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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. These efforts included prosecuting and convicting more traffickers than last reporting period. The government assisted more victims, increased anti-trafficking awareness campaigns, and drafted an anti-trafficking brochure for labor inspectors. Although the government meets the minimum standards, a high number of suspended sentences resulted in 52 percent of convicted traffickers serving no prison time, and only 33 percent were sentenced to one year’s imprisonment or longer, which undercut efforts to hold traffickers accountable, weakened deterrence, and created potential security and safety concerns, particularly for victims who cooperated with investigations and prosecutions. Prosecutions and convictions for labor trafficking remained low compared to sex trafficking and the government did not provide complete data on investigations. The government decreased victim identification, resulting in the fewest victims identified since 2015. Protection services for victims of labor trafficking, men, and children remained inadequate. The government remained without a national standardized identification and referral mechanism and continued to lack legal safeguards to protect trafficking victims against potential prosecution, which sometimes resulted in victim penalization.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS:

Continue to investigate and prosecute suspected labor and sex traffickers, and sentence convicted traffickers to adequate penalties, which should involve serving significant prison terms.Establish a standardized national identification and referral mechanism for all victims.Increase victim identification training for all front-line officials, with increased focus on identifying labor trafficking.Increase law enforcement efforts for labor trafficking and provide sufficient resources, personnel, and training.Increase access to specialized services, especially for labor trafficking victims, asylum-seekers, male, child, and transgender victims.Amend the anti-trafficking provision of the criminal code to include force, fraud, or coercion as an essential element of the crime in accordance with international law, and ensure that the criminal code clearly defines labor exploitation.Ensure labor trafficking is investigated and prosecuted as a trafficking offense and not pursued as an administrative labor code violation.Develop safeguards for victims to protect them against traffickers freed on suspended sentences.Enact a legal provision in addition to the existing non-punishment legal norm to protect specifically trafficking victims from prosecution for acts that traffickers coerced them to commit.Strengthen international law enforcement cooperation to prevent and investigate child sex tourism.Appoint a national rapporteur to provide independent review of government anti-trafficking efforts.

PROSECUTION

The government made uneven law enforcement efforts. While the overall number of prosecutions and convictions increased, insufficient sentencing weakened deterrence, prosecutions and convictions for labor trafficking remained low compared to sex trafficking, and the government did not provide complete data on investigations. Article 182 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking, and prescribed penalties of up to life imprisonment and/or a fine; the penalties included prison sentences of no less than one year for offenses involving a child victim and those where the trafficker acted for commercial gain. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping. Inconsistent with the definition of trafficking under international law, Article 182 does not include a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion as an essential element of the crime. Additionally, both adult and child sex trafficking offenses could be prosecuted under Article 195 of the criminal code (“exploitation of sexual acts” and “encouraging prostitution”), which prescribed penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment or fines. NGOs stated the lack of an explicit legal definition for labor exploitation under Article 182 complicated labor trafficking investigations, and limited data collection necessary for prevention efforts. The government did not disaggregate data on law enforcement efforts between sex and labor trafficking.

For the third consecutive year, the government did not provide complete annual investigative data; however, a few notable investigations were reported by the media and NGOs, including conducting a large-scale investigation that involved the forced labor of approximately 50 construction workers who were fraudulently recruited abroad. Cantonal authorities prosecuted 146 defendants in 2019, an increase compared with 124 in 2018 and 143 in 2017. Nigerian sex trafficking victims remained numerous during the reporting period, although there were few corresponding prosecutions involving Nigerian victims. The government convicted 21 traffickers in 2018 (the most recent year for which complete data were available), an increase compared with 13 in 2017. At least 17 of the convictions were for sex trafficking; prosecutions and convictions for labor trafficking remained low during the reporting period, with NGOs asserting many labor trafficking cases were instead pursued as administrative labor code violations, resulting in lesser consequences and decreased deterrence. Of the 21 convictions in 2018, courts fully suspended the prison sentences or fines of nine traffickers (43 percent) and imposed fines with no prison time on two traffickers for sex trafficking (10 percent). Courts issued significant prison sentences to four traffickers (19 percent) and partial prison sentences to six traffickers (28 percent), for a total of 47 percent of traffickers serving prison time, which did not meet the minimum standard. While courts issued several significant prison sentences of up to five and a half years’ imprisonment, of the traffickers sentenced to imprisonment, courts only sentenced 33 percent to one year or longer. A trend of insufficient sentencing practices weakened deterrence, potentially undercut efforts of police and prosecutors, and created potential security and safety concerns, particularly for victims who cooperated with investigations and prosecutions. Of the 13 traffickers convicted in 2017, 38 percent served one year or longer in prison. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.

