Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga has presented the first National Action Plan Against Human Trafficking at a forum attended by 250 representatives of the federal administration, cantons and civil society.
Human trafficking “occurs in secret” in Switzerland, Sommaruga told the conference in Bern on Thursday. “We don’t see it. We’re hardly aware of it.” But according to the foreign ministry it is a very real problem, as evidenced by criminal investigations in Zurich in recent years.
The plan sets out 23 specific measures to be undertaken in the years 2012 to 2014 in the areas of awareness-raising, criminal prosecution, victim protection and prevention.
It was developed with input from a number of ministries under the umbrella of the Coordination Unit Against the Trafficking of Persons and Smuggling of Migrants, which is affiliated with the Federal Police Office.
The report states that Switzerland has an obligation to undertake all necessary and possible measures to prevent violations of human rights and to protect and support the victims.
Sommaruga asked the country’s 26 cantonal authorities to provide the resources necessary to combat human trafficking, in coordination with federal agencies and NGOs.
“The action plan now sends a clear signal: We don’t want to tolerate this serious crime any longer,” she said.
The conference also featured a number of speakers and panels. Claude Wild, head of the foreign ministry’s human security division, said that the protection of domestic staff in diplomatic households is an issue being addressed by Switzerland in collaboration with other states.
William Lacy Swing, director general of the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that the demand for cheap labour and services encourage human trafficking, and thus should be reduced.
Extent of the problem
Worldwide, 21 million people are the victims of forced labour, human trafficking or other practices similar to slavery, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).
Around 5.5 million of those affected are under the age of 18, and around 4.5 million are exploited sexually--primarily women and children.
An amended law on extrajudicial witness protection in Switzerland will take effect on January 1, 2013. The federal authorities plan to open a new national witness protection office.
swissinfo.ch and agencies