The government increased protection efforts. In 2020, the most recent year for which comprehensive statistics were available, state government authorities, who are responsible for protection efforts, identified 494 trafficking victims, the same as in 2019 and similar to 503 identified victims in 2018. Government-funded NGOs identified 820 trafficking victims from January 2020 to June 2021 (compared with 987 in 2019); however, these victims may also have been counted in the government statistics, making the total number of identified victims uncertain, and the timeframe did not allow for a comparison to prior year efforts. Of the government-identified victims, 406 were victims of sex trafficking (427 in 2019), and 88 were victims of labor trafficking (67 in 2019), which included four forced begging victims (one in 2019) and 11 forced criminality victims (23 in 2019). Almost all sex trafficking victims were female (94 percent), and of those whose age was known, 42 percent were younger than 21. The majority of identified sex trafficking victims were from Germany (131), Romania (68), and Bulgaria (56). In 2020, the majority of labor trafficking victims were from Romania and Zimbabwe, eight were younger than 21, and most labor trafficking victims were identified in the construction sector. Police continued to proactively identify the majority of trafficking victims. In its 2019 report, GRETA noted that the official figures of identified trafficking victims did not reflect the true scale of human trafficking in Germany due to the absence of a comprehensive and coherent approach to detecting and identifying victims, including among migrants and asylum-seekers, problems with data collection, and insufficient prioritization of labor trafficking. Some NGOs reported the number of sex trafficking victims increased following the implementation of the 2016 commercial sex law, while other NGOs continued to express concern that trafficking victims would either not register or register without disclosing trafficking crimes; despite this, sex trafficking victim identification did not correspondingly increase.
The government did not have a single national victim identification or referral guideline to address all forms of trafficking, and both children and adults remained without systematic provision of care. At the federal level, there were procedures in place to identify and refer victims to care, but most victim care was handled at the state level. NGOs noted a national mechanism did not appear to be as high a priority for the government compared with other issues. However, there was a national identification and cooperation strategy for children and plans to establish national referral procedures for labor trafficking, though the government did not report any outcomes by the end of the reporting period. The government continued to fund an NGO charged with the implementation of the cooperation strategy for children, which reported establishing a total of eight networks in six states and providing training to government officials and practitioners to establish anti-trafficking and exploitation roundtables. Each state had a separate system to refer victims to either state-run support or NGOs, and several states had written identification guidelines. Several government-funded NGOs continued to distribute trafficking identification and indicator brochures, one of which included specific indicators for forced begging and forced criminality. Thirteen of 16 states also had formal cooperation agreements in place between police and NGOs for various purposes, but not all included all forms of trafficking, such as labor trafficking, forced begging, and forced criminality. Authorities reported pandemic-related restrictions and staff shortages in 2020 made identifying sex trafficking victims particularly difficult, as many traffickers adapted and moved to online platforms. Workplace closures and further physical isolation due to the pandemic also made the identification of labor trafficking victims more difficult. Requests for assistance and instances of labor exploitation and trafficking, especially in agriculture, significantly increased; however, NGOs reported continued difficulty accessing workers in factories and on farms due to pandemic-related restrictions.
While the government did not report comprehensive data or the total number of victims that received care, it did report that of the 406 identified sex trafficking victims, at least 130 received care, including 92 from specialized counseling centers and 38 from youth welfare offices, similar to 116 assisted in 2019. In 2021, the government-funded Network against Trafficking in Human Beings (KOK) published its first report, collated via a government-funded data tool, evaluating victims’ access to government-sponsored services and benefits based on information received from 16 of its 39 member organizations. The KOK reported that from January 2020 to June 2021, government-funded counseling centers provided victims of trafficking and exploitation a variety of services: psycho-social support (613), information on victim rights (588), crisis intervention (424), support during asylum proceedings (421), assistance with documentation (360), support during residence permit proceedings (346), assistance accessing a means of subsistence (323) and obtaining compensation or back wages (86), referral and accompaniment to medical appointments (253), support during criminal proceedings (75), and referral to training and education (104), literacy and language courses (265), and employment (49). In 2021, due to the pandemic, some shelters and counseling centers operated at limited capacity, and NGOs noted difficulty in finding open spaces for victims at shelters, especially with the increased occurrence of domestic violence during the pandemic. NGOs reported moving some victim assistance services to a virtual platform to adapt to the pandemic; however, this may have limited access for some victims without internet or who did not speak German, especially when victims were also required to submit paperwork online.
