GERMANY (Tier 1)

Germany is a source, transit, and destination country for women, children, and men subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution and forced labor. Ninety percent of identified victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation came from Europe, including 28 percent from Germany, 20 percent from Romania, and 18 percent from Bulgaria. Non-European victims originated in Nigeria, other parts of Africa, Asia and the Western Hemisphere. Almost one-quarter of identified trafficking victims were children. The majority of identified sex trafficking victims have been exploited in bars, brothels, and apartments – approximately one third 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, and restaurants. Police estimate that gangs brought around 1,000 Chinese people to Germany over the past decade and forced them to work in restaurants under exploitative conditions. 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 made substantial progress in addressing forced labor. However, available statistics 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 this human rights abuse; establish a national anti-trafficking rapporteur to draft critical assessments on Germany's efforts to punish traffickers, protect victims, and prevent trafficking; ensure forced labor and child victims' access to appropriate assistance and protection; standardize victim assistance measures and government-civil society cooperation across the 16 federal states; and strengthen awareness campaigns targeting beneficiaries of forced labor and clients of the sex trade, particularly in the most frequented red light districts; and consider creating a mechanism to coordinate German efforts to address forced labor.


The Government of Germany made clear progress in the conviction of sex and labor trafficking offenders, but most convicted traffickers were not required to serve time in prison. Germany prohibits all forms of trafficking; trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation is criminalized in 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. It is common practice for judges in Germany to suspend prison sentences of two years or less for all crimes, including trafficking. Authorities prosecuted 173 persons for sex trafficking in 2008, the last year for which statistics were available. Of those, 138 were convicted, including seven juveniles, up from 123 convictions for sex trafficking in 2007. Of the 131 adults convicted, 92 – or 70 percent – received either a fine or a suspended sentence. Prison sentences for the remainder ranged from two to 10 years imprisonment. Authorities prosecuted 25 persons for labor trafficking in 2008; 16 were convicted, including seven juveniles, up from eight labor trafficking convictions in 2007. Of the nine adult labor trafficking offenders, one received a sentence of between three to five years imprisonment and the remaining eight received suspended sentences or fines. Police boosted efforts against labor trafficking in 2008 – more than 1,300 police officers and customs officials took part in raids in several cities. There were no reports of trafficking-related complicity of government officials during the reporting period. The government, in partnership with NGOs, provided a range of specialized anti-trafficking training to judges, prosecutors, and police. The federal criminal police counter-trafficking office coordinated international trafficking cases and promoted partnership with other countries by offering training programs for foreign law enforcement.


The German government sustained its victim protection efforts during the reporting period. The Federal Family Ministry fully funded the umbrella organization representing 39 NGOs and counseling centers that provided or facilitated shelter, medical and psychological care, legal assistance, and other services for victims. 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. The government continued to distribute formal guidelines on victim identification techniques to police, counseling centers, prosecutors and judges. According to the federal police, authorities proactively identified 38 percent of all victims registered by the government in 2008. Authorities registered 676 sex trafficking victims and 96 forced labor victims in 2008, down from 689 sex trafficking victims and 101 forced labor victims identified in 2007. Formal victim referral mechanisms existed in 12 out of 16 German states. The government encouraged victims to cooperate in anti-trafficking investigations; however, police and NGOs reported that victims were often reluctant to assist law enforcement officials due to fear of retribution from traffickers. The government provided legal alternatives to foreign victims' removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. Trafficking victims were provided a 30-day reflection period to decide whether to cooperate with investigators. Victims who agreed to act as witnesses were provided temporary residence permits for the duration of trial proceedings as well as long-term residence permits in certain circumstances, such as when the victim faced severe threats in the country of origin. The government reportedly did not penalize victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The governmental German Institute for Human Rights in July 2009 began a $800,000 project to assist trafficking victims in claiming their financial rights in German courts, as few victims had made claims for financial compensation.


The government made some progress in trafficking prevention activities during the reporting period. 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 government did not take 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, such as the one in Hamburg. A Berlin NGO, funded largely by the Berlin Senate, operated a trafficking awareness website directed at clients of the sex trade. The German Federal Police published an annual report containing statistics about its anti-trafficking activities. The Labor Ministry commissioned a study in 2009 to assess the extent of and government response to labor trafficking. The Federal Family Ministry, which has the responsibility for implementing the national anti-trafficking action plan, chaired a federal-state interagency working group on female sex trafficking. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs contributed approximately $297,000 toward anti-trafficking projects in Ukraine, Moldova, and the Mekong region. The government sustained a partnership with ECPAT to promote awareness of the child sex tourism problem; there were no reports of new prosecutions for child sex tourism by German citizens abroad during the reporting period. The government provided trafficking awareness training to commanders of German military units prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions; the training focused on how the commanders could sensitize subordinates to human trafficking.


This 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.