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. At least six of 26 cantons had their own specialized anti-trafficking police units. Civil society continued to report the government’s predominant focus on sex trafficking hindered the identification of labor trafficking cases as well as their prosecution. Insufficient personnel, resources, and the absence of a mandate that included human trafficking hampered in-depth labor inspections; additionally, civil society reported labor inspectors frequently regarded foreign victims as criminals working illegally. The government conducted multiple anti-trafficking training events for law enforcement in 2019, including 21 officers from five foreign countries and a roundtable for 40 officials that focused on trafficking in the hospitality sector. In May 2019, the Specialized Unit against the Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (FSMM) and the police held a three-day anti-trafficking training for 29 cantonal police officers, prosecutors, and migration officials. In November 2019, FSMM, in collaboration with two NGOs, held an anti-trafficking training for 141 police officers and prosecutors.

The government continued to facilitate international investigations and criminal trials. Law enforcement assisted in 21 new international trafficking cases during the reporting period, eight of which related to extradition and seven to mutual legal assistance. Through three joint action days between law enforcement, labor inspectors, and EUROPOL in 2019, the government reported conducting at least 145 labor inspections that resulted in the identification of at least five victims, 46 potential victims, and 10 suspected traffickers (compared with the identification of 54 potential victims and seven suspects in 2018). Switzerland had a network of at least 10 police attachés posted abroad, who provided support to government prosecution authorities in combating trans-border crime, including human trafficking. While there were eight suspected child sex tourism cases reported to FedPol during the last reporting period, the government did not report investigating or prosecuting any Swiss nationals for child sex tourism abroad. There were no reported cases of suspected child sex tourism in 2019.

PROTECTION

The government made uneven victim protection efforts. While victim identification decreased and civil society asserted victims were frequently penalized for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit, the government reported assisting more victims than last reporting period. Authorities identified fewer victims for the second year in a row, making it the fewest victims identified since 2015. In 2019, cantonal authorities reported identifying 150 victims (170 in 2018), at least 67 of whom were sex trafficking victims (106 in 2018). Of the trafficking victims identified by the government in 2019, 11 were minors and eight were Swiss. The government did not disaggregate data between sex and labor trafficking. The federal government continued to lack national standard victim identification and referral procedures across cantons; however, it distributed a previously updated victim identification checklist to all cantons and relevant organizations in December 2019. Civil society noted concerns regarding the absence of a national victim protection program. Eighteen of 26 cantons had roundtables, which functioned as victim referral mechanisms; roundtables included police, prosecutors, and NGOs. Victim assistance was available in at least 24 out of the 26 cantons, providing a wide-ranging network of care facilities mainly tailored to the needs of women and children; however, trafficking specific services varied from canton to canton. The government provided government-funded trafficking-specific counseling for 184 potential trafficking victims in 2018, compared with 164 in 2017.

The Swiss Victim Assistance Law entitled all adult trafficking victims to access the government-funded women’s shelters or assistance centers for victims of abuse and to special safeguards during criminal proceedings; however, the government did not report how many trafficking victims received shelter or special safeguards during the reporting period. At least four government-funded and NGO-operated shelters continued to provide specialized assistance for victims of trafficking, two of which provided services to children. However, according to GRETA and civil society, the government did not have specialized shelters or assistance for child victims of trafficking, nor did it have standardized identification procedures for children. 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. At least 13 cantons maintained referral agreements with NGO-operated victim assistance facilities that specialized in trafficking. With the noted variances, cantons 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 and 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. Victims had free movement in and out of shelters. While victim assistance was not dependent on cooperation with law enforcement, some NGOs asserted that authorities sometimes used victim penalization to pressure victims into cooperating with law enforcement. In 2019, the government granted 403,290 Swiss Francs ($417,490) to five NGOs for 2020, exceeding its traditional annual allocation of 400,000 Swiss Francs ($414,080); this compared with 373,520 Swiss Francs ($386,670) granted from the 400,000 Swiss Franc ($414,080) allocation in 2019. Federal and cantonal government sources financed the vast majority of a leading NGO’s 2.6 million Swiss Francs ($2.69 million) operating costs for its trafficking victim protection program, the same amount as provided in 2018.

