Last Updated: Friday, 17 November 2017, 15:16 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Germany

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Germany, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 19 November 2017]
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 20 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 sex trafficking victims have been exploited in bars, brothels, and apartments – approximately 36 percent of identified sex trafficking victims reported that they had agreed initially to engage in prostitution. Young German women were sometimes coerced into sex trafficking by purported boyfriends in "loverboy" schemes. Nigerian victims of trafficking are often coerced into prostitution through voodoo rituals. 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. Individuals with disabilities, including those hard of hearing, were vulnerable to forced labor. NGOs reported an increase of domestic workers complaining of abuse in diplomatic households. Various governments reported German citizen participation in sex tourism.

The Government of Germany fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The German government increased its identification of labor trafficking victims by approximately 75 percent, though the number of sex trafficking victims it identified decreased. The government lengthened the reflection period granted to suspected victims and provided opportunities for certain victims of exploitation to remain in the country during civil claims against their employers. The government proactively identified a high proportion of trafficking victims. Nevertheless, a German government study showed that labor trafficking identification lagged behind sex trafficking victim identification. Sentencing convicted trafficking offenders to terms of imprisonment remained a significant deficiency in the German government's anti-trafficking efforts. Available statistics continued to indicate the majority of convicted labor and sex trafficking offenders were not required to serve time in prison, placing victims at potential risk when convicted offenders were free after trial.

Recommendations for Germany: Explore ways to increase the number of convicted trafficking offenders who receive sentences commensurate with the gravity of the crime committed; vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict labor trafficking offenders; consider expanding residence permit eligibility 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 the Government of Germany's anti-trafficking efforts; 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 include all convictions for trafficking in persons.


The Government of Germany sustained its overall anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. It significantly improved its investigations of labor trafficking cases, though its investigation of sex trafficking cases decreased. German courts continued to grant suspended sentences to convicted offenders. In 2010, the German authorities reported that the overwhelming majority of convicted labor and sex trafficking offenders were given suspended sentences. This practice derived from a provision in the criminal code allowing the suspension of assigned prison terms lower than two years, particularly for first-time offenders. Furthermore, when an accompanying criminal charge, such as one for organized crime, resulted in a higher sentence than that produced by the trafficking charge, the German authorities did not record a conviction as a trafficking conviction. Nevertheless, the reported statistics reveal that convicted traffickers frequently avoided imprisonment, creating potential safety problems for victims of trafficking and a weakened deterrence of trafficking offenses.

Germany prohibits all forms of trafficking; sex trafficking is criminalized under Section 232 of the penal code, and forced labor is criminalized under Section 233. Punishments prescribed 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 2010, the last year for which statistics were available, the German state and federal authorities completed 470 sex trafficking investigations, a 12 percent decrease from 534 investigations completed in 2009. The government investigated 24 labor trafficking cases in 2010, a significant increase from 10 cases in 2009. The German authorities prosecuted 172 alleged offenders for sex trafficking offenses in 2010, compared with 189 in 2009. Of those alleged offenders, 115 were convicted, a decrease from 2009, when 135 offenders were convicted. German courts continued to suspend sentences in the majority of cases recorded as trafficking; of the 115 offenders convicted, only 23 (20 percent) were actually imprisoned. These 23 offenders received sentences between two and 10 years in prison. The German authorities prosecuted 17 alleged labor trafficking offenders, of whom 13 were convicted, though none received time in prison. This was an increase from the 15 labor trafficking offenders prosecuted in 2009. German officials reported that securing victim testimony remained a challenge for prosecutions. According to NGOs and some officials, poor or withdrawn victim testimony impaired trials and may have contributed to the high rate of suspended sentences by resulting in lower initial sentences. Police and prosecutors noted that many trafficking investigations are led by officers with trafficking expertise, whereas many of the prosecutors on trafficking cases are organized crime specialists who have less specialized experience in human trafficking prosecutions. Some NGOs observed that some judges were insensitive to trafficking victims.

