Switzerland

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Tier 1

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. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by increasing training for police and prosecutors, ratifying the ILO protocol of 2014 to the forced labor convention, and adopting an improved policy to screen newly arrived asylum-seekers for trafficking. 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 provided insufficient resources to its trafficking coordinating body.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SWITZERLAND

Vigorously prosecute, convict, and sentence traffickers with sufficiently stringent prison sentences, including in forced labor cases; strengthen or revise existing criminal code articles, particularly article 182, to better differentiate between sex and labor trafficking; increase victim identification training for labor inspectors; increase funding for the trafficking coordinating body and provide NGOs with fixed funding for annual operating costs; establish a comprehensive referral system and standardize assistance for all victims; increase access to specialized services, especially for asylum-seekers, male, child, and transgender victims; include NGO participation in the early stages of trafficking investigations to ensure victim protection; and improve the process for issuing short- and long-term residency permits for potential victims, especially those in the asylum registration and transition centers.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Articles 180, 181, 182, 195, and 196 of the penal code criminalized sex 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. 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. Cantonal authorities prosecuted 143 defendants in 2017, compared with 190 in 2016. In July 2017, in the government’s largest case to date, authorities in Bern launched formal criminal proceedings against a Thai woman, arrested in 2014, accused of forcing at least 80 female and transgender victims into prostitution. The government convicted 13 defendants on trafficking charges in 2016 (the most recent year for which complete data were available), compared to 22 in 2015. Six prison sentences were partially suspended, two were fully suspended with no fines, and one was fully suspended with a fine of 500 Swiss francs ($510). The highest sentence issued for trafficking crimes was for approximately 3 years in prison. Of the 13 convicted, nine received sentences that resulted in actual jail time and seven of the nine resulted in at least one year imprisonment. Although complete sentencing data was not available for the current reporting period, in 2017, a court in the canton of Fribourg convicted a man for trafficking and child sex abuse and sentenced him to 16 years imprisonment and fines between 40,000 and 50,000 Swiss francs ($41,030 and $51,280) to be paid to three victims.

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. The government conducted multiple training events for law enforcement. In April 2017, FedPol held a workshop focused on the prevention of labor trafficking for labor inspectors and prosecutors. In May 2017, the Swiss police institute held a three-day trafficking seminar for police and prosecutors. In June 2017, the government held advanced trafficking training for German-speaking police officers. The government continued to hold annual trafficking training for cantonal prosecutors, which focused on victim testimony and assistance during criminal proceedings.

Civil society reported the government’s predominant focus on trafficking for sexual exploitation hampered the identification and prosecution of forced labor. Authorities continued to prosecute few labor trafficking cases, and civil society reported labor inspectors frequently regarded victims as criminals. An international organization reported labor inspectors often misidentified forced labor victims as illegal workers or victims of wage dumping. During the reporting period, the government assisted in 19 international investigations and criminal trials. 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. During the reporting period, the government investigated four Swiss registered sex offenders for child sexual exploitation abroad. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking.

PROTECTION

The government maintained protection efforts. The federal government continued to lack standard procedures across cantons for victim protection and victim identification. In 2017, cantonal authorities identified 228 victims (197 in 2016), 120 of whom were victims of forced prostitution (107 in 2016). 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 2016, the latest year for which assistance data was available, 101 victims and relatives of victims received government-funded trafficking-specific counseling, compared with 71 in 2015. For the second consecutive year, civil society and an international organization reported an increase in the number of trafficking victims among asylum-seekers. The State Secretariat for Migration identified 100 potential victims undergoing the asylum process in 2017. The government’s border police adopted a new policy of screening newly arrived asylum-seekers alone in order to eliminate the potential influence of traffickers operating within migrant camps. However, NGOs reported 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.

