Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2016, 12:25 GMT

Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 - Switzerland

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 14 June 2010
Cite as United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 - Switzerland, 14 June 2010, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Switzerland is primarily a destination and, to a lesser extent, a transit country for women subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically conditions of forced prostitution and children forced into begging and theft. The majority of identified victims of commercial sexual exploitation were forced into nude dancing and prostitution and originated from Eastern Europe, but victims have also originated from Latin America, Asia, and Africa. In 2009, officials and NGOs reported an increase in the number of women in prostitution and children forced into begging from other parts of Europe, especially Hungary, many of whom were ethnic Roma. During the reporting period, some officials raised concerns that Switzerland risks becoming a destination for child sex tourism because Swiss law does not prohibit prostitution by minors aged 16 and 17 under all circumstances. While the majority of trafficking victims are found in Swiss urban areas, police and NGOs have encountered victims in bars in rural areas in recent years. There is reportedly forced labor in the domestic service sector, particularly in foreign diplomatic households. Swiss federal police assessed that the total number of potential trafficking victims residing in Switzerland is between 1,500 and 3,000. NGOs expressed concern about reports of hundreds of unaccompanied foreign minors entering the country annually, claiming many have disappeared from state care after arrival. Officials countered that there are only a few isolated cases of missing unaccompanied minors each year.

The Government of Switzerland does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Swiss authorities modestly increased the percentage of convicted trafficking offenders required to serve prison sentences, but many jail sentences were suspended and the number of persons convicted of trafficking crimes decreased. Moreover, as highlighted in public discussions in Switzerland during the year, Swiss law does not prohibit prostitution by children aged 16 and 17 under all circumstances throughout the country, leaving these children potentially vulnerable to trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.

Recommendations for Switzerland: Ensure the prohibition of the commercial sexual exploitation of all persons under 18 years old nationwide; increase the number of convicted traffickers serving time in prison; establish formal procedures to guide officials nationwide in proactively identifying victims among vulnerable groups, such as children in prostitution, child beggars, or undocumented migrant workers, and for referring potential victims to service providers; provide adequate funding for trafficking victim service providers and ensure there are trafficking-specific services for children and male victims; consider a nationwide awareness campaign that addresses labor and sex trafficking and targets potential victims, the general public, as well as potential clients of the sex trade and beneficiaries of forced labor.


Switzerland prohibits trafficking for most forms of sexual and labor exploitation under Article 182 and Article 195 of the Swiss penal code. Prescribed penalties – up to 20 years' imprisonment – are commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes. However, Swiss law does not expressly prohibit prostitution by minors aged 16 and 17 under all circumstances throughout the country, leaving these children potentially vulnerable to trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation (such as cases in which a third party rents a room to a minor for use in prostitution). While Swiss civil law and social services guidelines provide opportunities for dissuasion and redress with regard to the problem of sexual exploitation of children, existing arrangements do not appear to address fully this systemic vulnerability. Nevertheless, the Swiss government has been evaluating, with the input of cantons, a federal ban on prostitution for persons under 18, and in December, the canton of Geneva adopted a new law prohibiting prostitution for persons under 18. The government made some progress in punishing sex trafficking offenders during the year. Federal police reported at least 119 human trafficking investigations, including one labor trafficking investigation, in 2009. According to the Federal Criminal Police, during 2008, the last year for which comprehensive prosecution and conviction statistics were available, there were at least 16 prosecutions and convictions of sex trafficking offenders, a decrease from the 25 offenders convicted in 2007. There were no reports of prosecutions or convictions of labor trafficking offenders. Only 25 percent of those convicted in 2008 were required to serve prison sentences, though this was an improvement from the16 percent of trafficking offenders receiving prison sentences in 2007. The average sentence imposed on convicted offenders who were required to serve time in prison was slightly more than three years. In February 2010, the Swiss Supreme Court ruled that an unsuspended prison sentence of 3.5 years for a trafficking offender in a specific case was not a sufficiently stringent penalty. Police reported sustained partnerships with other governments through which they made human trafficking inquiries in 425 instances during 2009. The government provided training in identifying human trafficking to federal police investigators.


The government sustained protection efforts during the reporting period. Half of Switzerland's cantons have formal procedures for the identification of victims and their referral to protective services. Trafficking victims, including child and male victims, had access to free and immediate medical, psychological, and legal assistance, temporary living allowance, and protection in coordination with cantonal government and NGO victim assistance centers. Cantonal assistance centers identified 92 victims in 2009; the main anti-trafficking NGO, which received some government funding, reported assisting 172 sex trafficking victims and 12 labor trafficking victims, compared with 160 total victims in 2008. The NGO provided assistance for one victim under 18. NGOs have suggested that centrally-determined standards for how individual cantons are to provide assistance to victims would be useful. Police encouraged victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers. There were no reports of victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Cantonal immigration offices granted 30-day stays of deportation to 32 trafficking victims in 2009 and issued 53 short-term residency permits to victims for the duration of legal proceedings against their traffickers. The Federal Office for Migration issued formal instructions in December 2009 stating that temporary residence permits could be granted independently of victims' willingness to testify. Authorities granted three victims with long-term residency permits on grounds of personal hardship after the end of court proceedings. Since the government started a pilot program in April 2008 to assist victims with safe and voluntary repatriation to their home countries, 20 victims (including one male victim) have received repatriation assistance. The Swiss police in 2009 held specialized five-day anti-trafficking workshops for migration and law enforcement officials, including border guards.


The government made limited progress in the prevention of trafficking during the reporting period. Switzerland did not have a nationwide anti-trafficking public awareness campaign. The government did provide funding to a hotline for Russian speakers to report trafficking crimes during the reporting period. The government did not make any discernible efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. The government, in partnership with IOM, held a conference with experts from Austria and Romania to identify ways to most effectively address the problem of child begging and child trafficking in March 2010. There is an interdepartmental body to coordinate and monitor anti-trafficking efforts chaired by the federal police at the directorate level. In an effort to prevent sex trafficking, Swiss consular officials posted overseas brief each foreign recipient of "artistic visas" to work in Swiss night clubs on their rights and contact information for assistance. Swiss authorities forged an anti-trafficking partnership with Hungarian officials during a visit to Hungary in March 2010. The government provided $4.9 million in funding for anti-trafficking assistance programs in Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. A federal police-established website to enable travel agencies and others to report suspected child sex tourism cases outside of Switzerland received 12 leads from September 2008-September 2009. Switzerland's penal code provides extraterritorial jurisdiction for Switzerland's child sexual abuse laws where the offender is a Swiss national. The government provided assistance to authorities in Thailand in the investigation of a case of a Swiss national suspected of involvement in child sex tourism. The government provided specific anti-trafficking training for all Swiss military personnel prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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