Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement to mark the World Day against Trafficking in Persons today (30 July):
People around the world fall victim to human trafficking every day, including in Germany. The motto of this year’s World Day against Trafficking in Persons, ‘Victims’ Voices Lead the Way’, reminds us that helping victims of trafficking and others who are affected by it must be at the heart of all of our endeavours. Listening to these people and making their voices heard is the first step towards easing their suffering, launching criminal investigations and putting a stop to human trafficking. People in difficult circumstances, including children, are often the target of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation or exploitation of their labour. The pandemic has made things even worse for the victims of trafficking.
It is unbearable to think that around a quarter of the victims within the EU are children. As adults, we have a responsibility to protect children from trafficking, exploitation and violence and to help those who are affected. In June 2021, the National Council on Combating Sexual Violence Against Children and Young People published a joint agreement which set out further measures to improve the protection of children and young people from trafficking and sexual exploitation in Germany. One important step is to raise awareness of trafficking among professionals who work with children so that young victims can receive rapid, effective support.
Identifying, protecting and supporting those affected in Germany is also a core part of national efforts to combat all forms of human trafficking. One essential element of this is the work of the German NGO Network against Trafficking in Human Beings (KOK), which has been funded by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth since 1999. The Federal Government has been working with the Länder and civil society since the beginning of the pandemic to ensure that victims can continue to be identified, that they receive protection and support, and that perpetrators are held accountable for their criminal and inhumane behaviour.
Trafficking often takes place across borders, meaning that greater cooperation is needed between countries of origin, transit countries and destination countries in order to effectively combat this severe violation of human rights. Germany is therefore engaged in significant efforts at international level to establish close cooperation in the spheres of prevention, criminal prosecution and victim protection.
It is also working to ensure greater coordination between the EU, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and other international bodies in the fight against trafficking in persons, and made this a priority both during its Presidency of the EU Council in the second half of 2020 and during its Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which ended in May 2021. The new German Supply Chain Act, which makes it compulsory for businesses to perform due diligence to ensure compliance with human rights and environmental standards, is another important contribution to the fight against human trafficking in national and international supply chains. Germany liaised closely with the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator over the last year on the drafting of the new EU Strategy on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings 2021-2025, which was presented in April 2021. The strategy aims in particular to put a stop to human trafficking, hold perpetrators to account and empower victims.
The Federal Government closely monitors developments in the field of human trafficking and continuously updates its anti-trafficking strategies. This includes the evaluation of the criminal law provisions to combat human trafficking which were rewritten in 2016. The findings of the evaluation will be available shortly.