Update: 16.01.2013

Fighting human trafficking with a national action plan

«What does Switzerland do against human trafficking?» – This question stood at the centre of a conference with about 250 participants, which took place on 18 October 2012 in Bern. Under the auspices of the Human Security Division (AMS) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), representatives of the federal and cantonal administration, as well as civil society discussed relevant measures. Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, Head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) used this opportunity to introduce the first «National Action Plan to Fight Human Trafficking». The plan demonstrates the need for action in Switzerland and it envisages 23 measures in the areas of awareness-raising, criminal prosecution, protection of victims and prevention.

All cantons are affected

«Every society has got a blind spot. Human trafficking is one of our society’s blind spot», declared Sommaruga in her speech on the «National Action Plan against Human Trafficking». Human trafficking happens in the shadows: «We don’t see it, we hardly notice it. But human trafficking does exist – and it exists here in our affluent constitutional state.» The victims are not only exploited sexually, says Sommaruga, but also as labourers in homes, agricultural businesses and restaurants. Sommaruga points out that human trafficking is not a regional phenomenon in Switzerland: «There is not a single canton which is not affected.»

A profitable business

Trafficking human beings is one of the most lucrative businesses worldwide, besides trade in arms and drugs. Quite often the networks of perpetrators are active in all three fields. According to latest estimates of the International Labour Organization (ILO), there are 21 million people worldwide who are victims of forced labour, human trafficking or other practices that resemble slavery. Of this total number, around 5.5 million victims are below the age of 18 and roughly 4.5 million are sexually exploited, mostly women and children.

Action plan with four pillars

The national action plan envisages 23 measures in the areas of awareness raising, criminal prosecution, protection of victims and prevention. An essential part are also national information and awareness raising campaigns. The federal administration participates in these campaigns. The Confederation intends to support organisations, which specialise in caring for victims of human trafficking. Furthermore, the national action plan draws up the broad lines of action to be taken regarding criminal prosecution. All cantons should provide designated prosecutors and set up special units dealing permanently with cases of human trafficking. Other measures are aimed at improving partnership programmes. In the field of human trafficking it is therefore crucial to operate across different areas. Sommaruga made a reference to a trans-national working group with Romania that was successfully set up in 2012 involving government and non-governmental actors.

Most importantly, special emphasis should be put on the protection of victims: A national programme for the protection of victims aims to harmonise the different cantonal practices. Furthermore, the Witness Protection Act will come into force in January 2013. This programme creates the legal foundations and structures for the protection of witnesses in federal and cantonal criminal proceedings. A witness protection unit will be set up to ensure that witnesses can be protected during the time they do not testify in court and after the proceedings have come to an end.


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