Zurich and the federal migration authorities have announced that the city is to host a new federal asylum centre, following a successful pilot project to fast-track applicants. However, the move – part of a Swiss-wide policy on asylum – is subject to a local vote.
The two sides have signed a framework agreement for a new asylum centre on the Duttweiler Areal, in a developing area in the west of Switzerland’s largest city, which will have room for 360 asylum seekers.
“Collaboration has proved successful, and can be continued with the already concluded agreement,” said the city and the authorities in a joint statement on Tuesday.
The centre could replace the current, nearby, pilot phase site and be in operation for 15 years, with an option for extension by ten years. The non-profit Asylum Organisation Zurich will take care of the centre’s residents.
City voters will have a final say on the centre, whose cost has been estimated at more than CHF20 million ($21 million). The rent paid by the Swiss authorities should cover costs to the city, the statement explained.
Faced with a rising number of asylum seekers, Switzerland is currently restructuring its asylum process, basing its reforms on those carried out in the Netherlands.
Last year the cabinet adopted a draft law containing major changes, including dramatic cuts to the average processing time. The aim, in the majority of cases, is to cut it from an average of 700 days to around 100. Some cases will take 140 days. Parliament is due to discuss the proposal in the summer.
In 2014 the number of new asylum seekers registered in Switzerland was 23,765, an increase of 11% on the 2013 figure.
One major remaining challenge for the ongoing reform in Switzerland is the increase in capacity of federal asylum accommodation centres.
In March 2014, the federal authorities, cantons and communes agreed to make 5,000 places available in federal centres in six regions. This should help relieve pressure on cantons and communes.
Federal authorities currently have only 1,400 places in five registration centres and 600 in temporary structures.
Asylum and the location of centres to house applicants are controversial issues in Switzerland. A number of communities have protested against centres being built.