Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2018, 12:53 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Germany

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Germany, 27 June 2011, available at: [accessed 23 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Germany (Tier 1)

Germany is a source, transit, and destination country for women, children, and men subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Approximately 85 percent of identified victims of sex trafficking originated in Europe, including 25 percent from within Germany, 20 percent from Romania, and 19 percent from Bulgaria. Non-European victims originated in Nigeria, other parts of Africa, Asia, and the Western Hemisphere. The majority of identified sex trafficking victims have been exploited in bars, brothels, and apartments – approximately 45 percent of identified sex trafficking victims reported that they had agreed initially to engage in prostitution. Victims of forced labor have been identified in hotels, domestic service, construction sites, meat processing plants, and restaurants. Members of ethnic minorities, such as Roma, as well as foreign unaccompanied minors who arrived in Germany, were particularly vulnerable to human trafficking.

The Government of Germany fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government sustained strong efforts in investigating and prosecuting trafficking offenders. The government continued to fund NGOs that provided a full range of services to trafficking victims. The government also reported an increase in the number of trafficking victims proactively identified by authorities. During the year, it also commissioned several studies on human trafficking to examine and improve its response to the problem. Available statistics, however, indicate the majority of convicted labor and sex trafficking offenders were not required to serve time in prison, raising concerns that punishments were inadequate to deter traffickers or did not reflect the heinous nature of the offense.

Recommendations for Germany: Explore ways to increase the number of convicted traffickers who receive sentences commensurate with the gravity of the crime committed; vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict labor trafficking offenders; consider granting residence permits for trafficking victims that are not reliant on the victim's willingness to testify at trial; establish an independent national anti-trafficking rapporteur to produce critical assessments on Germany's efforts to punish traffickers, protect victims, prevent trafficking, and to ensure full reporting of statistics of trafficking prosecutions; ensure forced labor and child victims' access to appropriate assistance and protection; ensure that labor trafficking victims are fully informed of their rights; standardize victim assistance measures and government-civil society cooperation across the 16 federal states; encourage victims to take advantage of financial restitution procedures available to them in court; ensure that labor trafficking is fully integrated into Cooperation Agreements at the state level; strengthen awareness campaigns targeting beneficiaries of forced labor and clients of the sex trade, particularly in the most frequented red light districts; consider creating a mechanism to coordinate German efforts to address forced labor; and ensure that conviction data reported includes all convictions for trafficking in persons.


The Government of Germany sustained progress in investigating and prosecuting trafficking offenses, despite a continuing problem with courts assigning suspended sentences to convicted offenders. In 2009, according to the statistics reported by German authorities, the overwhelming majority of convicted labor and sex trafficking offenders again avoided sentences to non-suspended prison terms. This practice emerged, however, from a general rule allowing assigned prison terms lower than two years to be suspended, in particular for first time offenders. According to the statistics provided, the sentencing practice resulted in functional impunity for the majority of trafficking offenders. Germany prohibits all forms of trafficking; sex trafficking is criminalized under Section 232 of its penal code, and forced labor is criminalized under Section 233. Prescribed punishments 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 forcible sexual assault. In 2009, the last year for which statistics were available, the German state and federal authorities completed 534 investigations, an 11 percent increase from 482 investigations in 2008. The German authorities prosecuted 189 alleged offenders for sex trafficking offenses. This was a slight increase from 2008, in which the government prosecuted 173 alleged offenders. Of those alleged offenders, 135 were convicted, approximately the same as 2008, in which 138 offenders were convicted, but only 33 – 24.4 percent – received any real jail time. In 2008, 28.9 percent of convicted sex trafficking offenders received non-suspended jail terms. Prison sentences for the remaining 33 offenders reached a maximum of five years. German authorities prosecuted 15 alleged labor trafficking offenders in 2009, a 40 percent decrease from 25 labor trafficking offenders prosecuted in 2008. Of the 15 labor trafficking offenders prosecuted, 10 were convicted, but none were given sentences of imposed imprisonment. Studies of labor trafficking concluded that labor trafficking cases were under-identified and rarely prosecuted, despite increasing attention and awareness about labor trafficking. German officials reported that securing victim testimony remained a challenge for prosecutions. Poor or withdrawn victim testimony impaired trials and may have contributed to the high rate of suspended sentences by resulting in lower initial sentences. Outreach to victims of certain minority groups remained a challenge for authorities.

