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The Government of Switzerland does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included increased cooperation on international investigations, which resulted in the identification of victims and the arrest of traffickers abroad. The government also increased funding for victim assistance and public awareness and prevention projects; continued to hold cantonal roundtables; and continued to ensure early access to legal aid in the asylum process. However, these efforts were not serious and sustained compared to the efforts during the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, on the government’s anti-trafficking capacity. Lenient sentencing, resulting in 60 percent of traffickers receiving fully suspended sentences or fines, undercut efforts to hold traffickers accountable, weakened deterrence, created potential security and safety concerns—particularly for victims who cooperated with investigations and prosecutions, and was not equal to the seriousness with which other similar crimes were treated regarding sentencing. The government did not report the number of trafficking investigations for the third year in a row and reported fewer convictions, which could not be attributed to pandemic-related court closures. Law enforcement efforts on labor trafficking remained low compared with sex trafficking, and the government lacked comprehensive and sufficiently disaggregated data on trafficking. For the third consecutive year, the government decreased victim identification and identified the fewest victims since 2015. The government remained without a national standardized identification and referral mechanism and continued to lack legal safeguards to protect trafficking victims against potential prosecution. Therefore Switzerland was downgraded to Tier 2.

Vigorously 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. • Coordinate and centralize the collection of trafficking data across the government, including sufficiently disaggregating data between trafficking and other forms of exploitation, as well as between sex and labor trafficking. • Provide sufficient personnel and funding to specialized anti-trafficking police units as well as the Specialist Unit Against the Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (FSMM) to coordinate national anti-trafficking efforts. • Adopt a national anti-trafficking action plan to effectively and efficiently coordinate national efforts across all cantons. • Expand authorities for labor inspectors to allow for the identification of trafficking victims. • 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 crime and not pursued as an administrative labor code violation. • Enact a legal provision in addition to the existing non-punishment legal norm to protect specifically trafficking victims from prosecution for acts that traffickers compelled 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. • Increase worker protections by eliminating recruitment or placement fees charged to workers by Swiss labor recruiters and ensure employers pay any recruitment fees. •Utilize the witness protection program for trafficking victims.

The government decreased law enforcement efforts. 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 crimes 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 Article 182.

In 2020, court proceedings were postponed while courts closed due to the pandemic. Federal courts closed for one month, and cantonal courts may have been closed longer as directives varied by canton; however, most courts adapted by utilizing virtual platforms to continue processing cases. For the third consecutive year, the government did not report the number of human trafficking investigations in Switzerland in 2020. In 2020, cantonal authorities prosecuted 136 defendants, 61 under Article 182 and 75 under 195. This compared with 146, 59 under Article 182 and 87 under Article 195, in 2019. Of the 136 prosecutions, at least 75 suspects were prosecuted for sex trafficking under Article 195, but the government did not report whether any prosecutions involved labor trafficking as it did not disaggregate data between sex and labor trafficking under Article 182. The government reported most federal statistics, including conviction data, on a year delay. The government convicted 15 traffickers in 2019; four under Article 182, eight under Article 195, and three under both. The total number of convictions represents a decrease compared with 21 in 2018, including two under Article 182, 17 under Article 195, and two under both. At least 11 of the convictions pursued under Article 195 involved sex trafficking, but the government did not report whether any convictions involved labor trafficking as it did not disaggregate data between sex and labor trafficking under Article 182. Historically, prosecutions and convictions for labor trafficking were low, while NGOs continued to assert many labor trafficking cases were instead pursued as administrative labor code violations, resulting in lesser consequences and decreased deterrence. Of the 15 convictions in 2019; courts fully suspended the prison sentences of nine traffickers (60 percent) and only issued fines to two of these traffickers of 800 and 1,000 Swiss francs ($908 and $1,140). Courts sentenced five traffickers (33.3 percent) to significant prison terms and partially suspended a prison sentence to one trafficker, which was more than one year (6.6 percent), for a total of 40 percent of traffickers serving significant prison time of one year or longer. Two of the traffickers were also issued fines of 500 Swiss francs ($570). This compared with 21 traffickers convicted in 2018, of whom, 33 percent served one year or longer in prison. While 2019 sentencing remained insufficient, compared to 2018, it increased. The government’s lenient sentencing practices weakened deterrence, potentially undercut efforts of police and prosecutors, and created security and safety concerns, particularly for victims who cooperated with investigations and prosecutions. While the length of some sentences increased, over the past five years, approximately 64 percent of all trafficking convictions resulted in fines, fully suspended sentences, or prison sentences of less than one year, which did not serve to deter the crime or adequately reflect the nature of the offense. NGOs observed that lenient sentencing of convicted traffickers also resulted in infrequent restitution for victims. As a comparison, in 2019 of the 72 convicted rapists, 62 (86 percent) were sentenced to significant prison sentences of one year or longer in prison. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. Authorities continued to report the prevalence of “lover boy” traffickers, which was a method of trafficking that involved young male traffickers who coerce girls and women into sex trafficking, often through a sham romantic relationship. This method of trafficking affects both Swiss nationals and foreign nationals and NGOs noted that “lover boy” traffickers continued to operate with impunity – though 42 instances of this type of trafficking was reported in 2020, zero prosecutions had been initiated against such traffickers to date. Nigerian sex trafficking victims remained numerous during the reporting period, although there were few corresponding prosecutions involving Nigerian 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. At least six of 26 cantons had their own specialized anti-trafficking police units, but NGOs raised concerns that these units lacked sufficient funding and personnel, given the government’s competing priorities for other crimes. The government had specialized prosecutors, with trauma-informed training, who usually handled human trafficking cases. 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. NGOs also reported that insufficient coordination between cantons hindered law enforcement efforts against organized human trafficking networks, with frequent duplication of efforts. In 2020, the government reported most law enforcement trainings were delayed until 2021 due to pandemic-related restrictions – compared with the approximately 230 officials trained in 2019. The government continued to facilitate international investigations and criminal trials, including with Nigeria, Romania, and Spain, which resulted in the arrest of 23 suspects and the identification of 25 victims. Law enforcement assisted in 24 new international trafficking cases during the reporting period, two of which related to extradition, 18 to mutual legal assistance, and two to delegation of prosecution; an increase compared to 21 cases in the prior reporting period. In 2020, through two joint action days between law enforcement, labor inspectors, and EUROPOL, the government reported conducting at least 151 labor inspections that resulted in the identification of at least three potential victims; a decrease compared with the identification of five victims, 46 potential victims, and 10 suspects in 2019. However, the government reported that several joint action days were postponed due to the pandemic. Switzerland continued to maintain 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.

