More refugees are arriving at Switzerland’s Eastern borders daily, yet Switzerland is not the primary destination for refugees travelling via the Balkans.
According to the State Secretariat for Migration, the number of people seeking Swiss asylum is even expected to drop in the second half of the year. The State Secretariat for Migration projects that 29,000 refugees will apply for asylum this year. During the height of the Kosovo conflict in 1998/1999, Switzerland took in 53’000 refugees.
Normally, Switzerland’s Italian border is the main point of entry for migrants travelling by sea from African countries. In the first half of this year the majority of asylum seekers came from Eritrea. With weather conditions changing in the second half of the year, fewer migrants are expected to travel via the Mediterranean Sea.
The State Secretariat for Migration’s website points out that: “There can be no talk of asylum chaos,” it goes on to say: “Switzerland is managing its refugee situation well.”
Nonetheless, a few Cantons have taken some desperate measures to provide accommodation:
The Canton of Aargau resorted to putting up 140 single male refugees in military tents earlier this year. In the Cantons of Geneva, Vaud and Zurich some refugees are being housed in underground civilian bunkers.
In Geneva the measure has drawn criticism from the organisation, Stop Bunkers. The grassroots movement voices concern about the psychological and health impacts of the make-do housing. They claim that refugees have the right to a more humane accommodation and warn about the long-term negative effects on integration.
The public authorities agree that the arrangement is not ideal, but insist that it is only temporary and a result of the lack of accommodation facilities.
The Swiss Refugee Council (Organisation Suisse D’Aide aux Réfugiés) interprets the measure as an appeal to local authorities to find more housing. The non-profit organisation also runs a project which assists volunteers in putting up refugees privately. The project has gained in popularity across Switzerland. To find out more about how you can help, please contact your local authorities or go to Organisation Suisse D’Aide aux Réfugiés (Fluechtlingshilfe in German).
By Jade Cano
Jade is a freelance journalist and lives in Geneva. Originally from Colombia, she has lived in the UK and Germany.