The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The criminal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking under Sections 232, 232(a), 232(b), 233, and 233(a) 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 21. The complex wording and scope of the trafficking and exploitation sections in the Criminal Code (Sections 232 to 233a) 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 and consequently, procedures, staffing, and funding varied from state to state.
State governments conducted 386 pre-trial trafficking investigations of 602 suspects in 2018, the most recent year for which the government had comprehensive statistics (compared to 340 investigations into 552 suspects in 2017). Of the investigations, there were 356 for sex trafficking (compared to 327 in 2017), 21 for labor trafficking (compared to 11 in 2017), two for forced begging (compared to two in 2017), and seven for forced criminality (compared to zero in 2017). Police identified 552 suspects for sex trafficking (compared to 523 in 2017), 30 for labor trafficking (compared to 27 in 2017), 10 for forced begging (compared to two in 2017), and 10 for forced criminality (compared to zero in 2017). Minors were victims in 38 percent of investigations. German citizens comprised 21 percent of the suspects, followed by Bulgarians (19 percent), and Romanians (13 percent), remaining relatively the same as prior years. However, the number of Nigerian and Hungarian suspects increased compared to 2017. Almost half (46 percent) of the suspects were either family or known to the victim prior to exploiting victims in sex trafficking.
While the government investigated, prosecuted, and convicted more suspects in 2018, fewer individuals convicted under only a trafficking offense served prison time compared to the year prior. The states collectively prosecuted 96 defendants for trafficking in 2018, compared to 76 in 2017. Courts convicted 68 traffickers, compared to 50 in 2017. Of the 68 convictions in 2018, 40 (59 percent) resulted in suspended sentences and traffickers served no prison time (compared to 26 in 2017), 12 traffickers (17 percent) received only fines (compared to seven in 2017), 16 traffickers (24 percent) received and served prison terms (compared to 18 in 2017), and five traffickers received neither prison sentences nor fines. Of the 16 traffickers who received prison time, sentences ranged from less than one year to 10 years—one trafficker was sentenced to less than one year, two traffickers were sentenced to one to two years, six traffickers were sentenced to two to three years, five traffickers were sentenced to three to five years, and one trafficker was sentenced to five to 10 years’ imprisonment. In comparison, a higher percentage of defendants convicted of rape in 2018 served prison time (58 percent). For all cases in which a court convicted a defendant of multiple crimes, government statistics filed it only under the charge that has the highest statutory sentence. Therefore, official statistics did not include cases in which the court convicted a defendant of trafficking and where that defendant received an aggregate sentence for another crime that carried a higher statutory sentence. Under German sentencing practices, judges typically suspended sentences under two years, particularly for first-time offenders, for most crimes, including human trafficking. This practice weakened deterrence, potentially undercut efforts of police and prosecutors, and created potential security and safety concerns, particularly for victims who cooperated with investigations and prosecutions. Compared to 2017, the government nearly doubled its labor trafficking investigations in 2018. While the government did not breakout the total number of suspects prosecuted or traffickers convicted for labor trafficking, they reported prosecuting at least five suspects and convicting at least four traffickers, none of whom served jail time. This compared with five prosecuted and three convicted, but only received fines, in 2017. Current standards in classification and procedure in data collection, in addition to strict privacy laws, continued to result in incomplete data and underreporting. This likely lowered both the reported number of trafficking convictions and the average length of sentences. Notable cases during the reporting period included a case in June 2019 where the government issued its first trafficking conviction for forced criminality and several cases where traffickers were issued significant sentences, including one sentence of nine and a half years. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. In August 2019, the government reported convicting and sentencing a German male to 13.5 years of prison for child sex tourism while he was in Thailand.
Frequent turnover, insufficient personnel, and limited dedicated trafficking resources could hinder law enforcement efforts, sometimes leading to protracted court cases that were ultimately dismissed due to the statute of limitations or the unwillingness of victims to participate in prolonged proceedings. Most, but not all, states had dedicated anti-trafficking investigation units; a couple of states had specialized prosecutors, but no states had judges or courts that specialized in trying or hearing human trafficking cases. Although prosecutors with experience assisting victims through trial processes frequently led sex trafficking cases, labor trafficking cases were more often assigned to financial, economic, or organized crime sections that lacked similar experience. The government and state-funded NGOs continued to organize and provide training to law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and social workers through various workshops, webinars, and seminars throughout the reporting period. In 2019, a state-funded NGO provided anti-trafficking legal training to 30 investigators, and the police provided anti-trafficking training to 200 police officers and youth welfare office managers, specifically for minors. The government’s service center for agencies and professionals working on trafficking cases, Servicestelle, continued to provide training to prosecutors on forced labor and provided a new anti-trafficking training to local job center personnel. States also continued to train law enforcement officials. While judges could not be compelled to attend training courses, many voluntarily participated in some form of training including at the German Judicial Academy. The federal criminal 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; Servicestelle also maintained an online platform that provided access to information on guidelines, agreements, and counseling centers for victims. Federal and state-level police continued to collaborate with EUROPOL and foreign governments, notably Romania, Bulgaria, and Nigeria, conducting trainings and investigating trafficking cases. These efforts resulted in the arrest of four suspected Romanian child sex traffickers. Through an international program, German police cooperated with Nigerian police on anti-trafficking efforts twice in 2019. During the reporting period, Germany extradited 26 suspected traffickers to 11 countries and received 18 trafficking suspects from eight countries.