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Summary

Legislation in Germany criminalizes human trafficking for sexual and labor exploitation and implements the requirements of the European Union directives in human trafficking.  Several government agencies, law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, and NGOs are involved in combating human trafficking and in offering specialized trainings and publishing guidelines.

I.  Legal Framework on Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is addressed in the German Criminal Code, the Residence Act, the Social Security Code, and the Crime Victim Compensation Act.  These provisions also implement the requirements of the European Union (EU) directives on human trafficking—Directive 2004/81/EC[1] and Directive 2011/36/EU.[2]

A.  Criminal Code

There are three different provisions in the German Criminal Code that criminalize human trafficking. [3]

According to Section 232 of the Criminal Code, human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation carries a sentence of imprisonment of six months to ten years.  In aggravated cases involving children, serious physical abuse or the risk of death, or sexual exploitation on a commercial scale, the sentence is not less than one year of imprisonment.

Section 233 of the Criminal Code penalizes human trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation.  It is also punishable by a term of imprisonment of six months to ten years or one to ten years in aggravated circumstances.

Finally, section 233a of the Criminal Code states that assisting in human trafficking under section 232 or section 233 by recruiting, transporting, referring, harboring, or sheltering another person carries a sentence of imprisonment of three months to five years.

B.  Residence Act

The German Residence Act also contains provisions that specifically address victims of human trafficking.  Victims of human trafficking are awarded a reflection and stabilization period of at least three months before they are deported. [4]  During that time, they can decide if they want to participate as a witness in the criminal prosecution of the traffickers.

If a victim of human trafficking decides to aid the prosecution of the perpetrator and testifies as a witness in the trial, a residence permit for humanitarian purposes will be granted according to section 25, paragraph 4a of the Residence Act, for the duration of the trial.

Subsidiary protection according to section 60, paragraph 2 of the Residence Act may be granted after the criminal trial has been concluded, if the alien faces a concrete danger of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in his or her country of origin.

C.  Social Security Benefits and Victim Compensation

Since adoption of an amendment to the Asylum Seeker Benefit Act in 2014, [5] victims of human trafficking fall outside of the scope of section 1 of the Asylum Seeker Benefit Act, which provides recipients only with the necessary minimum benefits to survive.  Instead, human trafficking victims are eligible for social security benefits according to the Second[6] and Twelfth Book of the Social Security Code,[7] although a few restrictions apply in comparison to German social security beneficiaries.

Furthermore, victims of human trafficking might be eligible for compensation payments according to the Crime Victim Compensation Act, [8] if they are either related up to the third degree to a German national or if they are nationals of a Contracting State of the European Convention on the Compensation of Victims of Violent Crimes of November 24, 1983.[9]

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II.  Roles and Responsibilities of Government Agencies in Enforcing Laws Against Human Trafficking

The Federal Police is responsible for refusing entry of persons into Germany and for removal proceedings.[10]  If an alien identifies him or herself to the Federal Police as a victim of human trafficking, the Federal Police will refer the person to the respective state criminal police or the Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA).[11]

Asylum case officers receive training on identifying victims of human trafficking.[12]  If an applicant seems to have been the victim of human trafficking, the case officer will inform the applicant about the three-month reflection and stabilization period according to the Residence Act, and an eventual humanitarian residence permit or subsidiary protection.

During the three-month reflection and stabilization period that the Residence Act grants to a victim of human trafficking, the Foreigner’s Office informs the alien of the applicable regulations, programs, and measures for victims of human trafficking.[13]  The Foreigner’s Office is also responsible for issuing a humanitarian residence permit or for awarding subsidiary protection.[14]

The Federal-State Working Group Human Trafficking, formerly known as the Federal-State Working Group Trafficking in Women, issued a cooperation concept that aims to streamline the protection and aid offered to victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation.[15]  The paper assigns clear roles to the police and the counseling centers, and suggests the establishment of specialized units as well as specialized training.[16]  The cooperation concept has been adopted in thirteen German states.[17]  Police and counseling units are supposed to be involved from the start and keep each other informed as well as organize contacts with other government agencies such as the Foreigner’s Office.[18]

