Human Trafficking - FAQ

Human trafficking, according to the internationally agreed definition (Palermo Protocol 2000, Art 3; Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, Art 4) means “the trafficking of persons through the use of illicit means for the purpose of sexual exploitation, the exploitation of labor, or for the purpose of removing any body organs”. Switzerland has incorporated this definition into national legislation (Swiss Criminal Code, Art. 182).

The following characteristics can be an indication of trafficking in human beings:

The person:

  • Has been lured to Switzerland with false promises (of employment, etc...)
  • Works under exploitative conditions (excessive working hours, hardly any or no leisure at all, very low wages or none, restriction of freedom of movement, no breaks, etc.)
  • Is not or only temporarily in possession of legal identification documents
  • Shows signs of ill-treatment (physical, mental)
  • Receives no salary at all or only very little
  • Has little knowledge of the place and the language
  • Is under pressure to reimburse debts
  • Has no valid residence status and is threatened by law enforcement action
  • Has received personal or family threats  
  • The victim can be a man, a woman or a child;



Switzerland is a country of destination and transit for human trafficking.

Women, men and minors are affected by human trafficking, mainly for the purpose of sexual exploitation or exploitation of the labor force.


The exploitation takes place, among other, in:

  • Prostitution
  • Domestic work
  • Home care
  • Construction  
  • Gastronomy and the hotel industry
  • Agriculture  
  • Begging and petty crimes

Victim protection organizations identify and provide assistance every year to more than 250 victims escaping their exploitative situation. However, the vast majority of those affected remains unidentified, principally because human trafficking mostly takes place within a clandestine environment.

Sometimes the victims do not self-identify as such. In addition, they rarely cooperate with the authorities or the specialized institutions due to distrust or fear of reprisals by the perpetrators. 

Mainly for those reasons, many victims do not have access to specialized assistance. Furthermore only a few perpetrators are held accountable for their actions. The fight against human trafficking in Switzerland thus remains a major challenge.

Find more information on the website of SCOTT, the Swiss Coordination Unit against Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants: SCOTT  

Profile of victims in Switzerland

Most of the victims identified in Switzerland are women between 17 and 30 years old who have been sexually exploited. The most common countries of origin are: 

  • Eastern Europe : Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria  
  • Latin America: Brazil and the Dominican Republic
  • Asia: Thailand
  • Africa: Nigeria.

(Source: SCOTT)

However, according to experts a large number of victims of other forms of exploitation remains unidentified...


The National Action Plan to Fight Human Trafficking 2017-2020 defines the Swiss strategy to combat trafficking in Human Beings. The measures implemented by Switzerland are based on four pillars: prevention, prosecution, protection of victims, partnership.

Whilst the Swiss federal state is responsible for human trafficking legislation, the cantons are responsible for prosecuting the perpetrators and protecting the victims. Cooperation mechanisms at the cantonal level (Cantonal round tables) are currently established in 18 cantons. 

The round tables are tasked to ensure proper cooperation amongst relevant stakeholders when a potential victim of human trafficking is identified.

More information


  • SCOTT, Swiss Coordination Unit against Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants 
  • IOM Bern, Internation Organisation for Migration
  • FIZ Advocacy and Support for Migrant Women and Victims of Trafficking
  • ACT212, Consulting and Training Center against Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation 
  • Au Cœur des Grottes, Reception, accommodation and support of victims
  • Astrée, Association for the support of victims of human trafficking
  • ECPAT Switzerland, Child protection,


  • International Organisation for Migration IOM (Global: Counter trafficking)
  • IOM X, Kampagne der IOM zur Förderung der sicheren Migration und zur Bekämpfung von Menschenhandel.

