Germany: Heartlessly home to 10,000 trafficked women annually
"frequently subjected to immediate detention and deportation, denied health services, and are viewed as illegal immigrants who have committed a crime, rather than individuals in need of support"
Trafficking of women is a health issueAs the football World Cup continues in Germany this week, international campaign groups are waiting to see whether their warnings of steep rises in the numbers of women trafficked into the country for prostitution have been heeded.
Germany is the main destination for trafficking of women in Europe. Some estimates put the numbers who arrive in the country at 10 000 every year. Most of the exploited women come from central and eastern Europe, and their passage is intractably linked to organised crime. At the beginning of last year, Germany increased the possible sentences for those found guilty of trafficking from 5 to 10 years. But this move, which came just 2 years after prostitution was legalised in Germany, has met with the criticism that while the country's stringent law-enforcement measures are targeting the perpetrators, the health-care needs of trafficked women are being neglected.
Damage to trafficked women's physical and mental health can be severe and enduring. Yet these health needs are frequently ignored by governments, leaving non-governmental organisations as the only providers of essential care, shelter, and counselling. A 2006 study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which looked at the health needs of women who had recently escaped from a trafficking situation in the European Union, recommended that states designate funds for emergency and long-term health care for women who are victims of trafficking, including support for safe housing, educational training, and long-term psychological care. Instead of care, however, women trafficked into Germany are, according to a report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, frequently subjected to immediate detention and deportation, denied health services, and are viewed as illegal immigrants who have committed a crime, rather than individuals in need of support.
To improve the lives of women already damaged by abuse, it is crucial that authorities recognise trafficking as a health issue. Legal instruments are of course necessary to bring to justice the perpetrators of trafficking but so too is appropriate care for the victimswho, with the necessary support, can provide vital evidence against their exploiters.