A recent study by the Swiss state secretariat for migrants (SEM) estimates that there were 76,000 illegal immigrants or san-papiers living in Switzerland in 2015. The 88 page document presents some interesting facts about this elusive group.
1. Most arrive undeclared or on tourist visas
Across the country, 63% slipped over the border without declaring their presence or entered on a tourist visa. In French and Italian-speaking Switzerland this percentage rose to 78%.
A further 19% stayed on illegally after their asylum applications had been rejected, and another 18% stayed after their B or C permits expired.
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2. The largest percentage comes from latin America
43% came from south and central America, mainly for economic reasons. Ecuadorians, Bolivians and Peruvians were well all represented.
The next largest group (24%) came from eastern european countries outside the European Union, then Africa (19%) and Asia (11%). North America and Australia (2%) made up the rest.
3. The vast majority are single
68% were single or lived in Switzerland while their families lived abroad. The percentage of singles rose to 80% in German-speaking Switzerland and fell to 51% in French and Italian-speaking Switzerland.
4. Most live in Switzerland’s largest urban areas
Geneva had the highest percentage of 27 per 1,000 residents. Basel (21) and Zurich (19) were also well above the national average of 9 per 1,000 residents.
5. Most stay for less than 10 years
Only 19% had lived in Switzerland for more than 10 years. Most had been in the country for between 5 and 10 years (35%), 1 and 5 years (25%) or less than 1 year (21%).
6. Most work in private homes
Across Switzerland, 53% worked for private households. This percentage rose to 71% in French and Italian-speaking Switzerland, falling to 47% across the rösti and polenta grabens in German-speaking Switzerland.
Construction (18%), hotels (16%) and agriculture (5%) employed most of the others.
7. There are more women than men
51% were women. This fits with the high number working in private homes caring for children or helping out with household chores. The percentage who were women rose to 62% in French and Italian-speaking Switzerland, regions which also showed the highest rates of undocumented private domestic workers. The report says the broken school day in Switzerland, where children come home for lunch, is a likely driver of demand for child care workers.
8. The majority are of working age
Across Switzerland, 60% were between 18 and 40 and had come for work, sometimes after failing to find a job in an EU country.
9. Nearly 9 out of 10 work
Most who entered the country without the right documents came for work. Living in Switzerland long term without work and a visa is not really a viable option says the report.
Rates of employment among undocumented residents were highest in French and Italian-speaking Switzerland (90%). In German-speaking Switzerland 85% were estimated to have work. The overall rate of employment of undocumented adults across the country as a whole was 86%.
10. Many are well educated
While the largest group had only school education (41%) a surprising number had professional training (37%) or a tertiary qualification (22%). Those in French and Italian-speaking Switzerland appeared to be the best educated. 84% had education beyond school. In German-speaking Switzerland only 49% did.