An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.
2017-2021 ARCHIVED CONTENT

You are viewing ARCHIVED CONTENT released online from January 20, 2017 to January 20, 2021.

Content in this archive site is NOT UPDATED, and links may not function.

For current information, go to www.state.gov.

SWITZERLAND: Tier 1

The Government of Switzerland fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore Switzerland remained on Tier 1. These efforts included increasing interagency coordination, updating victim identification guidelines, and proposing new regulations for those employed in the around-the-clock nursing services sector to prevent labor exploitation. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it continued to partially or fully suspend sentences for the majority of convicted traffickers, prosecuted and convicted fewer traffickers, and identified fewer victims.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS

Vigorously prosecute and convict traffickers and punish them with significant prison terms. • Develop safeguards for victims to protect them against traffickers freed on suspended sentences. • Increase law enforcement efforts against labor trafficking. • Strengthen or revise existing criminal code articles, particularly Article 182, to explicitly define labor trafficking. • Increase victim identification training for all front-line officials, including labor inspectors. • Establish a standardized referral and assistance system for all victims. • Increase access to specialized services, especially for forced labor, asylum-seekers, male, child, and transgender victims. • Improve the process for issuing short- and long-term residency permits for potential victims, especially those in the asylum process.

PROSECUTION

The government decreased law enforcement efforts. Articles 180, 181, 182, 195, and 196 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking with penalties from one to 20 years’ imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. NGOs stated the lack of an explicit legal definition for labor exploitation under Article 182 complicated forced labor investigations and limited data collection necessary for prevention efforts. As in previous years, the government did not disaggregate data on law enforcement efforts between sex trafficking and forced labor and did not provide annual investigative data. In one noteworthy case from April 2018, the Geneva police launched an investigation of forced domestic servitude of up to six persons. Cantonal authorities prosecuted 124 defendants in 2018, compared with 143 in 2017. The government convicted 13 defendants on trafficking charges in 2017 (the most recent year for which complete data were available), compared to 13 in 2016. Of the 13 convictions in 2017, courts fully suspended the sentences of five traffickers and partially suspended three traffickers’ sentences. Of the seven sentenced to prison terms, three were over one year in duration. The highest sentence issued for trafficking crimes was for approximately 6.5 years in prison. The government did not report complete sentencing data but confirmed several cases in which traffickers received significant prison terms during the reporting period. In July 2018, the regional court of Bern Jura-Seeland sentenced a Thai woman to 10.5 years in prison for sex trafficking at least 75 female and transgender victims in the government’s largest trafficking case to date. In December 2018, Lausanne’s criminal court sentenced a Nigerian woman to three years in prison and a fine for sex trafficking four Nigerian women.

Trafficking investigations and prosecutions fell strictly under the jurisdiction of individual cantons except for cases involving organized criminal networks, which fell under federal police (FedPol) jurisdiction. Several cantons had their own specialized anti-trafficking police units. Civil society continued to report the government’s predominant focus on sex trafficking hindered the identification and prosecution of forced labor. Authorities continued to prosecute few labor trafficking cases, and civil society reported labor inspectors frequently regarded foreign victims as criminals working illegally. The government conducted multiple training events for law enforcement. In May 2018, the Swiss police institute held a weeklong trafficking seminar for police, prosecutors, and border guards. In June 2018, FedPol held a workshop focused on evidence collection in labor trafficking investigations for cantonal police, labor inspectors, and prosecutors. The government continued to hold annual trafficking training for cantonal prosecutors, which focused on victim testimony and assistance during criminal proceedings.

The government continued to participate in international investigations and criminal trials. One joint investigation with Romania led to the arrest of nine suspected traffickers and the identification of 15 potential victims. Police also participated in several EUROPOL sex and labor trafficking investigations that led to the arrest of seven suspected traffickers and the identification of over 54 potential victims. According to GRETA, Switzerland had a network of 10 police attachés posted abroad, which provided support to government prosecution authorities in combating trans-border crime, including human trafficking. The government did not report whether it investigated any Swiss nationals for child sex tourism abroad. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking.

PROTECTION

The government maintained protection efforts. In 2018, cantonal authorities identified 170 victims (228 in 2017), 106 of whom were victims of “forced prostitution” (120 in 2017). The federal government continued to lack standard procedures across cantons for victim protection and victim identification. The government updated widely distributed victim identification guidelines to include labor trafficking and the “lover boy” coercion phenomenon. Assistance for victims of violence was available in 24 out of the 26 cantons but did not always include anti-trafficking services and varied canton to canton. In 2017, the latest year for which assistance data was available, 164 potential victims received government-funded trafficking-specific counseling, compared with 101 in 2016. For the third consecutive year, there was an increase in the number of potential trafficking victims among asylum-seekers. The State Secretariat for Migration identified 111 potential victims undergoing the asylum process in 2018 (100 in 2017). The government’s border police screened newly arrived asylum-seekers alone to eliminate the potential influence of traffickers operating within migrant camps. However, NGOs continued to report asylum accommodations did not provide adequate assistance and counseling services to possible victims and asylum-seekers remained vulnerable, as they could be deported back to their first country of EU entrance without first receiving victim protection.

