The government maintained mixed law enforcement efforts; prosecutions and convictions increased while investigations decreased and sentencing of convicted traffickers remained lenient. 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 completed 313 pre-trial trafficking investigations of 472 suspects in 2019, the most recent year for which the government had comprehensive statistics, a decrease compared with 386 investigations into 602 suspects in 2018. Of the investigations, there were 287 for sex trafficking (compared with 356 in 2018), 14 for labor trafficking (compared with 21 in 2018), one for forced begging (compared with two in 2018), and 11 for forced criminality (compared with seven in 2018). Police identified 430 suspects for sex trafficking (compared with 552 in 2017), 22 for labor trafficking (compared with 30 in 2018), one for forced begging (compared with 10 in 2018), and 19 for forced criminality (compared with 10 in 2018). Sex trafficking suspects were primarily German, Romanian, and Bulgarian. Half (50 percent) of the suspects were acquainted with the victim prior to exploiting them in sex trafficking.
For each case in which a court convicted a defendant of multiple crimes, published government statistics reported it only under the charge with the highest statutory sentence. Therefore, previously reported 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. Historically, the government only provided prosecution and conviction statistics for human trafficking cases where it was the primary charge; however, for the first time the government provided statistics for the number of suspects it prosecuted and convicted with human trafficking as a secondary charge. In 2019, the states collectively prosecuted 81 defendants with trafficking as the primary charge, a decrease compared with 96 in 2018. The government prosecuted at least 134 suspects with human trafficking as the secondary charge in 2019, an increase compared with at least 99 from 2018. Total prosecutions for 2019 were at least 215, while total prosecutions for 2018 were at least 195. Courts convicted 61 traffickers with trafficking as the primary charge in 2019, compared with 68 in 2018. For convictions with human trafficking as the secondary charge, courts convicted 134 traffickers in 2019, an increase compared with 99 in 2018. The total convictions for 2019 were 195, compared with 167 in 2018. The government only provided sentencing statistics for convictions with trafficking as the primary charge. Of the 61 convictions with trafficking as the primary charge in 2019, 36 (59 percent) resulted in fully suspended sentences with traffickers serving no prison time (the same percentage as in 2018), six traffickers (10 percent) received only fines (compared with 17 percent in 2018), and two traffickers (3 percent) were sentenced to under one year in prison (compared with 1 percent in 2018). This resulted in 72 percent of convicted traffickers receiving either a fully suspended sentence, a fine, or less than year in prison, which did not serve to deter the crime or adequately reflect the nature of the offense. Seventeen of the 61 convicted traffickers received significant prison sentences (28 percent) of more than one year in prison (compared with 23 percent in 2018). Of the 17 significant sentences, one trafficker was sentenced to between one and two years, eight traffickers were sentenced to between two and three years, seven traffickers were sentenced to between three and five years, and one trafficker was sentenced to between five and 10 years’ imprisonment. However, in comparison, about the same percentage of defendants, 49 percent, convicted of rape in 2019 served prison time, as those convicted specifically for sex-trafficking crimes, 43 percent. 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. 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.
Prioritization of labor trafficking remained a concern during the reporting period, and law enforcement efforts remained low compared with sex trafficking. Compared with 2018 (21 investigations), the government decreased its labor trafficking investigations in 2019 (14 investigations). In 2019, six suspects were prosecuted for labor trafficking and four traffickers were convicted, but only one labor trafficker served jail time, although it was under one year and therefore not a significant sentence. This compared with five prosecuted and four convicted in 2018, though none served jail time. Notable cases during the reporting period included four criminal proceedings, three of which remained ongoing, involving suspected Islamic State members accused of enslaving Yezidi women and children, with several charged with human trafficking offences committed outside Germany. The trials conducted in Germany are considered the first in the world for international crimes committed against the Yezidi population. In 2020, there were also several notable human trafficking cases that were overturned on appeal of the public prosecutor because the sentences were inadequate as the defendants were initially charged with lesser crimes instead of human trafficking; when the cases were heard again, courts issued more stringent penalties for human trafficking. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
Frequent turnover, insufficient personnel, and limited dedicated trafficking resources hindered 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. The federal criminal police (BKA) had dedicated human trafficking investigators. Most, but not all, states had dedicated anti-trafficking investigation units, and a couple of states had specialized prosecutors. 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, although civil society recommended increased labor trafficking training, specifically with regard to identifying migrant workers as trafficking victims. The government’s counseling centers for agencies and professionals working on trafficking cases continued to provide training to prosecutors on forced labor and provided new anti-trafficking training to local job center personnel; the government did not report how many officials it trained during the reporting period. A government-funded NGO delivered an online trafficking training for police and the Justice Ministry and another training at a police training academy but did not report how many officials received training. One state police academy held a two-day training on victim protection and a government-funded NGO held a labor trafficking training attended by 50 law enforcement and immigration officials from all 16 states. While judges could not be compelled to attend training courses, many voluntarily participated in some form of training including at the German Judicial Academy, though there were no human trafficking-specific courses available in 2020. The BKA maintained an information portal for federal and state police forces with information on current trends, guidelines, and investigative tools for combating trafficking. The Service Center against Labor Exploitation, Forced Labor and Trafficking in Human Beings (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 Kosovo, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Romania, and Switzerland on international trafficking investigations, which resulted in the arrest of at least one suspect. In 2019, Germany extradited 33 suspected traffickers to 12 countries and received eight trafficking suspects from three countries. The government began a joint investigation with the Government of Brazil of a suspected German sex tourist; at the close of the reporting period the investigation was ongoing.