«Loverboys» are human traffickers and pimps (sometimes still teenagers themselves), who let underage girls and boys believe that they are in love, before exploiting them. The first contact often takes place in chatrooms on social media. The loverboy systematically makes them dependent and increasingly separates them from friends and family. Once this dependency is reached, the loverboy can demand almost anything from those affected: e.g. prostitution, pornography and criminal offences (theft, burglary, etc.). The goal of the loverboy is to earn as much money as possible. The age of the victims is between 12-18 years. Minors are also affected in Switzerland, including boys who are exploited in homosexual circles.  

Suspected cases can be reported to ACT 212 (0840 212 212).

Awareness and knowledge are among the best tools to combat human trafficking. With this idea the mobile application "SAFE Travel & Work Abroad" was developed.
The app invites the user to put him/herself in the shoes of one in four young people who want to discover the world. The aim is to escape the traffickers by taking responsibility and making decisions for our four heroes.

Besides a little game, the app offers important information about human trafficking, safe travel, tips for working abroad and useful contacts in case of an emergency. Whether you travel abroad for holidays or for work, you can find useful information here.

The app was developed as a new tool for the prevention of human trafficking and is mainly intended for educational purposes.

The app was developed within the SAFE project (smart, aware, free, enjoy - information campaign against human trafficking) and is available in seven languages: Slovak, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, English, French and German. The project was implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Slovakia, in cooperation with La Strada in the Czech Republic and Poland and the NGO Hungarian Baptist Aid and is financially supported by the International Visegrad Fund and the Dutch Embassy in Bratislava. The German and French versions were supplemented within the framework of the Swiss project "Schau hin - Aktionswochen und Informationsbus".

The app can be downloaded free of charge from the AppleStore for iOS devices and the Play Store for Android devices

Case Stories

Kamal (21) from Bangladesh is looking for a job abroad. He could not find employment in his home country or only poorly paid positions, which did not allow him to look after his family. On the internet he finds a job as a waiter in Switzerland. He pays a high recruitment fee to the agency and takes a flight to Switzerland. There, he encounters a completely different situation from what he imagined. Kamal is forced to work over 15 hours a day and has to sleep in a back room of the restaurant, together with 5 other people and on very thin mattresses. When Kamal asks his boss when he will receive his salary, the latter gets aggressive. He threatens him to let him work even harder. Since Kamal contracted debts to cover the high flight costs and the agency fees, he cannot afford to leave, still hoping to get paid. Kamal is desperate and does not know how to move on. Hopeless, he feels imprisoned. A guest notices his hardship and brings him to the police. Through the police, Kamal is referred to a cantonal victim counselling centre. He receives safe accommodation, psychological support and help in finding a regular work.






After her divorce, Katalin (24, from Hungary) faces financial difficulties. She is not able to look after her children and her parents anymore. A friend offers her a possibility to earn a lot of money in very short time. She should travel with him to Switzerland and work as a prostitute. Although it is a hard decision for Katalin, she decides to follow his advice. In Switzerland, Katalin has to receive 7 customers a day and earns very little money. She is always controlled and is not allowed to call her family. Katalin is forced to have unprotected sexual relationships with her customers. The traffickers threaten her as well as her family if she does not obey. She is far away from her children and cannot even support them financially. She sees no way out... After a few months, Katalin gets sick. A client realizes it and refers her to a victim counselling centre. There, Katalin received medical treatments, psychological and legal assistance and a safe accommodation. She can recover and reflect on her future. She decides to go back to Hungary to her family as soon as possible. Thanks to the return assistance received, she can finance a computer course. After a while, she finds a job in a company.






Nina (15 years old) has just changed schools. She is fighting with her parents and spends more and more time in chat rooms. There she meets Luca (18 years old), who poses as her Prince Charming. Nina falls madly in love with him. She starts a relationship with Luca and spends all her time with him. A few weeks later Luca sells her to the first customers in a hotel room. Nina fell into a trap from which she can't escape on her own. She is ashamed and doesn't know what she can do, because Luca threatens to publish pornographic movies of her on the Internet if she doesn't do what he wants.