“Forced labour and human trafficking cannot be tolerated” says Germany

June 25, 2019

On 19 June 2019, Germany confirmed its determination to combat modern slavery by ratifying the ILO Protocol on Forced Labour.

Photo: Mark Strobl


Germany became the 36th country to ratify the ILO Protocol on forced labour, which requires governments to adopt effective measures to prevent all forms of forced labour and to provide victims with protection and access to effective remedies, including compensation. The ILO estimates that 24.9 million people are victims of forced labour around the world, with 16 million people exploited in the private sector in activities such as domestic work, construction or agriculture; 4.8 million in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million in forced labour imposed by state authorities. The ILO also estimates that this exploitation generates some US$150 billion a year in illicit profits.

“Forced labour and human trafficking are serious crimes that cannot be tolerated. In the 21st century, no one should be exploited”, said Mr. Hubertus Heil, the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs “By ratifying the ILO’s Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention to combat forced labour and human trafficking, Germany is sending an important message: We will not leave the victims to fend for themselves, and we will step up our efforts to ensure that the perpetrators do not flout the law and get away with their inhuman crimes. Because forced labour and human trafficking take place across national borders, international coordination is needed to combat them. The ratification of the ILO Protocol calls for all of us – governments, social partners, civil society actors and consumers to join forces at both national and international levels to ensure that working conditions are decent and fair.”

“I welcome with great pleasure Germany’s further commitment in joining the global movement to combat forced labour”, declared ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “This ratification brings us one step closer towards reaching the objective of 50ForFreedom campaign – 50 ratifications by the end of 2019. This is also a crucial step towards the achievement of decent work and the delivering of the UN Sustainable Development Goals at the country-level. In the year the ILO celebrates its centenary, this ratification has a particular significance, and marks a new progression in the ILO Centenary Ratification Campaign launched by the International Labour Office.”

The Government has set up a comprehensive framework for combatting all forms of forced labour. Under the Criminal Code trafficking in persons, forced labour and labour exploitation are can be punished by prison sentences up to 10 years imprisonment. The Government has also taken remarkable steps for the identification of victims of trafficking, for instance special features and indicators for identifying victims were developed by the Länder and were made available to the Länder’s police forces with appropriate training. Moreover, victims are provided with advice and support, including secured accommodation, by specialized counselling centres funded by the Länder. Finally, a reflection period of at least 30 days was introduced in October 2000 for foreign victims without a residence permit. The victim may remain in the country in order to decide whether s/he wants to cooperate with law enforcement or to prepare for a safe return.

Germany is the 15th EU country to ratify the Forced Labour Protocol. In November 2015, the European Union Council authorised European Union Member States to ratify the Protocol, encouraging them to do it that “as soon as possible, preferably by 31 December 2016.” In November 2017, during a Global Conference on child labour and forced labour in Argentina, Germany had pledged to “ratify the Protocol in 2018 in order to reinforce our commitment to eliminate forced labour”.