Human trafficking remains a major element of the world economy, despite the efforts of governments and international organizations to eradicate it. Traffickers traffick humans for a wide range of reasons, from forced manual labor to sexual slavery. In countries like Germany, a major European hub for immigration, human trafficking is particularly problematic. Here are five key facts to know about human trafficking in Germany.
5 Facts About Human Trafficking in Germany
- Sex-related Trafficking: The majority of victims of human trafficking in Germany underwent trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Furthermore, sex trafficking in Germany disproportionately affects young women, including minors. Victims of sex trafficking in Germany are most likely to originate from Romania, Bulgaria, Nigeria or Germany itself, meaning that traffickers tend to target immigrants. This is likely due to the fact that immigrants in Germany are far more likely to live in poverty than German citizens. Illegal immigrants are even more at risk, as coming forward could result in their own prosecution.
- Germany and E.U. Recommendations: In 2013, Germany failed to implement European Union regulations regarding human trafficking into national law. This came after a two-year effort by the E.U. to implore its member states to adopt these regulations, which included tougher sentences and better protection for victims of human trafficking. A spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that the government chose not to implement the E.U. recommendations because it did not extend existing jurisdiction on human trafficking to cases of sex trafficking.
- Germany has Received Criticism for Being too Lax on Trafficking: Non-governmental organizations have criticized Germany for not implementing strict enough laws on human trafficking. UNICEF Germany pointed out that under German law, convicting someone on the basis of forced prostitution is very difficult. Because German law places the burden of proof on the victim, traffickers can intimidate and blackmail victims so that they do not come forward.
- Human Trafficking in Germany and U.S. Recommendations: The U.S. government has recommended that Germany take certain steps to improve its response to human trafficking. These steps include revising the law concerning the burden of proof, because of the way it obstructs human trafficking victims from coming forward. It also recommended that Germany improve its apparatus for survivors of sex trafficking. These improvements could include better housing services on humanitarian grounds for victims. The U.S. government classifies Germany as a Tier 2 country, meaning that Germany does not entirely meet the minimum standards that the U.S. government recommends to fight human trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so.
- Immigration and Trafficking in Germany: Germany remains a hub for immigrants from all across Europe, Africa and Asia. As a result, Germany has a relatively strict policy regarding illegal immigrants. However, Germany’s strict laws on immigration have proven to damage the country’s efforts to counteract human trafficking. Underage immigrant sex workers who interact with German authorities often get into legal trouble for immigrating illegally, regardless of their status as a victim of human trafficking.
- Germany’s Success in Fighting Human Trafficking: Germany has had some major victories in its fight against human trafficking. In 2017, the German government increased victim protection efforts, as well as placing human trafficking specialists in immigration offices across the country. Additionally, the government helps to fund KOK, a German NGO that fights sex trafficking and protects migrants’ rights. The government increased KOK’s funding each year from 2016 to 2019. KOK lobbies nationally and internationally to make positive progress in its mission.
Despite Germany’s status as a standard-bearer for the E.U., it has a checkered record regarding human trafficking. While Germany’s protocols on human trafficking exceed the basic United States standards for the elimination of trafficking, there are areas in which the country could manage human trafficking better. Particularly, Germany’s large immigrant population provides a vulnerable target group for human traffickers.
– Leo Ratté
Photo: Wikipedia Commons