The government decreased victim protection efforts. While civil society asserted that the pandemic caused a shift in government priorities and resources away from human trafficking, civil society also noted that low prioritization of victim identification occurred prior to the pandemic. For the third consecutive year, authorities reported identifying fewer total victims, the fewest since 2015. In 2020, cantonal authorities reported identifying 117 victims (150 in 2019 and 170 in 2018). Under article 182, authorities identified 53 human trafficking victims but did not sufficiently disaggregate data between sex and labor trafficking; a decrease compared with 83 human trafficking victims identified in 2019. Under article 195, authorities reported identifying 64 victims; however, this was a broader statistic that included victims of sex trafficking but may have also included victims of sexual exploitation; this compared with 67 victims in 2019 and 106 in 2018. The government did not report identifying labor trafficking victims, as it did not adequately disaggregate data. Of the trafficking victims identified by the government in 2020, eight were children, 15 were Swiss, 11 were male, and 106 were female. The federal government continued to lack national standard victim identification and referral procedures across cantons; however, it continued to distribute and update a previously updated victim identification checklist. NGOs expressed concerns that officials prioritized the identification of sex trafficking victims over labor trafficking, although the majority of the victims NGOs separately identified and assisted were labor trafficking victims. The Zurich police reported training an unknown number of NGOs on the identification of sex trafficking victims. Victim care varied across the cantons, and civil society continued to criticize the absence of a national victim protection program to ensure uniformity in victim assistance across the country. Cantonal authorities maintained jurisdiction on providing protection for victims, and trafficking victims were entitled to utilizing free and immediate assistance centers that varied from canton to canton. Eighteen of 26 cantons had roundtables, which functioned as victim referral mechanisms; roundtables included police, prosecutors, and NGOs. NGOs highlighted that eight cantons remained without roundtables for victim identification and referral. FSMM reported holding 15 cantonal roundtables to improve cantonal interaction and coordination on anti-trafficking measures in 2020. 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. At least 13 cantons maintained referral agreements with NGO-operated victim assistance facilities that specialized in trafficking.

The Swiss Victim Assistance Law entitled all adult trafficking victims access to 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. With the noted variances, most 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 2020, the government granted 506,960 Swiss francs ($575,440) to seven NGOs for victim assistance, as well as 63,240 Swiss francs ($71,780) to two NGOs for prevention and public awareness projects for 2021; an increase compared with 453,290 Swiss francs ($514,520) granted in 2019 for 2020.

