We distinguish between trafficking in human beings and the various forms of migration that do not involve constraint, deceit, exploitation or violence but that nevertheless often lead to precarious situations for migrants. More and more people are part of national and international labour migration streams. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), half of the 100 million labour migrants in the world are now women.
In contrast to trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation, most persons trafficked for the purpose of labour exploitation are migrants.
In Germany, labour exploitation essentially occurs in industries in which workforce is indispensable but access is relatively easy, i.e. no particular qualifications are required.
As access to the German labour market is extremely limited for migrants, many of them work in unregulated sectors, e.g. domestic work, the care sector or the entertainment industry. This obviously opens up new opportunities. However, many migrants, of whom some have no legal status, face extreme work conditions involving health hazards and the risk of being trafficked, economically and sexually exploited, discriminated and therefore subjected to human rights violations.
Domestic work and care are two examples of unregulated sectors, and both employ mainly women (often female migrants).
In many cases, the labour arrangement can be qualified as “semi-feudal”, with payment provided in the form of free board and lodging rather than money. When the person also lives in the household, it seems obvious that the worker is also available around the clock. Affected persons often face a very precarious situation in such “private” spheres. The illegal status and lack of labour rights of domestic workers and the easiness with which they can be replaced mean that their situation is not secure, nor are they guaranteed to be paid. Many workers in these industries live and work in slave-like conditions.
They also face a great danger of harassment and sexual violence, as globally these phenomena occur the most in private households. In this type of situation, it is difficult to defend oneself, as it is incumbent on the affected person to prove the facts. In addition, if the person has no legal status, he or she is liable to prosecution for residing and working without a permit. They therefore also fear consequences for their residence status. In Germany, many of the workers (mainly women) involved in this informal sector have no residence permit and no protection. It is difficult for them to defend their interests due to the complicated legal situation they often face, not to mention their isolation and lack of access to counselling offers and/or other stakeholders.
However, even in other sectors considered more open and relatively regulated, such as construction, agriculture, meat processing and hospitality, trafficking in human beings and labour exploitation do still occur. The affected persons are either individual men or women or whole families or groups who are economically exploited and sometimes forced to work in slave-like conditions. For example, they are not paid the salary they were promised, or disproportionate amounts are deducted to pay for fees, accommodation, food, etc., or they must work disproportionally long hours and/or in dangerous conditions, with no time off or holiday pay (i.e. minimum labour standards are not respected).
Since they do not know their rights and the options they have in Germany (e.g. labour rights, the right to claim wages, counselling possibilities) and/or suffer threats, constraint and pressure or violence on the part of employers, affected persons find it difficult to escape this situation.