In May, the Federal Criminal Police collaborated with police from 120 stations of 13 to 16 federal states and EUROPOL to raid 1,000 prostitution venues across Germany in an effort to identify trafficking victims from West Africa. The Federal Criminal Police collaborated with several governments, including Romania, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Poland, and Nigeria to investigate trafficking cases. The German Federal Criminal Police organized several specialized seminars to educate investigating officers and prosecutors on trafficking topics, focusing, for example, on specific countries of origin and intercultural competence. 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, offering and granting temporary residency to trafficking victims, but identifying fewer trafficking victims. 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 largely for adult female victims. These NGOs provided services in all German states. State governments provided significant supplemental funding for the support of trafficking victims, including shelter and counseling.

The German Federal Criminal Police developed new internal tools to improve labor victim identification, including a pocket-sized card containing indicators to guide identification and, in cooperation with the Federal Labor Ministry, other agencies and NGOs, a brochure on identifying labor trafficking victims to help identify potential victims. According to the 2010 Federal Criminal Police report, in 57 percent of all cases, the first contact between police and victims resulted from police measures. Authorities registered 610 victims of sex trafficking in 2010, a decrease from 710 sex trafficking victims in 2009. Of these 610 victims, 35 percent were cared for by counseling centers. The German authorities reported identifying 41 labor trafficking victims, a 78 percent increase from the previous year. The majority of these victims were males exploited in the restaurant sector. In 2011, the German government extended the term of the reflection period for trafficking victims from one month to three months. Trafficking victims who agreed to testify against defendants at trial were entitled to remain in Germany for the duration of the trial with residence permits on humanitarian grounds. Some victims of trafficking who faced personal injury or threats to life or freedom in their countries of origin were granted long-term residence permits during the reporting period. German law permits prosecutors to decline to prosecute victims of trafficking who have committed minor crimes. NGOs reported that, although prosecutors in practice exercise this discretion, victims may have been penalized or deported on occasion before their legal status as victims of trafficking had been clarified.

German authorities encouraged trafficking victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenders. One NGO stated that approximately 70 percent of the trafficking victims it counseled were willing to testify in court. This year, the German government amended the Residence Act to extend the right to remain in Germany to certain victims of exploitation if the victims faced an exceptional hardship were they to make claims for outstanding wages from abroad. Trafficking victims were permitted to work during the course of trial. Although compensation procedures have rarely been used in practice, an independent institute, funded in part by the German government and foundations, conducted a project to help trafficking victims claim their financial rights, focusing on educating trafficking victims and government institutions and assisting victims with their claims. Trafficking victims have 11 legal actions pending in civil and labor courts supported by the institute's project.


The German government sustained efforts to prevent human trafficking throughout the year. 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 umbrella organization of government-funded trafficking NGOs produced a study about the sex trafficking of German citizens. In 2011, the German federal government launched an action plan for the protection of children and teenagers from sexual violence and exploitation. One of the pillars of the action plan focused on trafficking in children for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The German government continued to monitor its anti-trafficking activities through interagency mechanisms. The Federal-State Interagency Working Group on Trafficking in Women, led by the Family Ministry, reviewed counter-trafficking issues, disseminated best practices, and provided input to new laws and directives. The German Federal Criminal Police published an annual report on trafficking in persons in Germany, describing law enforcement efforts, victims, and trends. Several German states also have anti-trafficking working groups to facilitate collaboration between government agencies and NGOs.

The German Institute for Human Rights, in cooperation with a Berlin-based NGO, supported an Indonesian domestic worker's claims against her employer, a Saudi Arabian diplomat. Applying the extraterritorial jurisdiction of German law prohibiting the sexual abuse of children, German authorities in December 2011 charged a 51-year-old German citizen with nine counts of sexually abusing children in Thailand. The government also collaborated with law enforcement officials in Southeast Asia to investigate German sex tourists. NGOs reported that the majority of German sex tourists are prosecuted in destination countries. 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. The German government trained military personnel to recognize and prevent trafficking in persons prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

Search Refworld