Workshop on combating human trafficking: what can criminal law do?

On 3 June 2016, a workshop was held by the working group comprised of representatives of the Federal Government and the Länder and tasked with fighting human trafficking for labour exploitation. The workshop focused on the issue of "Prosecution of human trafficking, forced labour and exploitation" and "Improving data on acts constituting criminal violations of employment law".

The workshop began with a presentation by Evelien Pennings from the Ministry of Security and Justice in the Netherlands on the TeamWork! project. The aim of the project is to strengthen multidisciplinary cooperation against trafficking in human beings for labour exploitation. It is a joint initiative between Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the Slovak Republic and Malta, four countries holding successive presidency of the Council of the European Union. Following this, Evelien Pennings and Jacqueline Dadswell from the US Embassy in Berlin reported on their experiences regarding the prosecution of human trafficking in the Netherlands and the US. With the annual publication of the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, the US is showing particular commitment towards combating global human trafficking.

Joachim Renzikowski, professor at the Faculty of Criminal Law, Philosophy of Law/Legal Theory at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, took a critical look at the current plans to reform the criminal law – in particular the reform of sections 232 and 233 of the German Criminal Code. A draft law has been submitted to the German Bundestag, the aim of which is to transpose into national law 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. This was followed by a panel discussion with representatives from a number of bodies, namely the Police Union (GdP), the Berlin State Office of Criminal Investigation, the Wuppertal branch of the Protestant church’s social welfare organisation (Diakonie), the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Stuttgart and the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection. The discussion showed that, for the majority of those taking part, the planned reform does not go far enough in certain parts. The criticism levelled at the reform is that it does not even meet the requirements of the EU Directive. The discussion also considered ways of increasing the amount of data that is available in future with a view to improving the prosecution of human trafficking for labour exploitation.

Taking into account the reform under discussion at present, a sub-working group was set up during the workshop which has been tasked with devising solutions for effective and workable provisions under criminal law aimed at combating human trafficking, forced labour and labour exploitation. It will also put forward specific proposals on how to improve the data available on the topic of human trafficking for labour exploitation. The findings will be fed into an overall strategy on the fight against human trafficking for labour exploitation which is to be drawn up by the end of 2016. To this end, a working group was established in March 2016 to deal with "Setting up effective counselling and support structures", and another working group was set up in April at a workshop focusing on "Prevention through awareness-raising and public relations work".

The aim of the Federal Government is to combat human trafficking in all forms early and effectively, while at the same time strengthening prevention and, in particular, victim protection. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is the lead ministry for the issue of trafficking in human beings for labour exploitation. The most relevant measures and experiences are being discussed by a Working Group of the Federal Government and the Länder set up by Minister Nahles.