The number of people fleeing violent conflicts, natural disasters and the lack of a livelihood has never been higher. According to UNHCR, the number of refugees across the world is estimated at over 65 million, half of whom are children. The majority are on the run in their own country, or seeking protection in a neighbouring country. Only a small portion of them make it to Europe or even to Switzerland. Many refugees who have arrived in Switzerland will not be able to return to their country of origin over the middle to long term. HEKS/EPER supports these people in becoming integrated and champions their causes at the socio-political level.
Refugee inclusion projects
If refugees are to be successfully included in Swiss society, their residential status in Switzerland must be clarified as quickly as possible and their integration begun at the earliest stages. Through its legal advice offices, HEKS/EPER strives also to enable asylum seekers, sans-papiers (undocumented persons) and other socially underprivileged people to claim their rights and participate in social life on an equitable basis. Through its inclusion projects HEKS/EPER strives to boost the self-confidence and autonomy of refugees, which entails focusing on the areas of job market integration, structuring of daily routines and encounters, assisted living, language, intercultural interpreting and intermediation, child and parent education, and age and migration.
Through campaigns and policy initiatives, HEKS/EPER makes representations to the Swiss political class, private sector and society regarding the causes of refugees so that – over and above the support of individuals – structural improvements can also be made to overall conditions. The «Taking a stand for a humane Switzerland» campaign is motivating Swiss citizens to reach out to refugees in their everyday lives and together send a signal of solidarity with people on the run.
Patrick Gilliéron Lopreno
Encouraging civil society involvement
HEKS/EPER receives numerous requests from people wishing to show solidarity towards refugees and accompany them in their daily lives in Switzerland. To support and facilitate the involvement of civil society, HEKS/EPER has developed the www.engagiert.jetzt platform. It informs persons interested in doing volunteer work about projects with refugees for which volunteers are being sought. Through engagiert.jetzt HEKS/EPER encourages intercultural encounters and helps improve understanding between people who have fled to this country and the Swiss population.
«HEKS/EPER InfoSchweiz» supports temporarily admitted persons and recognized refugees through a variety of social integration courses and information programmes.