The government provided victim services primarily through the state- funded and NGO-operated Servicestelle and its affiliated counseling centers and advice centers, which specialized in assisting labor trafficking victims, foreign migrants, and refugees. The KOK comprised 42 member organizations, including specialist counseling centers, migrant projects, and women’s shelters; KOK acted as a convening and coordinating entity for anti-trafficking NGOs. This model allowed victims to obtain support without the need to interact with law enforcement, which officials found increased the likelihood victims would seek assistance. In 2021, national government funding for the KOK’s management operations was €506,000 ($573,700), similar to €500,000 ($566,890) in 2019 and 2020, and an additional €199,600 ($226,300) went to an NGO for anti-trafficking projects. The government also allocated approximately €271,000 ($307,260) to the NGO that operated the Servicestelle, the same as in 2020. State governments supported trafficking victims and, in 2021, allocated at least €5.91 million ($6.70 million), including some additional funding for pandemic-related costs, to human trafficking NGOs, compared with €3.3 million ($3.74 million) in 2020. However, civil society reported staffing and funding were insufficient for their operational needs and were further exacerbated by pandemic-related expenses, requiring a dependence on private donations; the expansion of trafficking-specific mandates without allotting additional resources created challenges for adequate victim care. Civil society noted many rural areas continued to lack trafficking-specific resources. Government- funded NGO counseling centers served both labor and sex trafficking victims, although many centers only had a mandate to work with female sex trafficking victims. With the opening of a government-funded counseling center in Thuringia, trafficking-specific NGO service providers operated in 45 cities and in all 16 states, providing shelter, medical and psychological care, legal assistance, vocational support, and assistance acquiring residence permits. Beginning in 2021, victims were entitled to between 15 and 18 sessions of emergency aid in outpatient trauma clinics. However, a civil society organization reported many trafficking victims were not covered by the government’s health care system and those who were covered typically received treatment by health care workers who were not trained to identify trafficking victims. Furthermore, civil society noted that shelter for all trafficking victims was severely deficient and lacked national harmonization. There was limited long- term or comprehensive support, including shelter, within these centers for children, transgender females, and male trafficking victims; civil society noted, while there was more availability for female victims, accommodation for men was ad hoc and children lacked specialized shelter that catered to the needs of trafficking victims. Overall availability of services and shelters was inconsistent or inadequate depending on the state. While North Rhine-Westphalia opened two new safe houses for male victims in 2021 and several states increased funding for additional shelters, NGOs continued to note they had to deny shelter to some male victims in 2021 due to capacity constraints. A 2021 KOK study analyzed court rulings from 2017 to 2021, including trafficking cases, and concluded that access to social benefits and assistance was strongly correlated with preventing re-trafficking of victims, which the pandemic made more apparent.
The Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) continued to utilize its standard operating procedures and trafficking indicator lists to identify potential victims in the asylum protection system and made referrals to counseling centers, though NGOs continued to suggest needed improvements in victim identification. Each BAMF branch office included at least one representative to assist in identifying and supporting potential trafficking victims. A November 2020 NGO policy paper concluded that BAMF officers required additional training and resources to manage their workloads. While the government reported screening foreign migrants and asylum-seekers for trafficking indicators, and identified victims were entitled to social benefits and deportation relief, unidentified victims remained vulnerable and could be deported to their first country of EU entrance without first receiving protection services. The government occasionally returned trafficking victims seeking to transfer asylum claims to Germany to their original arrival country, which sometimes included their traffickers. NGOs reported that sometimes potential labor trafficking victims were treated like criminals based on their lack of documentation or deported prior to being screened or given the opportunity to claim compensation for lost wages. Counseling centers reported specialized trafficking BAMF officers were not always involved or included in deportation hearings. Civil society noted non-specialized immigration and police officers rarely identified trafficking victims among the asylum-seeking and migrant populations, even when victims directly referenced trafficking experiences, especially if NGOs or counseling centers were not involved. NGOs reported pandemic-related hearing delays for asylum and refugee cases in 2020 caused a backlog for 2021 and delays in benefits for applicants; NGOs also reported pandemic restrictions prevented them from accompanying some victims to their hearings. Counseling centers could identify and refer trafficking victims to services; however, they continued to