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Swiss ‘must do more’ against human trafficking

Chiasso was described in the report as "a very important transit route to the north" Keystone

Switzerland needs to clamp down more strongly on people smuggling, as increased numbers of migrants are falling into the hands of unscrupulous trafficking gangs, a federal authorities report says.

The country is an important transit and target county for people smugglers, the Swiss Coordination Unit against the Trafficking of Persons and the Smuggling of MigrantsExternal link said on Tuesday.

Most migrants are smuggled through the Balkan countries, while those who have survived the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to Italy will find their way into Switzerland via Milan, the unit observed. External link

The Italian-speaking canton of Ticino is described as an “entrance door” into the country. But since summer 2013, Swiss-based people smugglers have increasingly been using the Geneva region as well.

The most common place of origin for both the smugglers and their victims was found to be Kosovo. Many also come from the Near East, Middle East and Eritrea, with increasing numbers also hailing from China, Sri Lanka and some areas of Africa.

A poll of asylum seekers in Switzerland found that 80% had used people smugglers to get into the country, the report said. That more and more migrants were choosing this option was due to the stricter asylum policies in Europe, it added.

It did note, however, that it was overall very difficult to calculate how many people were trafficked through and into Switzerland – and Europe – per year.

‘Not enough priority’

But the report did say that the small number of investigations into human trafficking showed that “the phenomenon is not given enough priority and/or specialist knowledge is lacking”.

Only very few cases of trafficking are prosecuted – between 2008 and 2012 it was 7-22 a year – and sentences were low. This was mainly because only those low down in the gang hierarchy had been brought to justice.

“The real string-pullers can therefore carry on their criminal activities worry-free,” concluded the report.

Gangs know how to exploit the gaps in Swiss dealings with human trafficking, it added.

The authors therefore recommended more training and specialist posts in the justice and police authorities and a more consistent approach by the cantons. They also suggested that the federal authorities – currently the issue is dealt with by the cantons – should also have the option to launch investigations into people trafficking. This possibility already exists for economic crime.

Earlier this year concerns were raised about trafficking in the sex industry in Switzerland, following the trial of one of the country’s largest human-trafficking sandals centred on two brothels in cantons Schwyz and Bern. 

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR