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Asylum reform Government endorses Swiss fast-track procedure

The Swiss government sees a chance to speed up asylum for people like these men shown at a refurbished centre in the canton of Bern in 2013.


A federal report concludes that Switzerland’s experiment with fast-track asylum procedures are a big success, and recommends making the changes to the federal asylum centres on a permanent basis.

The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM)external link reported on Monday the new procedures were not only cheaper and fairer, but also sped up the process for asylum seekers by 39% on average. The report was prepared in collaboration with global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

“Compared to the standard system, the testing phase has led to a significant acceleration of the procedure,” it said.

The conclusions come from quantitative and qualitative aspects of an experimental fast-track asylum centre in Zurich for 300 applicants, from its opening in January 2014 through to the end of August 2015.

During that time, it managed to bring to a close some 63% of the slightly more than 2,600 procedures.

Authorities instructed the centre to cut down the average application processing time for the majority of cases from an average of 700 days to around 140 days.

One of the key components is free legal advice to help applicants compile an organised case and determine their chances of winning an appeal.

Net savings with new centres

Switzerland modelled its new reforms on the asylum procedure in the Netherlands, which took radical steps to slash the time needed to process asylum applications.

However, a major remaining challenge for Switzerland is the limited capacity of its federal asylum accommodation centres.

Federal authorities have 1,400 places in five registration centres and 600 in temporary structures, but say 5,000 more places are needed to handle 24,000 annual asylum requests per year.

Bern has proposed working with cantons and communes through a compensation mechanism for six regions that agreed to house a federal asylum centre. The planned budget is CHF548 million ($556 million).

Romain Jeannottat, SEM’s vice-director of planning and resources, said he expects the changes to bring annual net savings of CHF110 million. Some CHF123 million in extra expense for staff and operations would be more than offset by CHF233 million in less cantonal costs.

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