In principle, funding for the cost of living of victims of trafficking in human beings depends on their rights of residence in the country. Trafficked persons are often migrants (including individuals who are not in the possession of a permanent residence permit), which is why the provisions of the Residence Act apply in the case of third-country nationals.
On 1 January and 1 March 2015, amendments to the Asylum-Seekers’ Benefits Act entered into force.
In the context of trafficking in human beings, the most significant change regarding the Asylum-Seekers’ Benefits Act and the Social Courts Act is the reduction to the number of groups entitled to benefits under the Asylum-Seekers’ Benefits Act (Section 1 para. 1 of the Asylum-Seekers’ Benefits Act). Trafficked and exploited persons with a residence permit granted in accordance with Section 25 para. 4a or 4b of the Residence Act have been excluded from the scope of application of the provision and are now granted benefits in accordance with the German Social Code, Part II or XII provided they require financial support. Individuals who have been in possession of a residence permit for the former 18 months in accordance with Section 25 para. 5, i.e. persons whose departure from the country is impossible on legal or factual grounds, and for whom no changes to their situation are likely in the foreseeable future, are also excluded.
However, in the context of reflection period, as in the past, victims of trafficking in human beings are entitled to receive benefits in accordance with the Asylum-Seekers’ Benefits Act.
The problem in such cases is that trafficked persons are often very vulnerable and are undergoing a stabilisation phase. It is precisely at this moment that they require medical care beyond the minimum basic care provided under the Asylum-Seekers’ Benefits Act (e.g. therapy, including trauma therapy) in order to become more stable and be in a position to make a decision as to whether they are willing to testify or not. Ensuing travel expenses, e.g. to and from specialised counselling centres or medical care facilities, are not necessarily covered under the Asylum-Seekers’ Benefits Act.
In principle, victims with an illegal status may also be entitled to benefits as per Section 3 para. 1 of the Asylum-Seekers’ Benefits Act. If they claim benefits, however, their situation as “illegal” migrants would be revealed, meaning that the application itself could lead to their status being reported to the immigration authorities or to the police. Social welfare authorities are entitled and obliged to report such situations, in line with Section 71 para. 2 of the German Social Code, Part X, and Section 87 of the Residence Act. Deportation or expulsion orders are potential outcomes in such cases.