report that BAMF officers often disagreed with their identifications and deported the victim anyway. Similar to prior years, federal courts continued to overturn BAMF’s deportation decisions, including at least one case for deporting an individual to an unsafe country of origin and another case for failure to provide entitled services. A government-funded, but civil society-led, working group endeavored to create and implement measures to identify vulnerable migrants and refugees at the earliest point and reported field testing its measures at two reception centers and two psychological centers, but results were not available by the end of the reporting period. Prosecutors, together with other authorities, offered undocumented victims a reflection period of three months to decide if they would testify in court. However, NGOs noted the reflection period was not uniformly or adequately applied and urged investigators to increase efforts to inform victims of their rights. Victims who agreed to testify were eligible for temporary residence permits, which allowed them to remain and work in Germany through the duration of the trial; however, the government did not report how many victims received permits. The law provided legal alternatives to removal to countries in which victims would face retribution or hardship. After the completion of their trafficker’s trial, the law granted officials the authority to issue residence permits to victims in cases of humanitarian hardship, for public interest, or for those who faced injury or threats to life or freedom in their countries of origin; however, GRETA noted there were significant discrepancies from state to state in the application of the law. Family members of foreign trafficking victims were eligible for residency in certain circumstances.
The law entitled victims to an interpreter and a third-party representative from a counseling center to accompany them to all interviews. Subject to certain requirements, victims could join criminal trials as joint plaintiffs and were entitled to free legal counsel, a psychological assistant, an interpreter, and the pursuit of civil remedies as part of the criminal proceeding. In November 2021, the government released a guide for child-friendly criminal proceedings and interactions. The law allowed victims to submit video testimony; however, NGOs reported not all states had the required equipment for video testimony. The government took measures to lessen the burden on victims and their potential re-traumatization by trying to reduce the number of times they had to testify in trials and, sometimes, not requiring them to testify at all. However, civil society noted that these victim protections were not implemented uniformly and sometimes judges did not dismiss suspects from the courtroom before victim testimony. NGOs also reported instances of law enforcement and judges lacking a victim-centered and trauma-informed approach, where victims were interrogated like criminals or judged for becoming trafficking victims. Furthermore, the 2021 MOJ-funded study concluded that the 2016 changes to the criminal code, which were partially intended to decrease the importance of victim and witness testimony, were largely unsuccessful. State prosecutors remarked that an understanding of trauma, trafficking-specific victim interviewing training, protection from deportation, and early access to a psychologist and legal assistance were necessary for successful prosecution of trafficking cases.
While the law allowed for compensation from the government, it could only be awarded to victims who had experienced direct physical violence, and the government did not report awarding compensation to any victims during the reporting period. Though the government amended the Victims of Crime Act in November 2019 to address the requirement of physical violence and expand protections to include psychological violence, the amendments will not enter into force until January 2024. The government continued to lack comprehensive statistics on restitution and damages awarded to victims and did not require prosecutors to systematically request restitution during criminal trials; despite this, it reported awarding restitution to between two and five trafficking victims during the reporting period (compared with two victims awarded restitution in the prior reporting period). NGOs and GRETA reported victims were not systematically informed of their rights. Despite the government’s law enforcement action against Vietnamese criminal organizations and focus on identifying Vietnamese trafficking victims during the reporting period, civil society reported assisting few Vietnamese victims and questioned whether victims were systematically informed of their rights. Section 154(c) of the German Code of Criminal Procedure exempted victims from prosecution for minor criminal offences that traffickers compelled them to commit; however, the 2021 MOJ-funded study concluded prosecutors rarely used section 154(c) because they preferred to use more familiar sections of the criminal code, which lacked the trafficking-specific language of 154(c). The report recommended required mandatory use of Section 154(c) when interacting with trafficking victims. NGOs reported that undocumented victims often fear obtaining medical care or submitting a claim for lost wages because Section 87 of the German Residency Act required public entities to report undocumented persons. The government offered witness protection as needed, and police would accompany witnesses to trials; in 2021, the government provided a total of eight trafficking victims witness protection, compared with 13 in 2020.