Just the tip of the iceberg? Switzerland-wide numbers on victims of human trafficking

The specialized counseling centers of the Swiss Platform against Human Trafficking have developed statistics for the first time. These are the most comprehensive data that exist in Switzerland on persons who have been identified as victims of human trafficking and have received support.

In 2020, the four specialized counseling centers identified 174 new victims of human trafficking. In total, more than 500 people received counseling and specialized accompaniment.

The majority of victims are women (86%). About two thirds of the persons were exploited in prostitution. Victims of human trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation or for the purpose of criminal activity make up the other third. They were among others exploited in private households, in the gastronomy sector, in nail studios, in the construction industry, in begging or they were forced to perform illegal acts such as theft.

The most frequent countries of origin of the newly identified victims were Romania, Nigeria, Cameroon and Hungary. 40% of the victims came from Europe itself, 40% from African countries and about 10% each from Asian and Latin American countries.

The key figures (number, origin) on victims can be very different from canton to canton.

«These figures are only the tip of the iceberg and the number of unreported cases is much higher. Also, many of the identified victims unfortunately do not receive the support and victim protection they would be entitled to. We are committed to ensuring that the rights of trafficking victims are respected.»

Anne Ansermet, director of ASTRÉE

«One third of the people we counsel have been exploited abroad. According to Swiss law on victim assistance, these people are not entitled to any help. This goes against the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, which Switzerland has signed.»

Doro Winkler, head of expertise and advocacy at the FIZ Advocacy and Support for Migrant Women and Victims of Trafficking

«It happens regularly, that victims go into hiding if they are not cared for in a specialized shelter. Unfortunately, not all cantons fund such specialized accommodation.»

Monica Marcionetti, responsible for Antenna MayDay SOS Ticino

«In particular, victims of human trafficking for labor exploitation are often not identified as such. More resources are needed to raise awareness among institutions and the public about human trafficking for labor exploitation. On October 18, European Day against Human Trafficking, the Plateforme Traite is therefore organizing an event in Bern to raise awareness on the issue of human trafficking for labor exploitation.»

Anna Schmid, project coordinator Swiss Platform against Human Trafficking