Exploitation of begging

The activity of "begging" as such is not a criminal offense in Germany, as long as no city regulations are prohibiting it and no exploitation is present. "Exploitation of begging" only exists as a criminal act of its own since the legislative changes have been made in the field of human trafficking, throughout 2016. Exploitation of begging "is defined as a situation where individuals are forced to beg and give away their income, and if the perpetrators are taking profit of the economic or personal predicament of the victim and of the helplessness in a foreign country.”[1] The victims of forced begging have to face health hazards during their work, are often beaten up by the perpetrators or punished by deprivation of food. The victims have to sleep at places with very poor conditions, e.g. in condemned houses without heating.

Frequently there are criminal gangs, which exploit beggars in an organized and systematic way. In many cases, there exist family bonds among victims and perpetrators, or the traffickers recruit people from their own village. As the perpetrators know the victims personally as members of the same community or extended family, they have means to blackmail the victims. They might threat a mother to harm her child.  The victims in such cases are predominantly very poor persons, often elderly or persons with physical and/or mental disabilities.

Women subjected to this form of exploitation are often exploited together with their children or children of third parties used to steer pity on behalf of the passers-by. The persons affected are controlled during their stay begging on the roadside and are not allowed to leave the spot. Despite cold or hot weather conditions they have to remain on their spot for long hours, begging for money.

To outside observers, it is difficult to tell, if a person is begging for the own living or if this beggar is victim of a criminal gang. An indicator for trafficking is given when several persons are brought to a place for begging, and later are picked up again.

For these victims of forced begging, given the existing ties to the traffickers and the extreme high level of vulnerability, breaking the chain of human trafficking is almost impossible. In situations of intervention by third parties, the victims often to not cooperate or refuse any help, rather stay loyal with the perpetrators, out of fear. In such cases even third party intervention is challenging due to the lack of cooperation and to the physical and/or mental health problems which the victims have.


[1] BKA, Menschenhandel und Ausbeutung Bundeslagebild 2017, P. 18