Human trafficking – a matter of human security

Human trafficking has far-reaching consequences for a person's safety and dignity and usually flourishes in areas affected by armed conflict or other precarious living conditions. Fragile states, forced or irregular migration, poverty, discrimination and a lack of rule of law are just some of the factors that act as a fertile breeding ground for human trafficking. However, human trafficking is also a source of financing for armed conflicts and violent extremism, which in turn can increase conflict and fragility.

In addition to trafficking in drugs and weapons, human trafficking is a lucrative business activity for organised crime – with an estimated USD 32 billion annual turnover worldwide.

Human trafficking is not the same as people smuggling.  Smugglers bring migrants across borders for payment and with the migrants' consent. For this reason, anti-smuggling laws are aimed at protecting borders first and foremost. Human trafficking on the other hand is always a crime against a person and a human rights violation. Human traffickers always exploit their victims.

In the context of forced displacement and migration, people who use smugglers are at a greater risk of becoming victims of human trafficking.

Swiss commitments and initiatives

Switzerland contributes to developing international policies and standards against human trafficking in various multilateral fora such as the United Nation (UN) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

It also addresses human trafficking in its bilateral dialogues such as the migration partnerships. The FDFA funds projects aimed at prevention and at strengthening state and non-state structures to combat human trafficking.

The key to successfully combating human trafficking is effective cooperation at the political and operative level. The FDFA is committed to improving cooperation between the Swiss authorities and stakeholders in the victims' countries of origin and supports numerous programmes aimed at combating human trafficking. Together with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) it organises international round tables, which regularly include the private sector in order to mobilise the economic sectors prone to human trafficking and exploitation. The FDFA is also a member of the Swiss Experts Group on Trafficking in Human Beings, which is chaired by fedpol and which oversees the development and implementation of Switzerland's National Action Plan against Human Trafficking.

International normative framework

The first international agreement to define human trafficking features among the Palermo protocols, three additional protocols to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC). The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children was ratified by Switzerland on 27 October 2006.

According to the Protocol, the term 'trafficking in persons' means “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.” Exploitation includes but is not restricted to “the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”.

As part of a diplomatic initiative, Switzerland has called for the UNTOC's definition of transnational organised crime to be clarified.

Last update 25.07.2023


Peace and Human Rights Division

Bundesgasse 32
3003 Bern


+41 58 462 30 50

Start of page