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III.  Training Programs for Law Enforcement

A.  Federal-State Working Group Human Trafficking

The Federal-State Working Group Human Trafficking (Bund-Länder-Arbeitsgruppe Menschenhandel) is composed of representatives of several Federal Ministries, specialized ministers, the BKA, the NGO Network Against Human Trafficking (Koordinierungskreis gegen Menschenhandel, KOK),[19] the Federal Association of Non-statutory Welfare (Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Freien Wohlfahrtspflege, BAGFW),[20] and the association Solidarity with Women in Distress (SOLWODI[21]).[22]  The working group was founded under the name Federal-State Working Group Trafficking in Women and has been active in the fight against human trafficking since 1997.  In 2012, it was renamed the Federal-State Working Group on Human Trafficking to reflect the international and European usage and the expanded view of trafficking.  It has published a working paper on the standardization of training for law enforcement and the judiciary on the crime of human trafficking for sexual exploitation.[23]  The training is geared towards police officers, counseling services, prosecutors, judges, judicial witness programs, foreigners’ offices, employment agencies, social services, children and youth agencies, and health agencies, as well as customs officers and correctional facilities.

B.  Training Conducted by the BAMF, IOM, and UNHCR

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, BAMF), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) conduct joint training sessions for caseworkers at BAMF in which police officers with expertise in human trafficking and specialized counselors participate and lecture.[24]

C.  Training Conducted by the Federal Criminal Police Office

The Federal Criminal Police Office offers a course on human trafficking for police officers who work in specialized investigations and closing of cases related to human trafficking.  The officers must have prior knowledge in this area.  The training on human trafficking for sexual exploitation is offered twice a year and the training on human trafficking for labor exploitation once a year.[25]

D.  German Judicial Academy/European Judicial Training Network

The German Judicial Academy, in cooperation with the European Judicial Training Network, offers seminars on international human trafficking and trafficking of migrants.[26]  The seminars are geared towards criminal court judges, public administration judges, and public prosecutors dealing with international trafficking in human beings.  In particular, the seminar aims to offer practical solutions and ways to accommodate and appropriately handle victims of human trafficking.[27]

E.  Training Conducted by the NGO Network Against Human Trafficking

The NGO Network Against Human Trafficking[28] holds internal training seminars for counseling centers that form part of its network and is involved in education and training measures as part of the Federal-State Working Group Human Trafficking, as discussed above.  Furthermore, on the request of the police and the public prosecutor’s office, the KOK develops training formats and conducts training.  Additionally, the KOK has organized joint workshops with the Federal Police and offered a workshop on Improving the Co-operation between NGOs and the Police.[29]

F.  Regional Workshops of the German Institute for Human Rights

Occasionally, the German Institute for Human Rights, in cooperation with the German Federal Consortium of Charitable Organizations, offers regional seminars with a focus on human trafficking for migration and refugee counselors.[30]  The seminar report was made available to interested parties on the website of the German Institute for Human Rights.[31]

G.  Training Seminars of the Academy of European Law

The Academy of European Law (ERA) is a nonprofit public foundation located in Trier, Germany.[32]  It provides training in European law to legal practitioners and receives support from the European Union (EU).  Among other trainings, it offers seminars on investigating and prosecuting trafficking in human beings,[33] and on countering trafficking in human beings,[34] for law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges.

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Prepared by Jenny Gesley
Foreign Law Specialist
February 2016


[1] Council Directive 2004/81/EC of 29 April 2004 on the Residence Permit Issued to Third-country Nationals Who are Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings or Who Have Been the Subject of an Action to Facilitate Illegal Immigration, Who Co-operate With the Competent Authorities, 2004 Official Journal [O.J.] (L 261) 19, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32004L0081&from=EN, archived at http://perma.cc/R53V-3ZH2.

[2] Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2011 on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Protecting its Victims, and Replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/629/ JHA, 2011 O.J. (L 101) 1, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:320 11L0036&from=EN, archived at http://perma.cc/9CXC-33NS.

