Federal Department of Foreign Affairs

Trafficking in human beings

Trafficking in human beings is a modern form of slavery in which people are recruited, procured or made available for the purposes of sexual exploitation in prostitution, the production of pornographic material, various forms of forced labour or for the removal of body organs. Worldwide, between approximately 600,000 to 2.4 million people fall victim to trafficking every year, mostly women and children. Precise estimates are difficult to make because human trafficking typically takes place in clandestine situations and for this reason it is impossible to have official statistics on all cases. Switzerland is primarily a destination country and to a limited degree a transit country for human trafficking. The victims mostly originate from Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, the Baltic States, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Cameroon and Thailand.

In contrast to human smuggling, in which an individual voluntarily pays to be transported from one state to another, human traffickers work on the basis of false promises (of work, marriage, etc.) and threats of violence to coerce their victims, within or outside the same country, into a situation of exploitation. Together with drugs and arms trading, human trafficking is one of the most lucrative areas of organised criminal activity.

To date, the most frequently reported form of human trafficking in Switzerland is the trade in women and children for the purpose of sexual exploitation. According to fedpol statistics, human trafficking for the purpose of forced labour and removal of body organs is quite rare. Since 2009, however, there has been an increase in forced begging and forced theft by minors of foreign origin, especially from Eastern Europe.

Swiss commitment

Switzerland condemns trafficking in human beings as a serious violation of human rights. The FDFA has set itself the objective at the international level of making a significant, visible and verifiable contribution to the prevention of human trafficking and the protection of victims. For this reason, the FDFA (Human Security Division 
HSD and SDC) supports programmes in known origin and transit countries of victims of trafficking in Switzerland. In addition, the FDFA is involved in policy work and is active in the relevant multilateral forums, e.g. the UN and the OSCE, on further developing standards for improving the protection of victims of human trafficking.

The theme of human trafficking has been systematically addressed at federal level since the establishment of the national Coordination Unit against the Trafficking of Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (KSMM) in 2003, which is part of fedpol. As a member of the KSMM steering body, the FDFA assumes the role of competence centre on the question of trafficking in human beings in relation to Swiss foreign policy, and it provides international contacts and expertise to the relevant Swiss actors.

In addition, the FDFA is active in building up the network between the Swiss authorities and actors in the main countries of origin of the victims of human trafficking in Switzerland. In close cooperation with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and in consultation with the KSMM, Human Security Division
HSD regularly organises round-table discussions on a current topic of domestic policy. This contributes to strengthening international cooperation and the exchange of experiences.