Government-funded NGOs provided assistance to 184 trafficking victims in 2020, an increase compared with 169 trafficking victims assisted in 2019. Additionally, the government provided government-funded trafficking-specific counseling for 85 potential sex trafficking victims in 2019, compared with 306 victims in 2018. Many NGOs reported assisting fewer victims in 2020, which could have been due to pandemic-related restrictions, resulting in victim isolation and limited access to victims by NGOs and authorities; NGOs also reported difficulty in obtaining the necessary government documents to help victims due to the closure of government offices. A variety of sources referred victims to NGO services, including other NGOs, government-operated counseling centers, government offices, foreign consulates, police and judicial authorities, health care 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 counseling and victim referral resources. The government provided male victims temporary shelter in hotels or government-funded NGO-operated shelters in at least five cantons. The government had a witness protection program that trafficking victims could utilize, but the government did not report providing this protection to any victims during the reporting period.

The government also facilitated additional assistance to foreign victims of trafficking, which included financial support and residence permits; however, authorities granted few long-term residence permits and instead provided victims with repatriation assistance to help them return home. In 2020, the government provided repatriation assistance to 17 victims, compared with 27 in 2019, and provided 67,000 Swiss francs ($76,050) to an international organization for repatriation assistance in 2020. 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. Foreign victims who were willing to cooperate with law enforcement could be granted a six-month residence permit, renewable for the duration of the investigation and criminal proceedings, after which, victims were required to depart the country. NGOs stated that victims who gave unclear statements to law enforcement due to trauma suffered were often denied residence permits.

The government could also grant short-term residence permits based on hardship that victims might face upon return to their country of origin, but the application of this benefit varied by canton. In 2020, the government granted 37 individuals reflection periods, 62 short-term residence permits, and 15 hardship-based residence permits (compared with 52 reflection periods, 71 short-term residence permits, and 14 hardship-based residence permits in 2019). In 2020, the government did not report the number of trafficking victims that were granted refugee status or temporary admission; compared with three granted refugee status and 13 granted temporary admission in 2019. Authorities continued to note the growing number of trafficking victims among asylum-seekers during the reporting period. The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) did not report the exact number of victims undergoing the asylum process in 2020, compared with 73 in 2019. The government reported that the majority of trafficking victims were identified during the asylum procedure; NGOs stated that implementation of the 2019 asylum law which ensured early access to legal aid increased successful victim identification. However, civil society criticized the government for not systematically referring foreign 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 did not offer financial support for victim assistance, according to an 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 and psychological counseling in asylum centers were inappropriate and insufficient for assisting victims. Victim services were only available to victims who experienced 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 and instead continued to host them in asylum centers. GRETA also noted the lack of adequate accommodation and supervision for unaccompanied children, and lack of a systematic approach; GRETA urged the government to address these issues in its 2019 report. In response to the pandemic and to prevent delays in application processing, the government reduced the number of people participating in asylum application interviews, enhanced sanitation and reconfigured interview rooms to reduce exposure and transmission, extended deportation deadlines, and added up to 600 new housing units to respect social distancing guidelines.

To encourage victims’ cooperation with law enforcement, the law allowed victims to keep their identities confidential if they were in danger and to testify in a separate room from the defendant. The government prohibited cross-examinations for child trafficking victims, testimonies were videotaped, and authorities were limited to two interviews to minimize re-traumatization. Trafficking victims could receive restitution from their trafficker through criminal proceedings; however, unlike prior years, the government did not report awarding restitution to any victims in 2019, compared with 25 victims in 2018 and 31 victims in 2017. NGOs observed lenient sentencing of convicted traffickers also resulted in infrequent restitution for victims. GRETA and civil society noted restitution amounts were insufficient, especially compared with 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 report awarding compensation to any victims 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. Although the government continued to screen for trafficking victims, NGOs asserted that penalization of victims was common, with victims frequently charged with violating immigration laws, labor laws, local prostitution regulations, or violating pandemic-related restrictions as compelled by their traffickers. In its 2019 report, 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.

