Switzerland is primarily a destination and, to a lesser extent, a transit country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and children forced into begging and theft. Sex trafficking victims originate primarily from Central and Eastern Europe (Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Romania, Ukraine, Moldova, and Albania), though victims also come from Latin America (Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia), Asia (Thailand and Cambodia), and Africa (Nigeria and Cameroon). During the last year, Swiss government officials and NGOs reported an increase in the number of children forced into begging and shoplifting from other parts of Europe, especially Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, many of whom were ethnic Roma. Federal police assessed that the total number of potential trafficking victims residing in Switzerland was between 2,000 and 3,000. Swiss authorities identified larger numbers of Turkish and Macedonian criminal groups also engaged in human trafficking, often in coordination with drug trafficking activities. Federal police noted victims were increasingly housed in rented apartments in smaller, industrialized villages outside of large cities. There reportedly was forced labor in the domestic service sector, particularly in foreign diplomatic households in Geneva, and increasingly in agriculture, construction, hotels, and restaurants. According to Swiss authorities, female and underage asylum seekers were especially vulnerable to sex trafficking.
The Government of Switzerland does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government took clear steps to improve its anti-trafficking program during the reporting period, including opening more cases of alleged trafficking offenses and cooperating with international partners to disrupt major trafficking rings operating in the country. Improving from previous years, Swiss courts sentenced several trafficking offenders to significant time in prison. The government identified more victims of trafficking and enhanced the protection of witnesses. Switzerland also advanced legislation that would prohibit prostitution of all persons under 18, and, in 2012, issued its first anti-trafficking action plan. Nevertheless, until the third-party harboring, transport, or recruitment of a teenager (under the age of 18) in prostitution is illegal, Switzerland does not prohibit all forms of trafficking.
Recommendations for Switzerland: Ensure the prohibition of the prostitution of all persons under 18 years old nationwide; continue to explore ways to increase the number of convicted traffickers who receive sentences commensurate with the gravity of this serious crime; increase the number of convicted traffickers serving time in prison; amplify training on and enforcement of labor trafficking laws, including laws covering forced begging and forced criminal activities; enhance the collection and compilation of law enforcement and victim assistance data; provide adequate funding for trafficking victim service providers and ensure there are trafficking-specific services for children and male victims; identify more children in begging as trafficking victims; conduct a nationwide awareness campaign that addresses labor and sex trafficking and targets potential victims, the general public, as well as potential clients of the sex trade and consumers of products made and services provided through forced labor; and, drawing from recommendations in the Union of Swiss Cities and City of Bern report on begging, strengthen trafficking victim services to affected children in all cantons.
The Government of Switzerland improved its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts this reporting period, largely by taking key steps toward expanding the prohibition on child prostitution, but also by dismantling major trafficking networks and sentencing convicted offenders to significant prison terms. Switzerland prohibits trafficking for most forms of sexual and labor exploitation through Articles 182 and 195 of the Swiss penal code, which prescribe penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Swiss law does not expressly prohibit the prostitution of children aged 16 and 17 under all circumstances throughout the country, leaving these children vulnerable to sex trafficking when a third party profits from a child in prostitution. In November 2012, the upper house of the legislature voted unanimously in favor of a draft amendment to the Swiss penal code that would prohibit the prostitution of children aged 16 and 17, including the transportation or harboring of children in prostitution; however, the amendment was still pending in the lower house of the legislature at the close of the reporting period. Several cantons prohibited the prostitution of individuals under 18 years of age.
The Swiss government continued to organize anti-trafficking efforts under the umbrella of the Coordination Unit against the Trafficking of Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (KSMM), a specialized unit within the Federal Office of Police tasked with anti-trafficking policy, information exchange, cooperation, and training; the KSMM was not directly involved in criminal proceedings or investigations. The government did not provide current data on law enforcement efforts against labor trafficking. Swiss authorities conducted 226 investigations into human trafficking and forced prostitution in 2012, in contrast to 233 in 2011. During the reporting period, the government prosecuted at least 31 suspected offenders for trafficking offenses, 26 of which were new cases in 2012, compared to approximately 50 in 2011. In 2011, the most recent year for which comprehensive conviction data were available, Swiss authorities convicted 14 sex trafficking offenders, with one offender receiving a prison term of four and a half years. At least three other offenders received prison sentences, and nine individuals were given suspended sentences or fined. During the reporting period, Swiss judges sentenced more convicted traffickers to longer prison sentences than in previous years. In July 2012, a court in Zurich sentenced one trafficking offender to 14 years in prison. In January 2013, the Bellinzona criminal court sentenced one trafficker to 10.6 years in prison. In March 2013, following a wide-scale police investigation that uncovered 50 Thai victims subjected to sex trafficking in Switzerland, a Swiss court sentenced the ringleader to six and a half years in prison. However, there were continued concerns over some cantonal courts predominantly issuing suspended sentences to convicted trafficking offenders, reportedly because some prosecutors and judges lacked sufficient sensitization to trafficking crimes.