[3] Strafgesetzbuch [StGB] [Criminal Code], Nov. 13, 1998, Bundesgesetzblatt [BGBl.] I at 3322, as amended, http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/bundesrecht/stgb/gesamt.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/6RF8-DDLB, unofficial English translation at http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_stgb/german_criminal_code.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/R7Y9-K7XZ.

[4] Gesetz über den Aufenthalt, die Erwerbstätigkeit und die Integration von Ausländern im Bundesgebiet [Aufenthaltsgesetz] [AufenthG] [Act on the Residence, Economic Activity and Integration of Foreigners in the Federal Territory] [Residence Act], Feb. 25, 2008, BGBl. I at 162, as amended, § 59, para. 7, http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/bundesrecht/aufenthg_2004/gesamt.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/QL34-TMTV, unofficial English translation at http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_aufenthg/residence_act.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/A622-PSSV.

[5] Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz [AsylbLG] [Asylum Seeker Benefits Act], Aug. 5, 1997, BGBl. I at 2022, as amended, http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/bundesrecht/asylblg/gesamt.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/UZP5-NY4B.

[6] Sozialgesetzbuch Zweites Buch [SGB II] [Social Security Code Second Book], May 13, 2011 BGBl. I at 850, 2094, as amended, § 7, http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/bundesrecht/sgb_2/gesamt.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/97SV-3KAP.

[7] Sozialgesetzbuch Zwölftes Buch [SGB XII] [Social Security Code Twelfth Book], Dec. 27, 2003, BGBl. I at 3022, 3023, as amended, § 23, http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/bundesrecht/sgb_12/gesamt.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/CN7D-XCCT.

[8] Gesetz über die Entschädigung für Opfer von Gewalttaten [Opferentschädigungsgesetz] [OEG] [Act on Compensation for Victims of Violent Crimes [Crime Victims Compensation Act] [OEG], Jan. 7, 1985, BGBl. I at 1, as amended, § 1, paras. 5, 6, http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/bundesrecht/oeg/gesamt.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/D5X3-SZ5Z, unofficial English translation at http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_ oeg/crime_victims_compensation_act.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/D975-FMXL.

[9] European Convention on the Compensation of Victims of Violent Crimes, Nov. 24, 1983, CETS No.116, 1525 U.N.T.S. 26456, https://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent? documentId=0900001680079751, archived at http://perma.cc/NTH5-4CH6.

[10] Id. § 71, para. 3; Gesetz über die Bundespolizei [Bundespolizeigesetz] –[BPolG] [Federal Police Act], Oct. 19, 1994, BGBl. I at 2978, 2979, as amended, § 12, para. 1, http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/bundesrecht/bgsg_ 1994/gesamt.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/H452-X9DQ.

[11] Federal Police Act, § 12, para. 3.

[12] Ulrike Hoffmann, Identification of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings in International Protection and Forced Return Procedures, Focussed [sic] Study of the German National Contact Point for the European Migration Network (EMN) 15(Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, EMN, Working Paper 56, 2013), http://www.bamf.de/SharedDocs/Anlagen/EN/Publikationen/EMN/Nationale-Studien-WorkingPaper/emn-wp56-menschenhandel.pdf;jsessionid=DFEB8AB87411A2785C092AB8675456A4.1_cid294?__blob=publicationFile, archived at http://perma.cc/8HHT-BAKY.

[13] Id. at 11.

[14] Residence Act, § 71, para. 1.

[15] Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend [Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth], Bund-Länder-Arbeitsgruppe Frauenhandel. Kooperationskonzept für die Zusammenarbeit von Fachberatungsstellen und Polizei für den Schutz von Opferzeugen/innen von Menschenhandel zum Zweck der sexuellen Ausbeutung [Federal-State Working Group Trafficking in Women. Cooperation Concept for the Cooperation of Specialized Counselling Centers and the Police for the Protection of Victims/Witnesses of Human Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation] (Nov. 2007), http://www.bmfsfj.de/RedaktionBMFSFJ/Abteilung4/Pdf-Anlagen/gewalt-kooperationskonzept,property=pdf,bereich=,rwb=true.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/GW43-2CWH.