The government maintained prevention efforts. Under FedPol, FSMM coordinated national efforts, including anti-trafficking policies, information exchange, cooperation, and training. In 2020, due to pandemic-related restrictions, FSMM cancelled its national meeting of the heads of the cantonal anti-trafficking roundtables, which focused on improving cantonal interaction and coordination on anti-trafficking measures; however, the government reported holding roundtables in 15 cantons. 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. NGOs asserted that the government provided insufficient personnel and funding to FSMM, which hindered their ability to coordinate national anti-trafficking efforts for all 26 cantons. The government remained without an official independent national anti-trafficking rapporteur. The government did not adopt a new national action plan after the expiration of its 2017-2020 plan and did not draft a new plan during the reporting period. After prior civil society reports of inaction, the government reported completing several action items under its now expired plan, including the appointment of trafficking victim identification specialists in the police and public prosecutor’s offices, improvement of the identification process within the asylum system, and the funding of an awareness campaign on male trafficking victims through several podcasts. The government continued to fund an NGO to operate the national anti-trafficking hotline; the government reported receiving 63 calls to the hotline in 2020, 42 of which were likely cases of human trafficking, involving 70 presumed victims. The government, in partnership with an NGO, included the hotline’s contact information in a flyer for labor inspectors and in various federal publications. The government continued a prior awareness campaign targeting victim identification and assistance by health care providers, but due to pandemic-related restrictions, the government only held one training in 2020. Government authorities asserted that labor inspectors continued to lack the mandate to initiate trafficking investigations or identify trafficking victims, however, if inspectors did identify any victims, they were required to refer potential trafficking cases to police. Joint inspections between labor inspectors and police were rare and only occurred a few times a year. However, while labor inspectors continued to lack a trafficking mandate, in recognition of the critical role labor inspectors had in identifying trafficking victims, in July 2020, the labor directorate published and distributed a flyer for labor inspectors on the identification of victims of labor exploitation and trafficking, and in August 2020, the government launched a trafficking awareness campaign for labor inspectors. The government had effective regulations for labor recruitment companies during the reporting period, but enforcement of the regulations remained a concern. Swiss labor recruitment agencies required a license and were liable if foreign recruitment agencies did not uphold Swiss recruitment regulations. However, Swiss employers could charge a registration or placement fee to workers, which could increase their vulnerability to debt bondage. 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. In October 2020, four government-funded NGOs established a national network to combat human trafficking, which enabled NGOs specializing in human trafficking to create a forum for national dialogue, but no further results were reported.

The government continued to provide funding to foreign countries for anti-trafficking efforts, including computer equipment to Serbia for the national anti-trafficking coordinator; funding for a regional anti-trafficking project in Russia and Central Asia; a responsible recruitment program in Sri Lanka; and, in partnership with an international organization, an anti-trafficking national action plan and traveling exhibition under the bilateral migration partnership with Nigeria. Programs to fund anti-trafficking assistance to Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo also continued during the reporting period, as did contributions to the FAIRWAY program, the Better Work program, the Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises program, and the International Recruitment Integrity System program, which focused on workers’ rights, forced labor in global supply chains, and ethical labor recruitment. The government reported training an unknown number of its consular officials on victim identification abroad. 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 and law enforcement collaboration on child sex tourism, the government did not demonstrate overall efforts to reduce the demand for international sex tourism by Swiss nationals.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Switzerland. The pandemic exacerbated vulnerabilities for trafficking victims, and sex traffickers are increasingly using online platforms to recruit, exploit victims, and book apartment rentals to make their illicit operations difficult to track. Victims’ debt to their traffickers, and subsequently the traffickers’ control over the victims, increased during the pandemic because victims were sometimes unable to work and earn money. Victims’ access to services was limited due to pandemic-related restrictions in 2020, which increased isolation and vulnerabilities to trafficking. 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 Nigeria and Thailand. Traffickers are increasingly mobile and adaptable, switching industries and locations frequently. Sex traffickers exploit both foreign and domestic women, transgender individuals, and children. Traffickers, often involved with criminal networks, increasingly exploit female and transgender victims from Thailand. Swiss nationals continue to engage in child sex tourism abroad. 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 Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania), with increasing numbers from Asia and Africa (especially from China, Nigeria, and Thailand) but also from Latin America (Brazil and Dominican Republic). Traffickers often force female victims among asylum-seekers from Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Nigeria into commercial sex and domestic servitude. More than one-third of female trafficking victims are asylum-seekers who sought protection after arriving in Switzerland. Labor traffickers exploit men, women, and children in domestic service, health care, agriculture, hospitality, catering, postal courier services, construction, tourism, and in forced criminal activity. Male victims among asylum-seekers come primarily from Afghanistan and Eritrea and are exploited in forced labor. Forced begging, especially among the Roma communities, has increased in recent years.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future