In 2019, a leading government-funded NGO assisted 169 trafficking victims, of which 76 were new victims, 152 were women, 12 transgender, and five male. Fifty-four percent were sex trafficking victims, 13 percent were labor trafficking victims, and the remaining 33 percent were unspecified forms of trafficking. In 2019, 23 percent of the new trafficking victims were from Africa, particularly Nigeria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, and 16 percent were from Eastern Europe, particularly Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. This compared with 177 trafficking victims, of whom 80 were new victims, in 2018. A variety of sources referred victims to the NGO, including other NGOs, government-operated counseling centers, government offices, foreign consulates, police and judicial authorities, healthcare sector employees, lawyers, and family. Civil society stated services for labor trafficking victims were limited and the government lacked case management resources for victims in the asylum system. According to NGOs, services for child and male victims were inadequate, especially shelter, counseling, and victim referral resources. The government provided male victims temporary shelter in hotels or government-funded NGO-operated shelters for men.

The government also facilitated assistance to foreign victims of trafficking, which included financial support; however, authorities granted few long-term residency permits and instead provided victims with repatriation assistance to help them return home. In 2019, the government provided repatriation assistance to 27 victims, an increase compared with 17 in 2018; the government provided 32,000 Swiss Francs ($33,130) to an NGO for repatriation assistance in 2019. 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, but longer stays generally required cooperation with law enforcement. In 2019, the government granted 52 individuals reflection periods, 77 short-term residence permits, and 14 hardship-based residence permits (56 reflection periods, 91 short-term residence permits, and 16 hardship-based residence permits in 2018). In 2019, an NGO reported that the government granted refugee status to three trafficking victims and temporary admission to 13 victims it assisted during the reporting period. Authorities continued to note the growing number of trafficking victims among asylum-seekers during the reporting period. The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) identified 73 potential victims undergoing the asylum process in 2019 (56 female and 17 male), compared with 111 in 2018 (56 female and 17 male). One leading NGO also assisted 94 cases of asylum-seeking trafficking victims; however, there may have been overlap in victim numbers for SEM and the NGO. The government’s border police screened newly arrived asylum-seekers alone to eliminate the potential influence of traffickers operating within migrant camps, and specialists at SEM ensured identification and coordination practices remained consistent across the federal asylum reception centers. However, NGOs and GRETA continued to report asylum accommodations did not provide adequate assistance and counseling services to possible victims. Victim services were only available to victims who experience trafficking within Switzerland; asylum-seekers remained vulnerable as they could be deported back to their first country of EU entrance without first receiving victim protection. GRETA noted cantons often did not transfer victims detected in the asylum system to specialized trafficking victim support centers because of financial constraints but continued to host them in asylum centers. GRETA also noted the lack of adequate accommodation and supervision for children, and lack of a systematic approach; GRETA urged the government to address these issues in its 2019 report. Implementation of the 2019 asylum law aimed to increase the protection of unaccompanied minors and facilitated earlier identification of victims by providing them with free legal representation. However, civil society criticized the government for not systematically referring victims to services once identified and often shifting responsibility to the legal advisor. The victim’s legal advisor could refer victims to NGOs for assistance, but the government would often decline to provide financial support, according to an NGO.

Trafficking victims could request restitution from their trafficker through criminal proceedings, and the government reported awarding restitution to 25 victims in 2018, a slight decrease compared with 31 victims in 2017. GRETA and civil society noted restitution amounts were insufficient, especially compared to other serious crimes such as rape, and traffickers frequently did not pay. Trafficking victims could also pursue damages through a civil case, but the government did not report awarding damages to any victims during the reporting period. Victims could seek compensation from the government if the convicted trafficker was unable to pay the awarded restitution or damages, but the government did not delineate between restitution and compensation, making it unclear how much compensation was provided during the reporting period. GRETA criticized the lack of viable avenues for victim restitution when victims had no verifiable expenses or employment losses because the courts found it difficult to quantify the specific amount of lost income. While the government had a legal norm prohibiting the non-punishment of victims of crimes, the relevant provision of Swiss law did not explicitly address human trafficking or the criminal coercion often experienced in trafficking cases. NGOs asserted that victim penalization was common, with victims frequently charged with violating immigration laws, labor laws, or local prostitution regulations. GRETA urged the government to adopt a provision on the non-punishment of specifically trafficking victims and encouraged additional training of public prosecutors in this regard.

