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.