Legislation in Germany

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 establishes minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions in the area of trafficking in human beings. Furthermore, it introduces common provisions to strengthen prevention and victim protection, taking into account the gender perspective. The law implementing the directive entered into force in Germany on 15 October 2016. In addition to an amendment of criminal law provisions on trafficking in human beings, it includes an expansion to include cases of trafficking in human beings for the purpose of committing criminal acts and begging as well as for the purpose of organ trafficking (§§ 232 – 233a Strafgesetzbuch (StGB) (Criminal Code)). Likewise, the offence was expanded to include cases in which the victim is under 18 years of age. Furthermore, the offences of labour exploitation and exploitation with the use of deprivation of liberty were newly included.

The EU Directive 2012/29/EU on minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime (Victim Protection Directive) also addresses the specific well-being of child and adolescent victims alongside adults of sexual offences and violent crimes. On 31 December 2015, the Gesetz zur Stärkung der Opferrechte im Strafverfahren (3. Opferschutzreformgesetz) (Act to Strengthen Victims’ Rights in Criminal Proceedings (3rd Victims’ Rights Reform Act)) came into force in Germany. An important innovation is that minors have a legal right to free psychosocial process support under the Criminal Procedure Code (Strafprozessordnung (StPO). Psychosocial process support is a particularly intensive form of support for particularly vulnerable victims of serious criminal offences before, during and after the main hearing. It includes qualified support, information and assistance in the criminal proceedings. This is primarily intended to reduce the individual burden on victims. In addition, injured persons now receive extended rights to information.

Germany ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings on 19 December 2012. The Convention entered into force in Germany on 01 April 2013. The independent group of experts (GRETA) set up to monitor the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention has urged the German authorities to take appropriate steps to ensure a comprehensive interpretation of national measures against trafficking in human beings.

Migrants are often affected by human trafficking. In Germany, the regulations of the Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz (AufenthG)) are binding for questions of entry and temporary and permanent residence. Without a residence permit, trafficked persons are obliged to leave the country and can be deported. The fear of departure or deportation is often the reason why the persons concerned do not turn to the authorities or shy away from reporting their employers.

One possibility of protection is the three-month reflection and stabilisation period in § 59 (7) of the Residence Act for victims of human trafficking as well as the temporary residence permit in § 25 (4a) of the Residence Act.