Cases of human trafficking in Switzerland increase by 50 percent, report finds
A new report by SRF has revealed that cases of human trafficking in Switzerland have increased by 50 percent since 2019. Victim protection organisations have cited the difficulty in securing residence permits in Switzerland and increases in poverty abroad as the main reasons behind the significant rise.
Cases of human trafficking rise significantly in Switzerland
According to a group of victim protection organisations, there were 207 new victims of human trafficking in Switzerland last year. Today, around 500 victims are being cared for in the alpine nation - a 50 percent increase compared with 2019. Human trafficking refers to the unlawful act of transporting or coercing people to benefit from their service or work, typically in the form of forced labour or sexual exploitation.
According to the umbrella organisation Traite, human trafficking victims in Switzerland hail from 55 different counties around the world, the majority of which are in Africa. Two-thirds are sexually exploited, while others are used to commit crimes, or work in the catering or construction industries.
Speaking to SRF, Federal Police of Switzerland spokesperson Patrik Jean said that “human trafficking is definitely an issue in Switzerland… Switzerland is a transit country, it is also a destination country. When it comes to trafficking in human beings, we are talking about international terrorist organisations, some of which specifically recruit victims abroad, who are then brought to Switzerland for labour exploitation.”
Poverty abroad and shortage of legal migration routes blamed for the rise
Doro Winkler, from the organisation for the Advocacy and Support for Migrant Women and Victims of Trafficking (FIZ), told the national broadcaster that a sharp increase in poverty abroad is one of the key reasons for the rise in cases. "In recent years, more and more people who are in an economically vulnerable situation have been taken advantage of, and this situation has worsened during the pandemic," she noted.
Winkler explained that victims often have limited options for arriving in the country legally through visas and residence permits. Third-country nationals need to have a work contract in order to apply for residence, meaning many trafficking victims “get a job offer in Switzerland, come here and then find themselves in a situation that is completely different from what was promised. They may not have a residence permit, which means that they are under pressure again and do not know their rights and have no social environment that could help them," she concluded.