U.S. Department of State 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report - Switzerland

Switzerland (Tier 1)

Switzerland is primarily a country of destination, and secondarily transit, for mostly women trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. Federal police estimate that between 1,500 and 3,000 persons are trafficked into Switzerland each year. Authorities believe that trafficking victims originate from Thailand and parts of Africa and South America, with an increasing number of women from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Authorities suspect that traffickers bring some victims, many from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, to Switzerland on temporary and "artistic" visas.

The government of Switzerland fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. While the legal framework against trafficking continues to be strengthened, the government's practice of summarily deporting foreign women who potentially fit the victim profile, without conducting a screening, is of concern as victim protection is a vital criterion for the fulfillment of the minimum standards.


The Government has an office to combat trafficking of young women for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. The Government financially supports the Women's Information Center, which implements awareness-raising projects on human trafficking in source countries. The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs' Development Cooperation Office provided funding to several anti-trafficking information and education campaigns in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and to projects under the auspices of IOM, the OSCE and the Stability Pact. Switzerland's borders are adequately monitored with stringent immigration regulations, and the government cooperated with a Swiss NGO to train Swiss consular officials to educate visa applicants in their home countries on the risks of falling victim to trafficking. The government takes an active stance against trafficking in persons in a number of international fora including various UN agencies, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, and the European Union.


The Swiss penal code has two articles specifically prohibiting trafficking in persons, both of which focus on sexual exploitation and prostitution, but not labor trafficking. Other forms of human trafficking or exploitation are covered by criminal provisions against threat, coercion, deprivation of personal liberty, rape and kidnapping; the immigration law prohibits the facilitation of illegal migration and employment of foreigners into Switzerland, and the Constitution prohibits forced compulsory labor. The Swiss Federal court further defined trafficking when it upheld the decision to sentence a Thai trafficker, finding that hiring foreign women for prostitution in Switzerland by taking advantage of their difficult economic situation removes their "consent" and generally constitutes human trafficking. The Federal Department of Police's Central Coordination Office for Human Trade and Human Smuggling began operations at the beginning of 2003. The government was active in international cooperation and investigations including: working jointly with U.S. agents to dismantle an Asian crime ring trafficking Chinese women into prostitution in the US and signing a legal assistance treaty in criminal matters with the Philippines. Two separate units within the Federal Criminal Police handle trafficking issues, and have increased the number of agents assigned to trafficking-related cases, especially Internet crimes. One notable area of weakness is the low conviction rate. Of an estimated 3,000 cases of human trafficking every year from Eastern Europe, some 1% is reported to the police, leading to fewer than five convictions per year.

Advocates believe that Switzerland's restrictive immigration policy undermines the effectiveness of the Penal Code and the Victim's Assistance Law. In December 2002, the Parliament amended the Penal Code to allow jurisdiction in Swiss courts over perpetrators of crimes such as trafficking regardless of the location of the crime.


Under the Swiss Victim's Assistance Law, individuals identified as trafficking victims may seek help from centers providing counseling, material and legal aid to abuse victims. This law also safeguards victims' rights in criminal prosecutions with special rules for trial procedures and for compensation and redress. Federal and cantonal governments provide funding to NGOs and women's shelters that provide services to victims, and cantonal authorities may grant temporary residency permits on a case-by-case basis to victims willing to assist in investigations and testify in court. In cases of serious hardship, a federal ordinance allows cantonal police authorities to grant a residency permit to victims of sexual exploitation or forced labor, and while practice in this area was reportedly spotty, such permits were provided in several dozens of cases. Despite the range of protections, some victims are summarily deported to their country of origin. The government contributes to victim assistance internationally, and funded an international organization program providing reintegration services for victims from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.


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