Implications of the Residence Act for trafficked persons

Legal provisions for the right of residence of witnesses during preliminary investigations and criminal proceedings

 

The relevant sections for witnesses are Section 25 para. 4a, Section 25 para. 4b and para. 5 of the Residence Act.

Section 25 para. 4a of the Residence Act

According to Section 25 para. 4a of the Residence Act, a residence permit is to be granted as long as the person’s continued presence in the federal territory is temporarily required on “pressing humanitarian or personal grounds or due to substantial public interest” (e.g. as a witness in criminal proceedings against human traffickers). The residence permit may only be granted if:

  1. The temporary presence of the witness in the federal territory for criminal proceedings because of this offence is deemed necessary by the public prosecution or the criminal court because their absence would make it difficult to shed light on the events; 
  2. The witnesses have severed all ties with the individuals accused of having committed the offence;
  3. They have stated their willingness to testify as witnesses during the criminal proceedings relating to the offence.

The residence permit is to be renewed after the end of the criminal proceedings provided that the person’s continued presence in the federal territory is required on humanitarian or personal grounds, or due to public interest.

KOK welcomes the improvements for trafficked persons brought about by the new act, including a new compulsory issuance of a first residence permit pursuant to Section 25 para. 4a of the Residence Act and the option to renew it on humanitarian or personal grounds.

However, KOK regrets that the willingness of trafficked persons to cooperate with prosecuting authorities remains enshrined in the law. This is especially true for trafficked persons under the age of 18, whose specific needs are not accounted for by the act. Due to its being limited to holders of a residence permit granted on the basis of Section 25 para. 4a of the Residence Act and other restrictions (need for human rights or humanitarian grounds or the necessity to protect political interests), the new possibility of reuniting families defined in Section 29 para. 3 of the Residence Act falls short of expectations.

KOK continues to call for a right of residence that is independent from the trafficked person’s role as a witness. The key condition for the issuance of a legal residence permit should therefore not be the willingness to cooperate, but for example whether the perpetrators can be found or whether there is sufficient evidence. 

Section 25 para. 4 b of the Residence Act

Section 25 para. 4b of the Residence Act provides for a temporary residence permit for foreign nationals who were employed under strikingly different conditions to German employees and without a work permit. As with para. 4a, the decision is struck at the discretion of the authorities. Issuance of the permit also requires testimony during the criminal proceedings and the foreign national must be willing to testify. Both groups can claim benefits in accordance with the Asylum-Seekers Benefits Act [Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz]. Unlike with para. 4a, the residence permit can be renewed if the person is entitled to claim remuneration. Moreover the person is not required to sever all ties with the employer. It is to be expected that there are common features with trafficked persons as defined by para. 4a, as these are sometimes employed without a work permit. However, this excludes trafficked persons involved in a perfectly legal working relationship with regards to their residence permit. This means that they are disadvantaged compared to the group covered by para. 4b.

Section 29 para. 3 of the Residence Act

This paragraph provides for the possibility of reuniting trafficked persons with their families. However, due to its being limited to holders of a residence permit granted on the basis of Section 25 para. 4a of the Residence Act and other restrictions (need for human rights or humanitarian grounds or necessity to protect political interests), Section 29 para. 3 of the Residence Act falls short of expectations.

Supported by
Logo BMFSFJ
KOK is a member of

Contact

KOK - Bundesweiter Koordinierungskreis gegen Menschenhandel e.V.
Lützowstr.102-104
Hof 1, Aufgang A
10785 Berlin

Tel.: 030 / 263 911 76
E-Mail: info@kok-buero.de