Forced prostitution, forced labor, exploitation through begging: all this is human trafficking. A topic that often remains in the dark, but is now coming back into focus on the occasion of the European Day against Trafficking in Human Beings – also in Germany.
Interviewer: It is estimated that more than 18 million people are affected worldwide. The Federal Criminal Police Office indicates a total of just under 500 victims of human trafficking through sexual exploitation in Germany in 2017. Human trafficking is mostly invisible. Does human trafficking take place in Europe, and if so, where??
Eva Maria Welskop-Deffaa (Director of Social and Professional Policy at Caritas): Yes, human trafficking takes place in Europe. It takes place everywhere where money can be earned through exploitation. And that is actually the tragic thing. This is really criminal, organized crime, but it remains invisible, even though it exploits and abuses people in so many ways.
Of course, the first ie is always sexual violence, women who are forced into prostitution, but also labor exploitation and human trafficking for the purpose of begging and also human trafficking for the purpose of committing crimes.
And one more aspect: We still have very poor figures there, but we expect increasing dynamics, namely in human trafficking for organ removal. We know all this very well through our international network, with which Caritas cooperates internationally and observes these developments with very great concern.
Interviewer: We actually see the ie mostly on television, in crime shows. Actually, one would think that our legal system in Germany should offer sufficient protection and prevent human trafficking. What is already going quite well in Germany and what needs to be changed urgently??
Welskop-Deffaa: I think the first thing we can already do is thank our rule of law. We perceive that the police really do care what happens here. But it is a very difficult field. It all works completely in the dark.
If you ask what is good, then of course we want to point out our own good work. The work done in the counseling centers is excellent work that helps those affected. But there is no uniform federal regulation for the amption of costs. This leads again and again to the fact that the counseling centers are partly also precariously financed, depend on donations, and do not know whether they will still be able to do the good work tomorrow that they are doing today.
And good in principle is also the regulation on compensation that we have in Germany. But it only applies to victims who also have a residence title. And this is one of the points we criticize in our ten-point program. That's where we should become more generous and not look at the residence title if we want to compensate the victims.
Interviewer: You mentioned counseling. How does this consultation work?? Do we reach the people who are affected at all??
Welskop-Deffaa: That is, I think, the art. Especially with regard to sexualized violence and exploitation, it is predominantly women who need to be reached. However, over many years, not only with our Caritas counseling centers – there are also those of SOLWODI or Renovabis – we have managed to make ourselves known through various forms of communication in the scene of those affected, so that women then turn to the counseling centers in the most adventurous ways.
Then everything is done to ensure that they are also protected and that the fact that they confide does not become a new risk of violence for them. But there we are really very trustworthy and also very smart on the way. I would say that accessibility is very well guaranteed.
Interviewer: Keyword right of residence. Are there points in Germany, also in the migration process, that make it even easier for criminals to exploit people?
Welskop-Deffaa: We are concerned, of course, by the fact that women who know they are wrongfully in Germany are particularly afraid to confide in the police or a counseling center. The women were brought here by force and it is already clear to them that they have no legal claim. They know that if it comes to light that they are in Germany without the right of residence, they will be sent back immediately to their home country or somewhere else. There they were usually not in comfortable living situations either.
After all, they become victims of human trafficking because they are already a vulnerable group in their home situation. Often the family plays a very tragic role there.
That's why we say that in order for the woman to dare to open up, to go to the police, to file a complaint, she needs at least a temporary right of residence of six months – independent of all other claims to the right of residence, just to give the testimony a fair chance.
Interviewer: Let's now look at people or institutions in concrete terms. What demands do you, as Caritas, also have of German and European politics??
Welskop-Deffaa: We have now presented a ten-point program. Basically to say – after 2016 the legal regulations in Germany were really improved – after a certain distance: "Guys, now look at the implementation. Is everything already on the right track?". And there we notice a few things that should be better.
We would very, very much like to see the national rapporteur's office against human trafficking finally set up. For us, this is one of the prerequisites for finally shedding light on the figures and for improving the effective cross-border prosecution of offenders within the European Union. Information-relevant data is the basis for coordinating law enforcement measures.
We also particularly wish that minors be given a special attention once again. We have the feeling, there the policy is not yet everywhere sufficiently sensitized.
And, of course, we would like to see continuous training and sensitization of employees in the authorities and counseling centers, which are not now specialized in human trafficking, but where a high level of awareness is a prerequisite for identifying victims and perpetrators of human trafficking at an early stage.
These are some of the points. You can read all this on Caritas.de. These are some of our core requirements.
The interview was conducted by Jann-Jakob Loos.