The German federal and state police used sophisticated methods to investigate trafficking, including coordinated raids by more than 100 police stations in 13 German states over a two-day period in February. The federal criminal police also had a counter-trafficking office that coordinated international trafficking investigations; the government cooperated closely with several governments, including Romania, Bulgaria, and Poland, to investigate trafficking cases. The government, in partnership with NGOs, continued to provide a range of specialized anti-trafficking trainings to judges, prosecutors, and police, both on basic anti-trafficking topics and emerging challenges. For example, the German federal criminal police provided a series of seminars on labor trafficking, Nigerian voodoo rituals, and NGO cooperation. In 2010, the German federal criminal police also commissioned a significant study on victim identification and victim testimony in trafficking cases, in part to enhance the success of the prosecutions. The German government did not prosecute, convict, or sentence any officials complicit in trafficking in persons this year.


The German government sustained its victim protection efforts during the reporting period, although it continues to face challenges in identifying and providing adequate services to victims of labor trafficking. The federal family ministry funded an umbrella organization representing 39 NGOs and counseling centers that provided or facilitated shelter, medical and psychological care, legal assistance, vocational support, and other services for victims. These NGOs provided services in all German states. The majority of these NGOs focused on adult female victims; however, a number of NGOs, in cooperation with local governmental youth welfare services, also attended to child victims. Some of these NGOs also made their services available to male victims. There remained no standardized procedure throughout Germany for financial support for victim witnesses; procedures vary by state and by the victim's residency status. Cooperation Agreements on human trafficking at the state level regulate cooperation between counseling centers and police. Although several of these Cooperation Agreements address services for labor trafficking victims, others were limited to victims of sex trafficking. German government efforts to identify and care for victims of labor trafficking did not progress this year; the government has been slow to develop structures for identifying victims of labor trafficking. The federal criminal police reported proactively identifying 57 percent of victims in trafficking cases in 2009, an increase from 38 percent in 2008. Authorities registered 710 victims of sex trafficking in 2009, an increase from 676 sex trafficking victims in 2008. Of these 710 victims, 25 percent were cared for by counseling centers. The German government granted a minimum one-month reflection period to trafficking victims, though victims who agreed to testify against defendants at trial were entitled to remain in Germany for the duration of the trial. Some victims of trafficking who faced personal injury or threats to life or freedom at home were granted long-term residence permits. German law permits prosecutors to decline to prosecute victims of trafficking who have committed minor crimes. NGOs report that, although prosecutors routinely exercise this discretion to exempt victims from punishment, in cases in which trafficking was not immediately suspected, victims may have been penalized or deported on occasion before their legal status as victims of trafficking had been clarified. The government encouraged trafficking victims to participate in criminal prosecutions, including by providing victims who participated as joint plaintiffs with options for free legal representation during trial and by integrating restitution procedures into the criminal process. Experts reported, however, that few trafficking victims had made claims for compensation or restitution, attributing the reluctance to the lack of full information provided to trafficking victims about their rights.


The German government continued to make progress in its trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period, particularly through its research and awareness-raising activities on forced labor. The government commissioned several studies and convened conferences on labor trafficking to study the issue in depth, elicit best practices, and formulate policy to combat this challenging form of human trafficking. An alliance of NGOs and government agencies produced a flyer addressed to potential victims of labor trafficking, explaining employee rights and giving guidance to victims in seeking assistance. A government-funded NGO also established a help desk for victims of labor exploitation. The government sustained funding for NGOs that produced public awareness campaigns in Germany and abroad through websites, postcards, telephone hotlines, pamphlets, and speaking engagements. The German government also consulted and trained several government officials in Nigeria and Bangladesh on combating trafficking in persons.

The German government continued to monitor its anti-trafficking activities through the Federal-State Interagency Working Group on Trafficking in Women, which reviewed counter-trafficking issues, disseminated best practices, and provided input to new laws and directives. However, the Government of Germany does not have a centralized national coordinator with the power to direct trafficking policy or to collect statistics on a systematic basis. German laws on the sexual abuse of minors apply extraterritorially.This year, the government cooperated with law enforcement officials in Southeast Asia to investigate German sex tourists and bring them to trial either in Germany or destination countries. In December, German authorities prosecuted a 65-year-old citizen accused of sexual abuse of children in Thailand. The government did not take specific measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or focus public awareness on potential clients in some of Germany's best known red light districts. Nevertheless, government-funded NGOs did provide support to individuals in leaving prostitution. The government trained military personnel on trafficking in persons prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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