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 (Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Ukraine, and Moldova), though victims also come from Latin America (Brazil and the Dominican Republic), Asia (China and Thailand), and Africa (Nigeria and Cameroon). Children forced into begging and shoplifting largely originate from Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria; many of these children are ethnic Roma. Federal police assessed in 2013 the total number of potential trafficking victims residing in Switzerland was between 2,000 and 3,000. There reportedly is forced labor in the domestic service sector and increasingly in agriculture, construction, hotels, and restaurants. According to Swiss authorities, female and underage asylum seekers are especially vulnerable to trafficking.
The Government of Switzerland fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period, the federal government passed a decree prohibiting the prostitution of all minors nationwide. Authorities convicted more traffickers in 2013 and courts increasingly issued prison sentences reflecting the severity of the crime. The government provided more identified victims with reflection periods and long-term residency permits, though victims in asylum procedures had difficulty accessing assistance. The government launched its first-ever nationwide awareness campaign.
Recommendations for Switzerland:
Continue to explore ways to increase the number of convicted traffickers who receive sentences commensurate with the severity of this crime; ensure NGOs providing care for victims receive adequate funding; provide specialized care for trafficking victims seeking asylum; ensure there are adequate trafficking-specific services for children and male victims; increase the capacity of trafficking-specific shelters housing female victims; amplify training on and enforcement of labor trafficking laws, including laws covering forced begging and forced criminal activities; continue to train police officers on identifying victims, including screening individuals engaged in prostitution for signs of trafficking; enhance the collection and compilation of law enforcement and victim assistance data; and continue to raise awareness of sex and labor trafficking among the public, as well as potential clients of the sex trade and consumers of products made and services provided through forced labor.
The Government of Switzerland improved anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts by prohibiting child prostitution, prosecuting and convicting more traffickers, and pursuing criminal cases against complicit public officials. Switzerland prohibits trafficking for all forms of sexual and labor trafficking 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. During the reporting period, the federal government passed a decree that prohibits facilitating the prostitution of all children nationwide. The Swiss government continued to organize anti-trafficking efforts under 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 disaggregate data on law enforcement efforts between sex trafficking and forced labor. In 2012, the most recent year for which comprehensive law enforcement data was available, Swiss authorities conducted 345 investigations into human trafficking and forced prostitution, compared with 233 in 2011. The government initiated prosecutions of 201 defendants in 2012, compared to 119 in 2011 and 161 in 2010. Authorities convicted 30 traffickers in 2012, compared with 14 in 2011 and 31 in 2010. Swiss courts sentenced 22 of the convicted traffickers to prison sentences ranging from 20 days to seven years; the remaining eight convicted traffickers received suspended prison sentences. Swiss judges continued to sentence some convicted traffickers to longer prison sentences than in previous years. In May 2013, a Swiss court sentenced one trafficker to eight and a half years in prison. In June 2013, a court in Winterthur sentenced one trafficker to 17 years’ imprisonment and his accomplice to six years’ imprisonment for multiple accounts of human trafficking and other crimes.
Authorities, with the support of an NGO, continued to provide police with introductory and advanced courses on identifying and interacting with victims. During the reporting period, Swiss authorities cooperated with several countries, including Germany and Romania, and with Europol to investigate trafficking crimes. In November 2013, a court in Schaffhausen convicted a former city council member for human trafficking and forced prostitution and sentenced him to two years in prison, which is pending appeal. Also in November 2013, the Zurich district attorney’s office announced an investigation of five Zurich police officers who allegedly warned businesses engaged in prostitution of upcoming police checks; the investigations were ongoing at the close of the reporting period.
The Government of Switzerland sustained its victim protection efforts. 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. Due to the mixed populations, these shelters left victims exposed to potential stigmatization. Victims were allowed to leave the shelters at will and without chaperones. Two anti-trafficking NGOs offered specialized shelter in apartments exclusively for female victims. Authorities placed male victims in hotels or NGO-operated shelters for men. Two cantons established counseling centers for male victims. Federal and cantonal authorities compensated most NGOs providing services to victims primarily on the basis of agreed per capita payments for services rendered to victims. The country’s principal anti-trafficking NGO received approximately half of its operating budget from the government.
In 2013, the government registered 42 victims of trafficking and 42 victims of forced prostitution, compared to 2012 when the government registered 86 victims of trafficking and 60 victims of forced prostitution. The lead NGO reported assisting 189 victims in 2013, compared to 155 in 2012. At least 45 identified victims assisted investigations or prosecutions in 2013. Cantonal immigration offices granted a three-month reflection period—a time to rest and consider whether to participate in an investigation—to 23 victims and issued 44 short-term residency permits to victims for the duration of legal proceedings against their traffickers in 2013, compared with more than 14 reflection periods and 54 short-term residency permits in 2012. The government also granted 12 victims long-term residency permits on personal hardship grounds, an increase from two victims in 2012. Observers reported some cases of trafficking victims from China and Nigeria who were unable to access assistance because they had previously sought asylum, a status which currently precludes receiving trafficking victim assistance. The government developed a new training for cantonal immigration officers on victim identification, which it delivered in November 2013. There were no reports of victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
The government significantly improved its trafficking prevention activities. In October 2013, the government launched its first-ever nationwide anti-trafficking awareness campaign, including art exhibitions, public speeches, expert roundtable discussions, and movie presentations occurring in 12 different Swiss cities. The federal government passed an ordinance in October 2013 creating a fund of approximately the equivalent of $453,000 for NGOs to use for anti-trafficking prevention campaigns; NGOs could not yet apply for funding at the close of the reporting period. Authorities 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 published the results. Authorities 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 or forced labor.