[16] Id. at 9.

[17] Hoffmann, supra note 12, at 12.

[18] Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, supra note 15, at 11 et seq.

[19] Gremienarbeit des KOK in Deutschland [Commitee Work of the KOK in Germany], KOK, http://www.kok-gegen-menschenhandel.de/vernetzung/bundesweit/gremienarbeit.html (last visited Jan. 28, 2016), archived at http://perma.cc/Z5NN-GBXU.

[20] Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Freien Wohlfahrtspflege [BAGFW] [Federal Association of Non-statutory Welfare], http://www.bagfw.de/englisch/ (last visited Jan. 27, 2016), archived at http://perma.cc/9AH7-3RFK.

[21] Solidarity with Women in Distress [SOLWODI], http://www.solwodi.de/791.0.html?&L=1 (last visited Jan. 27, 2016), archived at http://perma.cc/DN4P-HDJ6.

[22] Bund-Länder-Arbeitsgruppe Menschenhandel [Federal-State Working Group Human Trafficking], http://www.bmfsfj.de/BMFSFJ/gleichstellung,did=73008.html (last visited Jan. 27, 2016), archived at http://perma.cc/TR9K-RZ6W.

[23] Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend [Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth], Arbeitspapier zur Standardisierung der Aus- und Fortbildung im Deliktsbereich Menschenhandel zum Zweck der sexuellen Ausbeutung [Working Paper on the Standardization of Training on the Crime of Human Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation (No. 106/2007, Apr. 2008), http://www.bmfsfj.de/ RedaktionBMFSFJ/Broschuerenstelle/Pdf-Anlagen/bund-laender-arbeitsgruppe-frauenhandel,property= pdf,bereich=bmfsfj,sprache=de,rwb=true.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/J5M3-KBLG.

[24] Hoffmann, supra note 12, at 28.

[25] Id. at 29.

[26] Internationaler Menschenhandel und Schleusung von Migranten [International Human Trafficking and Trafficking of Migrants], Deutsche Richterakademie [German Judges’ Association], http://www.deutsche-richterakademie.de/icc/drade/nav/4fc/broker.jsp?uMen=ade30d0d-33d0-6e41-8af1-a9c06350fd4c&uCon=bdf60a7e-ec5d-ef41-3171-e1c66350fd4c&press=true&pagesize=1&page=1&mode=detail (last visited Jan. 28, 2016), archived at http://perma.cc/SEH6-DKUC; European Judicial Training Network [EJTN], International Trafficking in Human Beings, http://www.ejtn.eu/Catalogue/Members-activities-2016/CP2015021711111121111111113 2211111112111121111111111111111111/ (last visited Jan. 28, 2016), archived at http://perma.cc/NTN3-33ED.

[27] Id.

[28] KOK, supra note 19.

[29] Hoffmann, supra note 12, at 30.

[30] Training Announcement, Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte [German Institute for Human Rights], “Arbeitsausbeutung und Menschenhandel – Handlungsmöglichkeiten für die Migrations- und Flüchtlingsberatung” [“Work Exploitation and Human Trafficking – Possible Courses of Action for Migration and Refugee Counselling”] (Mar. 22, 2012), http://www.jadwiga-online.de/data/programm_fortbildung.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/GMR7-5NDC.  

[31] Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte [German Institute for Human Rights], Arbeitsausbeutung und Menschenhandel. Arbeitnehmerinnen und Arbeitnehmern zu ihren Rechten verhelfen – Eine Handreichung für Beratungsstellen [Work Exploitation and Human Trafficking – Helping Employees Enforce Their Rights –Handout for Counseling Centers] (June 2012), http://www.institut-fuer-menschenrechte.de/uploads/tx_commerce/handreichung_arbeitsausbeutung_und_menschenhandel.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/2LQ8-34DE.

[32] Welcome to the Academy of European Law, ERA, https://www.era.int/ (last visited Jan. 27, 2016), archived at http://perma.cc/6GN6-DDZX.

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Last Updated: 03/18/2016