. In November 2018, three Nigerian women received sentences in the Hesse state court ranging from two years and two months to three years and three months for recruiting Nigerian women as sex trafficking victims and prosecutors filed a motion for the court to reconsider a longer prison sentence.

Although prosecutors with experience assisting victims through trial processes frequently led sex trafficking cases, labor trafficking cases in contrast were more often assigned to financial, economic, or organized crime sections. To improve this disparity of expertise, a federal government-funded NGO conducted a nationwide workshop on labor trafficking for public prosecutors in November 2018. The government’s service center for agencies and professionals working on trafficking cases, Servicestelle, also provided training for prosecutors on forced labor. NGOs noted the duration of the average investigation and prosecution for trafficking crimes, like any crime, continued to be too long, sometimes years, and police in many jurisdictions lacked sufficient staff to timely process the workload. To address this need, in January 2019, the government approved €220 million ($252.29 million) to expand judicial staff, prosecutors, and police for all criminal cases. The Berlin state-level police also added a third specialized trafficking investigation unit in 2018.

Judges could not be compelled to attend training courses, although many voluntarily participated in some form of training. While most lacked trafficking-specific training, many judges and prosecutors participated in the German Judicial Academy’s annual training on cross-border sex trafficking. 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 continued to incorporate trafficking courses into their training. The federal police (Bundeskriminalamt, or BKA) maintained an information portal for federal and state police forces, with information on current trends, guidelines, and investigative tools for combating trafficking. Federal and state-level police collaborated with EUROPOL and foreign governments, notably Romania, Bulgaria, and Nigeria, conducting trainings and investigating trafficking cases. Germany processed 41 incoming extraditions requests and seven outgoing requests in 2017 for trafficking-related charges.

PROTECTION

The government increased victim protection efforts. In 2017, the most recent year for which comprehensive statistics were available, state government authorities, who are responsible for protection efforts, identified 669 trafficking victims, an increase from 536 in 2016. Of these, 489 were victims of sex trafficking (488 in 2016) and 180 of labor trafficking (48 in 2016). Nearly half (46 percent) of all sex trafficking victims were younger than age 21, and a majority of German citizen victims were younger than age 21. The large increase in victim identification came mainly from the construction sector (116 victims in 2017, compared to 12 in 2016), with most victims from North Macedonia (52 victims) and Latvia (39 victims). The Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) identified more potential victims in the asylum protection system than in recent years and made referrals to counseling centers. Each of the 50 BAMF offices across Germany included at least one representative to assist in identifying and supporting potential victims of trafficking.

The government funded services through the Network against Trafficking in Human Beings (KOK), the quasi-governmental NGO also charged with coordinating and overseeing victim support efforts across Germany. NGO counseling centers funded by the government served both labor and sex trafficking victims, although many centers worked only with female sex trafficking victims. NGO service providers operated in 45 cities, providing shelter, medical and psychological care, legal assistance, vocational support, and other services. Trade union-affiliated and migrant counseling centers also supported labor trafficking victims. There was limited comprehensive or long-term support across the centers for children and male trafficking victims, and KOK noted overall availability of services and shelters was inconsistent across states. An October 2018 study by KOK also noted challenges for all groups in providing adequate accommodation. The Family Ministry published its Federal Cooperation Concept for the Protection of Children in October 2018, designed to align policies and clarify responsibilities between agencies and across states for cases involving minors.

National government funding for the KOK’s management operations was €1.5 million ($1.72 million) total for the three-year period of 2019-2021, an increase from €370,000 ($424,310) in 2018, and €343,000 ($393,350) for 2017. State governments also supported trafficking victims; for instance, the Bavarian labor ministry provided €600,000 ($688,070) in 2017 and North-Rhine-Westphalia funded €1 million ($1.15 million) in 2018 to support eight counseling centers and committed an additional €667,920 ($765,960) per year starting in 2019. Government-funded counseling centers or youth welfare organizations together assisted approximately 33 percent of victims identified (compared to 34 percent in 2016), while BKA reported 47 percent declined offers of specialized care and did not have information on the remaining 20 percent of victims. BKA cited various reasons for the low response to support, including limited or lack of counseling, lack of interest, or return to the victim’s home country.

Germany’s Prostitute Protection Act of 2016 mandated individuals in prostitution register for a license and required counseling sessions, including on health and legal rights. The law required officials across all states to screen for trafficking indicators during registration, during which officials identified numerous individuals subjected to force, fraud, or coercion. However, some NGOs expressed concern that the most vulnerable victims of trafficking would either not register, or register without disclosing trafficking crimes. Germany did not have a single national referral mechanism, as investigations and prosecutions were handled at the state-level; thus, each state had a separate system to refer victims to either state-run support or NGOs. Prosecutors, together with other authorities, offered undocumented victims a reflection period of three months to decide if they would testify in court. Some jurisdictions, such as Berlin, routinely extended the period to six months. Victims who agreed to testify could remain and work in Germany through 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. 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 as part of the criminal proceeding.

PREVENTION

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. Germany had no single national action plan on trafficking, but had a broader plan to counter violence against women, a strategy to combat labor trafficking, and a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, which included supply chain issues as one component. The Ministry of Development and International Cooperation (BMZ) established guidelines in 2018 and support structures with a target of 50 percent of companies required to report on human rights measures incorporated into their operations by 2020, including trafficking in supply chains. Even though NGOs contributed to the BMZ document, many still described the measures as limited in effect, overly broad, vague, and non-binding on companies. In February 2019, the United States and Germany signed a Joint Declaration of Intent to increase cooperation on labor trafficking issues, including within global supply chains. The government had not appointed a national rapporteur, a key recommendation of GRETA’s 2015 report, as well as NGOs and some state-level officials.

The federal government, through NGOs, co-funded and implemented various awareness campaigns, in addition to efforts at the state level. In cooperation with an NGO, the government held informational events for domestic workers on their rights. For domestic workers employed by embassies in Berlin, authorities conducted in-person interviews without employers present. The federal government continued to fund a 24/7 hotline in 17 languages for women affected by violence; in 2017, the hotline received calls from 120 potential trafficking victims. German law required background checks on brothel management employees. Prostitution is legal and regulated in Germany. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. The government increased funding for bilateral and EU-based anti-trafficking programs in source countries in 2018, notably Nigeria. German police trained Nigerian anti-trafficking police units through sessions held twice yearly in Nigeria. Most recently, BMZ initiated programs on border management and trafficking victim identification in several West African countries and in the Balkans.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Germany. Most identified sex trafficking victims in Germany are EU citizens, primarily Bulgarians, Romanians (of which a significant percentage are ethnic Roma), as well as German citizens. Victims also come from most other regions of the world, particularly China, Nigeria, and other parts of Africa. Labor trafficking victims are predominantly male and European, including from North Macedonia, Latvia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Poland, and Romania, but also Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Vietnam. Traffickers exploit victims of forced labor primarily at construction sites, but also in hotels, meat-processing plants, seasonal industries, and restaurants, and as caregivers in private homes, with reported increases in the number of child victims. Traffickers subject Roma and foreign unaccompanied minors to sex trafficking, forced begging, and other coerced criminal behavior. Migrants and refugees remain vulnerable to sex or labor traffickers upon arrival. Several foreign governments also reported German citizens engaged in sex tourism abroad.

2019 Trafficking in Persons Report: Germany
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