PREVENTION

The government made uneven prevention efforts. Under FedPol, FSMM coordinated national efforts, including anti-trafficking policy, information exchange, cooperation, and training, and convened approximately 12 meetings during the reporting period. Following a 2018 restructuring of the FSMM, civil society and GRETA continued to express concerns regarding a decrease in a victim-centered, multidisciplinary, and collaborative approach to trafficking as well as the halting of much of the 2017-2020 National Action Plan’s implementation. The government remained without an official independent national anti-trafficking rapporteur. An international organization stated the government made little progress implementing the plan during the reporting period; for example, the working groups on training, victim assistance, children and unaccompanied minors, and sensitization of the public sector remained inactive, some since 2017. In 2019, FSMM hosted its sixth national meeting of the heads of the cantonal anti-trafficking roundtables and focused on improving cantonal interaction and coordination on anti-trafficking measures. Authorities continued to report the prevalence of “lover boy” traffickers, which is a method of trafficking that involves young male traffickers, known as “lover boys,” who coerce girls and women into sex trafficking, often through a sham romantic relationship. The national anti-trafficking hotline, operated by a government-funded NGO, reported at least 14 cases in 2019, but authorities estimated there were likely many more unidentified cases. The government increased efforts to raise awareness during the reporting period and FedPol helped carry out several anti-trafficking awareness campaigns. The government produced a video and information leaflet for a campaign targeting victim identification and assistance by healthcare providers, while another campaign for the general public, funded by the government but operated by an international organization, reached approximately 6,000 people. Programs to fund Romanian NGOs providing victim assistance and anti-trafficking assistance to Serbia, Kosovo, Bangladesh, and Nigeria, among others, continued during the reporting period. To minimize the potential for exploitation in the around-the-clock nursing services sector, the government proposed labor contract reforms to the cantons in 2018; in 2019, at least four cantons had enacted new regulations. The government effectively regulated labor recruitment companies during the reporting period; Swiss labor recruitment agencies required a license and were liable if foreign recruitment agencies did not uphold Swiss recruitment regulations. Although fraudulent labor recruitment remained a concern during the reporting period, the government did not report holding any labor recruitment agencies accountable for labor trafficking. Government authorities asserted that labor inspectors continued to lack the mandate to identify trafficking victims and were required to refer potential trafficking cases to police. However, during the reporting period, the government developed a brochure for labor inspectors to assist in the identification of labor trafficking victims. Civil society continued to note concerns regarding the under-prioritization of labor trafficking. The government participated in several programs that aimed to increase awareness of migrant worker’s rights and engaged with the private sector and employers to address improved working conditions, regulatory compliance, and fair recruitment. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. While the government participated in several international law enforcement efforts to increase government collaboration on child sex tourism, the government did not demonstrate overall efforts to reduce the demand for international sex tourism by Swiss nationals and did not report investigating or holding any suspects from the prior reporting period accountable.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Switzerland. Traffickers can frequently be family members, friends, or romantic partners, as well as agencies offering fraudulent employment, travel, and marriage. Traffickers are both Swiss and foreign nationals; foreign traffickers typically have the same nationality as their victims. Although the vast majority of traffickers are male, female traffickers are not uncommon, especially women from Thailand and Nigeria. Traffickers are increasingly mobile and adaptable, switching industries and locations frequently. Sex traffickers exploit both foreign and domestic women, transgender people, and children. Labor traffickers exploit men, women, and children in domestic service, health care, agriculture, catering, postal courier services, construction, tourism, and in forced criminal activity. Authorities report an increase in young male traffickers, known as “lover boys,” coercing vulnerable Swiss girls and women into sex trafficking, often through a sham romantic relationship. The majority of sex trafficking victims identified by the government are from Eastern Europe, West Africa, notably Nigeria, and Asia, particularly Thailand; traffickers continue to fraudulently recruit and later coerce Nigerian women and girls to stay in exploitative situations using a “voodoo oath” they are forced to swear. Foreign trafficking victims originate primarily from Central and Eastern Europe (particularly Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria), with increasing numbers from Asia and Africa, especially from Thailand, China, and Nigeria, but also from Latin America, including from Brazil and Dominican Republic. Traffickers often force female victims among asylum-seekers from Nigeria, Eritrea, Angola, and Ethiopia into commercial sex and domestic servitude. Male victims among asylum-seekers come primarily from Eritrea and Afghanistan and are exploited in forced labor.

U.S. Department of State

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