Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 16:17 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Switzerland

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Switzerland, 27 June 2011, available at: [accessed 19 January 2018]
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 (Tier 2)

Switzerland is primarily a destination and, to a lesser extent, a transit country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and children forced into begging and theft. The majority of identified trafficking victims were forced into nude dancing and prostitution and originated from Eastern Europe, including Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. Victims from Latin America, Asia, and Africa are also exploited in Switzerland. In 2010, 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, Romania, and Bulgaria, many of whom were ethnic Roma. During the reporting period, officials took steps to address concerns that Swiss law does not prohibit prostitution by children aged 16 and 17 under all circumstances. While the majority of trafficking victims are found in Swiss urban areas, police and NGOs have encountered small numbers of victims in bars in rural areas in recent years. There reportedly is forced labor in the domestic service sector, particularly in foreign diplomatic households. Swiss federal police assessed the total number of potential trafficking victims residing in Switzerland as between 1,500 and 3,000.

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. The Swiss government took important steps this year to prohibit the prostitution of children aged 16 and 17, including a formal commitment at the federal level to pass a law against the practice. Although the process of enacting this legislation is underway, it remains legal in several cantons to benefit financially from the prostitution of children between 16 and 18 years of age. During the reporting period, Swiss authorities nearly doubled the number of convicted trafficking offenders. However, the percent of convicted trafficking offenders who were sentenced to prison terms was low; 83 percent of convicted offenders were not sentenced to time in prison.

Recommendations for Switzerland: Ensure the prohibition of the prostitution of all persons under 18 years old nationwide; explore ways to increase the number of convicted traffickers who receive sentences commensurate with the gravity of this serious crime; increase the number of convicted traffickers serving time in prison; provide adequate funding for trafficking victim service providers and ensure there are trafficking-specific services for children and male victims; conduct 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 consumers of products made and services provided through forced labor.


The Government of Switzerland improved its law enforcement efforts this reporting period, taking significant steps to correct a critical gap in its legal prohibition of trafficking in persons. 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 children aged 16 and 17 under all circumstances throughout the country, leaving these children vulnerable to sex trafficking, such as cases in which a third party profits from a child in prostitution. The Swiss federal government and several cantons took significant steps to outlaw the practice this year. After signing the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse in June 2010, the Swiss government committed to amending its criminal code in order to prohibit child prostitution. The law is currently under review by cantonal authorities. During the reporting period, the Canton of Geneva implemented a law criminalizing child prostitution; the Canton of St. Gallen passed a similar law prohibiting the practice. 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.

The Federal Office of Statistics reported that police forces conducted 159 investigations into human trafficking and forced prostitution in 2010, up from 154 investigations in 2009. According to the Federal Office of Statistics, during 2010, 56 offenders were prosecuted for sex and labor trafficking and 103 for forced prostitution, compared to 53 prosecutions for sex and labor trafficking and 90 for forced prostitution in 2009. Swiss authorities confirmed that there were at least two prosecutions for labor trafficking in 2010. Swiss authorities convicted 31 sex trafficking offenders in 2009, the last year for which comprehensive conviction statistics were available, an increase from the 16 offenders convicted in 2008. The majority of convicted offenders, however, were not sentenced to time in prison: of the 31 convicted trafficking offenders, 26 offenders received suspended sentences, while nine were sentenced to time in prison. The maximum prison sentence awarded in 2010 was 10 years.

In May and June 2010, the Swiss Police Institute conducted a five-day training on identifying trafficking victims for members of the cantonal and municipal police forces, the Federal Criminal Police, border guards, and migration officers. The government incorporated anti-trafficking training into the basic course for border guards. During the reporting period, Swiss authorities cooperated with several countries, including Romania, Germany, Hungary, and Austria, in 645 investigative inquiries, up from 425 instances during 2009. The government did not report the investigation, prosecution, conviction, or sentencing of any public officials for human trafficking complicity.


The Government of Switzerland improved its victim protection efforts during the reporting period. Several of Switzerland's cantons have formal procedures for the identification of victims and their referral to protective services. During 2010, Swiss government authorities referred approximately 53 percent of the trafficking victims identified by NGOs to assistance centers. Cantonal assistance centers identified at least 90 victims in 2010, compared with 93 victims in 2009. The country's lead anti-trafficking NGO, which received some government funding, reported assisting 179 sex trafficking victims, 69 of whom were newly identified victims, and seven labor trafficking victims, compared with 172 sex trafficking victims and 12 labor trafficking victims in 2009. The NGO provided assistance for at least one victim under 18. Victims identified during the reporting period were offered shelter, a living allowance, medical assistance, psychotherapy, protection, translation, and legal assistance in coordination with cantonal government and NGO victim assistance centers, per the provisions of Switzerland's Victim Assistance Law. Several cantons enhanced their victim assistance programs this year. During the reporting period, the government designated an NGO to provide specialized counseling to trafficking victims in French-speaking areas of Switzerland.

The government encouraged victims of trafficking to participate in prosecutions; at least 20 victims of trafficking cooperated in the prosecution of traffickers in 2010. During the reporting period, the government adopted new measures to protect victims' identities during trial, including allowing closed procedures and obscuring victims' identities in cases of threats to safety. The Swiss government facilitated the voluntary return of nine trafficking victims to their countries of origin under a victim assistance and repatriation project that was formalized this year. Cantonal immigration offices granted 30-day stays of deportation to 34 trafficking victims in 2010 and issued 51 short-term residency permits to victims for the duration of legal proceedings against their traffickers. The government also provided long-term legal alternatives to removal to victims of trafficking facing hardship or retribution in their countries of origin. In 2010, Swiss authorities granted four trafficking victims long-term residency permits on personal hardship grounds, up from three victims in 2009. In September and October 2010, the trafficking specialist unit of the Federal Criminal Police organized a pilot training course for operators of victim assistance centers. Although there were no reports of victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, some victims not identified may have been treated as immigration violators.


The government made limited progress in the prevention of trafficking during the reporting period. It did not carry out any nationwide anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns, though Swiss authorities funded an anti-trafficking NGO to participate in discussions of anti-trafficking best practices during the year. Swiss authorities developed an online teaching model translated in Switzerland's official languages for all teachers at the secondary and vocational level to educate students on the problem of human trafficking. In an effort to prevent sex trafficking, four cantons stopped issuing artistic visas to cabaret dancers. The government continued to operate an interdepartmental body to coordinate and monitor anti-trafficking efforts chaired by the federal police at the directorate level, and sustained significant financial support of anti-trafficking programs in countries such as Georgia, Armenia, Russia, Moldova, and Lebanon. In November, the government launched a public awareness campaign to protect children from sexual exploitation in tourism, including video clips, an Internet campaign, and flyers. The government continued to host an Internet forum to facilitate reporting of suspected incidents of child sex tourism. The government cooperated with the prosecutions of four Swiss child sex tourists in Thailand, Cambodia, and Italy. The government did not otherwise make any discernible efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. 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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