The government increased protection efforts. The federal government continued to lack standard procedures across cantons for victim protection and victim identification. Cantonal authorities reported identifying 197 victims, 107 of whom were victims of forced prostitution during the reporting period. Assistance for victims of violence was available in almost all of the 26 cantons but did not always include anti-trafficking services and varied canton to canton. In 2015, the latest year for which assistance data was available, 91 victims and/or relatives of victims received government trafficking-specific counseling. Federal and cantonal government sources financed the vast majority of a leading NGO’s 2.5 million Swiss franc ($2.45 million) operating costs of its trafficking victim protection program. One NGO, using funding provided by the government during the previous reporting period, established a new shelter that served trafficking victims. A leading NGO reported assisting 172 trafficking victims, 34 of which were referred by the police. Fifty-six were sex trafficking victims, while 12 were forced labor victims. One NGO reported an increase in the number of trafficking victims among asylum-seekers. The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) maintained a nationwide circular to educate personnel on how to more effectively identify trafficking victims in the asylum system.
Under the Swiss Victim Assistance Law (OHG), all trafficking victims are entitled to help from the government-funded women’s shelters or victim assistance centers for victims of abuse, and enjoy special safeguards during criminal proceedings. Cantonal authorities maintain jurisdiction on providing protection for victims, and trafficking victims are entitled to free and immediate assistance centers that vary from canton to canton. Many cantons have referral agreements with NGO-operated victim assistance facilities that specialize in trafficking. Through the anti-human trafficking ordinance the government dispersed a total of 333,312 Swiss francs ($327,100) to seven public and private service providers from a total annual allocation of 400,000 Swiss francs ($392,540). The government supported specialized trafficking and other shelters. The ordinance allows all organizations involved in implementing anti-trafficking measures to apply for a government grant. NGOs regularly provide anti-trafficking services to victims, including a network of therapists and medical specialists for counseling. The BTPI did not report the number of victims during the reporting period. 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 more resources are needed to address the shortcomings for protection services of male and child trafficking victims. The government also facilitates assistance to foreign victims of trafficking; however, due to strict residency requirements, few are granted long-term residency permits and instead are provided with repatriation assistance to help them return home. The government held a series of anti-trafficking workshops for both German- and French-speaking police officers, cantonal migration officials, NGOs, and social service providers during the reporting period. The training included advice and best practices for victim identification.
Services for asylum-seekers in transition between registration and reception centers within Switzerland’s asylum system were insufficient, especially for underage trafficking victims. The government granted 48 individuals reflection periods, 85 short-term residence permits, and 21 hardship-based residence permits. Sixteen victims received restitution payments in 2015, but no information was provided for the number of restitutions payments received in 2016. NGOs expressed concern that it remained difficult for victims to obtain victim protection and hardship residence permits without the assistance of a judge. In May, a conference of cantonal social directors published recommendations on care for unaccompanied minor asylum-seekers, which also included a chapter on the protection of underage trafficking victims.