The Swiss Victim Assistance Law entitled all trafficking victims to access the government-funded women’s shelters or assistance centers for victims of abuse and to special safeguards during criminal proceedings. Cantonal authorities maintained jurisdiction on providing protection for victims, and trafficking victims were entitled to free and immediate assistance centers that varied from canton to canton. Some cantons had formal referral systems in place with NGO-operated victim assistance facilities specialized in trafficking. While the provisions of local victim assistance centers varied from canton to canton, they generally provided victims with a minimum of four weeks of emergency lodging and living allowance, several hours of consultations with a lawyer, mental health counseling, medical treatment, transportation, and translation services. If recovery required more time, the victim assistance law obligated the government to assume the additional cost of longer-term care. The government granted 373,520 Swiss francs ($379,590) to five NGOs from a total annual allocation of 400,000 Swiss francs ($406, 500). Federal and cantonal government sources financed the vast majority of a leading NGO’s 2.6 million Swiss francs ($2.64 million) operating costs for its trafficking victim protection program. The NGO reported the government did not provide adequate victim assistance funding for the increased number of victims in the asylum system. In 2018, the NGO assisted 80 new victims; 76 percent of new victims were sex trafficking victims, 21 percent were forced labor victims, and the remaining three percent fell into other categories. Twenty-three percent of victims were referred by cantonal or federal police and judicial authorities. Services for labor trafficking victims were limited, and the government lacked case management resources for victims in the asylum system. Services for child and male victims were limited, especially shelter, counseling, and victim referral resources. The government provided male victims temporary shelter in hotels, or NGO-operated shelters for men, and NGOs that received government support provided limited services to such victims. The government also facilitated assistance to foreign victims of trafficking; however, authorities granted few long-term residency permits and instead provided victims with repatriation assistance to help them return home. In 2018, the government provided repatriation assistance to 17 victims (16 in 2017), the majority from Eastern Europe. The government did not have a legal provision protecting victims from unlawful acts their traffickers coerced them to commit.

Cantonal immigration authorities were required to grant victims a minimum 30-day reflection period to decide whether to participate in judicial proceedings against their traffickers. The government granted 56 individuals reflection periods, 91 short-term residence permits, and 16 hardship-based residence permits (55 reflection periods, 90 short-term residence permits, and 14 hardship-based residence permits in 2017). The government provided cultural sensitivity training to law enforcement personnel to improve the identification referral process for foreign victims. Thirty-one victims received state compensation payments in 2017, the most recent year for which data was available for comparison, compared with 23 in 2016.

PREVENTION

The government increased prevention efforts. The government reorganized the national coordinating body under FedPol and renamed it the Specialized Unit against the Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (FSMM). FSMM coordinated national efforts, including anti-trafficking policy, information exchange, cooperation, and training. The frequency of interagency trafficking coordination meetings increased from annually to bi-annually with the new reorganization. In November 2018, FSMM hosted its fifth national meeting of the heads of the cantonal anti-trafficking roundtable and focused in particular on trafficking awareness and victim identification in the healthcare sector. The government had an active national action plan focused on standardizing the issuance of residency permits and victim identification guidelines for police, as well as minimizing the unintentional punishment of victims. However, civil society reported the government had not allocated adequate human or financial resources for its implementation. The government published an annual assessment of its anti-trafficking efforts. In June 2018, the government launched an anti-trafficking national awareness campaign for medical professionals. The government also continued to co-host and co-fund several awareness events organized by cantonal authorities and NGOs. Programs to fund Romanian NGOs providing victim assistance and anti-trafficking assistance to Bulgaria, Hungary, and Nigeria continued during the reporting period. The government proposed to the cantons labor contract reforms for the around-the-clock nursing services sector that clearly defined working hours and conditions, minimizing the potential for exploitation. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. The government funded an NGO to operate a national victim hotline and email.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Switzerland. Sex traffickers exploit women, children, and transgender people. Labor traffickers exploit men, women, and children in domestic service, health care, agriculture, catering, construction, tourism, and forced criminal activity. Foreign trafficking victims originate primarily from Central and Eastern Europe—particularly Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria, with increasing numbers from Nigeria and Thailand. Victims also come from China, Brazil, Cameroon, and the Dominican Republic. Authorities report an increase in young male traffickers, known as “lover boys,” coercing vulnerable Swiss girls and women into sex trafficking, often through a sham romantic relationship. Female victims among asylum-seekers from Nigeria, Eritrea, and Ethiopia were often forced into prostitution and domestic servitude. Male victims among asylum-seekers came primarily from Eritrea and Afghanistan and were exploited in forced labor.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future