Under the Swiss Victim Assistance Law, all trafficking victims were entitled to help from the government-funded women’s shelters or victim assistance centers for victims of abuse, and enjoyed 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 up to 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 government was obligated to assume the additional cost of longer-term care. Through the anti-human trafficking ordinance, the government granted 314,060 Swiss francs ($322,110) to five NGOs from a total annual allocation of 400,000 Swiss francs ($410,260). Nine cantonal authorities adopted a new financing model for one Zurich-based NGO linked to the number of victims assisted and no longer allocated funds for fixed operating costs. NGOs reported the new model forced them to be more reliant on the federal government and private donations. The ordinance allowed all organizations involved in implementing anti-trafficking measures to apply for a government grant. Federal and cantonal government sources financed the vast majority of a leading NGO’s 2.6 million Swiss francs ($2.7 million) operating costs for its trafficking victim protection program. The NGO assisted 228 trafficking victims, 202 of which were women, 19 transgendered, and seven male. Sixty percent were sex trafficking victims, 13 percent were forced labor victims, and the remaining 23 percent fell into other categories. Twenty-three percent of victims were referred by cantonal or federal police and judicial authorities, a decrease from 47 percent in 2016, which was reportedly due to recent pressure from local criminal defense attorneys to exclude the NGO’s participation in the early stages of trafficking investigations. Services for child and male victims were limited, especially shelter, counseling, and victim referral resources. The government provided male victims temporary shelter in centers, hotels, or NGO-operated shelters for men, and NGOs that received government support provided limited services to such victims. One of the leading NGOs also assisted male victims and helped four transgendered victims. NGOs reported insufficient resources for male and child trafficking victims. The government also facilitated assistance to foreign victims of trafficking; however, due to strict residency requirements, few were granted long-term residency permits and instead were provided with repatriation assistance to help them return home. In 2017, the government provided repatriation assistance to 16 victims, the majority from Eastern Europe. A leading NGO reported an increase in cases of victims, relatives of victims, and witnesses fined for breaching immigration laws and subsequently deported, despite making official statements to assist ongoing trafficking cases.

Cantonal immigration authorities were required to grant victims a minimum 30-day reflection period to decide participate in judicial proceedings against their traffickers. The government granted 55 individuals reflection periods, 90 short-term residence permits, and 14 hardship-based residence permits (48 reflection periods, 90 short-term residence permits, and 21 hardship-based residence permits in 2016). The government held three workshops in Bern, Lausanne, and Zurich to educate officials on guidelines for issuing residence permits to victims. NGOs expressed concern that it remained difficult for victims to obtain victim protection and hardship residence permits without the assistance of a judge. Twenty-three victims received restitution payments in 2016, compared with 16 in 2015, the most recent year for which data was available for comparison.

PREVENTION

The government increased prevention efforts. A specialized unit within FedPol, the Swiss Coordination Unit against the Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (KSMM), coordinated national efforts, including anti-trafficking policy, information exchange, cooperation, and training. Members of civil society reported the KSMM continued to be understaffed, underfunded, and needed greater institutional support from the government. In 2017, the government began the implementation of its new national action plan. The plan focused on standardizing the issuance of residency permits and victim identification guidelines for police, as well as minimizing the unintentional punishment of victims. The plan also included the establishment of a national victim assistance program to standardize the varying level of victim assistance across cantons. Again, the government co-hosted and co-funded several awareness events organized by cantonal authorities and NGOs during the national anti-trafficking week in October 2017. In addition, the government provided funding to three Ticino-based NGOs to conduct awareness campaigns within the health care sector. In December 2017, KSMM hosted its fourth national meeting of the heads of the cantonal anti-trafficking roundtable to exchange information on trafficking issues and anti-trafficking measures. The roundtable focused on the identification and protection of Nigerian and child victims. The government conducted an annual assessment of its anti-trafficking efforts, which it provided to the Council of Europe, OSCE, and UN. Programs to fund Romanian NGOs providing victim assistance and anti-trafficking efforts in Bulgaria continued during the reporting period. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. The government ratified the ILO’s 2014 protocol to the forced labor convention in September 2017. The government provided funding to an NGO to operate a national victim hotline and email.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, Switzerland is primarily a destination and, to a lesser extent, a transit country for women, children, and transgender people subjected to sex trafficking, as well as men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, including forced begging 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. Forced labor exists in the domestic service and health care sectors, and in agriculture, catering, construction, and tourism. The number of victims among asylum-seekers continues to grow. Female victims among asylum-seekers came from Nigeria, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, and were often forced into prostitution and domestic servitude. Male victims among asylum-seekers came primarily from Eritrea and Afghanistan and were exploited both in prostitution and forced labor.