In October 2012, the federal police organized a specialized anti-trafficking training for law enforcement personnel in the French-speaking part of the country. During the reporting period, Swiss authorities cooperated with several countries and with Europol to investigate trafficking crimes, including the October 2012 eight-country coordinated raid against West African human trafficking networks that identified 468 potential trafficking victims across Europe. The government did not report the investigation, prosecution, conviction, or sentencing of any public officials for trafficking-related complicity.
The Government of Switzerland improved its victim protection efforts during the reporting period, significantly enhancing protections for victims who chose to be witnesses in court proceedings. Under the Swiss Victims Assistance Law, all trafficking victims were entitled to shelter, free medical aid, living stipends, and psychological, social, and legal assistance from government-funded victim assistance centers. Although some facilities specialized in assistance to trafficking victims, most were shelters for victims of domestic violence and, as such, were inadequate for trafficking victims’ care. Trafficking victims were allowed to leave the shelters at will and without chaperones. Two anti-trafficking NGOs offered specialized shelter in apartments exclusively for female trafficking victims. Availability of services to men was often limited in rural areas, but in urban areas, there were assistance centers with more specialized expertise available for trafficked men and boys. Federal and cantonal authorities compensated most NGOs that provide services to trafficking victims primarily on the basis of agreed per capita payments for services rendered to victims. The country’s principal anti-trafficking NGO received approximately one third of its operating budget from the government.
Several of Switzerland’s cantons have formal procedures for the identification of victims and their referral to protective services. However, observers reported that a significant number of trafficking victims remain unidentified. In 2012, the government registered 86 victims of trafficking and 60 victims of forced prostitution, compared to 2011 when the government identified at least 61 victims. The lead NGO reported assisting 155 victims in 2012, compared to 164 in 2011. Twelve of these victims were victims of labor trafficking. Although the majority of victims served were women, one major anti-trafficking NGO offered assistance to a male sex trafficking victim.
Observers estimated that approximately 40 percent of identified trafficking victims cooperated in the investigation or prosecution of trafficking offenders in 2012. Cantonal immigration offices granted a three-month reflection period to 14 trafficking victims in 2012 and issued 54 short-term residency permits to victims for the duration of legal proceedings against their traffickers, compared with more than 19 30-day stays of deportation and 66 short-term residency permits in 2011. The government also granted two trafficking victims long-term residency permits on personal hardship grounds, a decrease from 13 victims in 2011. Although there were no reports of victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, NGOs reported that authorities in Zurich increasingly issued fines to women illegally engaged in prostitution during the reporting period.
The government significantly improved its trafficking prevention activities during the reporting period, including by issuing its first anti-trafficking national action plan. The Swiss released the 2012-2014 national action plan against human trafficking in October 2012, which called for a number of new anti-trafficking measures, including the penalization of child prostitution, the creation of a practical guide to fighting forced labor and identifying its victims, and creation of a national program for the protection of victims. The government included NGOs in the development of the action plan. In October 2012, the government organized a one-day conference in Bern to present the action plan and discuss human trafficking; over 300 people attended the event. The government did not launch any broad-based anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns during the reporting period. The government continued to regulate the employment of domestic servants in the homes of diplomats, including monitoring salaries and working conditions of domestic workers. The government continued to conduct an annual assessment of its anti-trafficking efforts and publish the results. Over the course of the last three years, the Government of Switzerland established bilateral agreements with authorities in Nigeria, Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina to discuss migration and trafficking issues. The government maintained an online reporting office in four languages for tips on suspected cases of child sex tourism. The Swiss government did not report prosecuting any Swiss citizens for child sex tourism offenses. The government did not take action to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.