Statement of 12 June 2019

HEKS/EPER calls for higher admission quota for vulnerable refugees

In the framework of its participation in the UNHCR Resettlement Programme, the Federal Council decided in late May to admit to Switzerland 800 especially vulnerable refugees for each of the next two years. While in principle HEKS/EPER welcomes the Federal Council's decision as a step in the right direction, given the still record numbers of refugees around the world, it is nonetheless calling for a substantial increase in the admission quota.

L'EPER demande des quotas d'accueil plus élevés pour les réfugié·e·s ayant besoin de protection
András D. Hajdú

Resettlement, or the permanent admission of particularly vulnerable refugees, has for decades been a fundamental and tried-and-tested pillar of Swiss refugee policy. In this connection Switzerland works closely with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). On the ground, this latter body is responsible for selecting persons in need of protection, and ensures that they fulfil the criteria for admission to the Programme.

The decisive criterion is what is known as refugee status, which must be met by the asylum seeker within the meaning of the Geneva Refugee Convention in order to be admitted to the Resettlement Programme. Candidates for resettlement also undergo strict security clearance conducted in conjunction with the Swiss intelligence service. Lastly, it must also be ensured that the asylum seeker recognizes the values enshrined in the Swiss Federal Constitution and is willing to be linguistically and culturally integrated and to take part in the country's economic life.

Experience shows that asylum seekers entering Switzerland under resettlement schemes are more quickly integrated. HEKS/EPER therefore welcomes the Federal Council’s decision to continue to participate in the UNHCR Resettlement Programme in the future. It does, however, regret the Federal Council's decision to limit the admission quota to 800 refugees annually for 2020 and 2021, as this falls clearly short of admission numbers of past years.

In the light of the record numbers of refugees around the world and the ample support for the Resettlement Programme in the cantons, communes and in Swiss civil society, HEKS/EPER is therefore calling for a substantial and long-term increase in the admission quota. In crisis regions, it is states bordering on the affected ones that have so far borne the brunt of burden of coping with the plight of refugees. But they are being completely overwhelmed both socially and economically. They are therefore in urgent need of relief and support – and particularly so also from a country as wealthy as Switzerland.

Further strong arguments for increasing the admission quota are the guaranteed safety of asylum seekers under the Resettlement Programme as they travel to the host country, and the fact that this effectively combats criminal people-smuggling rings. In this connection, HEKS/EPER and the Swiss Refugee Council (SRC) last year submitted to the Federal Council the petition entitled «For safe and legal escape routes to Switzerland», with almost 40,000 signatures. The petition calls for greater efforts on the part of Switzerland in admitting highly vulnerable refugees. This would also entail relaxing the conditions for the granting of humanitarian visas and for family reunifications.

Samuel Berner
Head of Media and Information Department
Samuel Berner

Phone: +41 44 360 88 25
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