European Anti-Trafficking Day: Federal Councillor Sommaruga presents the first National Action Plan

Bern. "What are we in Switzerland doing against human trafficking?" This question provided the theme for a conference on Thursday in Bern, attended by some 250 participants. Organized by the Human Security Division of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the conference provided a forum for representatives of the federal government, cantons and civil society to discuss what action must be taken. Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, Head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) presented the first "National Action Plan Against Human Trafficking" at the event.

According to the latest estimates from the International Labor Organization (ILO), 21 million people world-wide are the victims of forced labour, human trafficking or other practices similar to slavery. 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. As a target country, Switzerland is also affected by this global phenomenon, as illustrated strikingly by the recent criminal investigations and convictions in Canton Zurich in recent years. To fight human trafficking effectively, there must be cooperation between federal government agencies, the cantons, and civil society.

National Action Plan Against Human Trafficking

At the conference, Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga presented the first "National Action Plan Against Human Trafficking", for 2012 to 2014. The plan identifies where Switzerland needs to act, and sets out 23 specific measures in the fields of awareness-raising, criminal prosecution, victim protection and prevention. It was drawn up in collaboration with representatives of a number of federal government departments (FDFA, FDJP, FDF, and FDEA), of the cantons, and of non-governmental organizations, including the IOM. These bodies all work together under the umbrella of the Swiss Coordination Unit Against the Trafficking of Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (KSMM). The KSMM is attached to the Federal Office of Police (fedpol).

Federal Councillor Sommaruga thanked all the delegates for their work and for their willingness to step up their efforts. She called upon the cantons, which bear primary responsibility for the fight against human trafficking, to coordinate with federal agencies and NGOs to provide the necessary resources. „Trafficking in human beings occurs in secret,” Sommaruga said. “We don’t see it. We‘re hardly aware of it. The action plan now sends a clear signal: We don’t want to tolerate this serious crime any longer.”

In his summary of foreign policy commitment in this field, Ambassador Claude Wild, Head of the Human Security Division of the FDFA, outlined how Switzerland campaigns within international bodies for the development of more refined international standards and norms to combat human trafficking. The protection of domestic staff in diplomatic households is one of the issues that Switzerland is taking up in collaboration with other states. Ambassador Wild also launched the global United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) "Blue Heart" information and prevention campaign in Switzerland.

Ambassador William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), emphasized the importance of creating more legal opportunities for migration. In addition, he said, demand for cheap labour and services must be reduced, because these factors encourage human trafficking. He stressed that the private sector and the public must work more closely together to protect migrants more effectively.

In his speech, Eduard Gnesa, Special Ambassador for International Cooperation on Migration Issues at the FDFA, also pointed out the important connection between human trafficking and migration-related foreign policy.

The Key Role of the Cantons

The important role of the cantons – which are responsible for identifying both victims and perpetrators – was the focus of one particular panel discussion. The panel members were Roger Schneeberger from the Conference of Cantonal Justice and Police Directors (KKJPD), Robert Steiner from the Canton Valais cantonal police, Susanne Seytter from FIZ Advocacy and Support for Migrant Women and Victims of Trafficking, and Boris Mesaric from the Swiss Coordination Unit Against the Trafficking of Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (KSMM).

The new Federal Act on Extrajudicial Witness Protection (Bundesgesetz über den ausserprozessualen Zeugenschutz), which will come into effect on 1 January 2013, is an important milestone in the fight against human trafficking. At the same time, fedpol will open a new national witness protection office. With these measures, Switzerland is implementing the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings, and ensuring better protection for the victims of and witnesses to human trafficking beyond criminal proceedings against the perpetrators. Andreas Leuzinger of fedpol, Doro Winkler of the FIZ, Wolfgang Job from the Austrian Federal Criminal Police Office and Silvia Steiner from Division II of the Public Prosecutor's Office of Canton Zurich, debated the effects of better witness protection in a panel discussion.

Last modification 18.10.2012

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