The number of foreigners moving to Switzerland fell last year as emigration rose, bringing a second consecutive slowdown in net immigration – although asylum requests jumped by two-thirds.
Government data released on Thursday showed net immigration dropped last year to 71,500 people, down 9.4% on 2014. A total of 150,459 people came to Switzerland while 73,444 people left.
Just under two million (1,993,916) foreigners lived in Switzerland at the end of 2015, 68% of whom were EU/EFTA citizens, according to the State Secretariat for Migration. Italians and Germans were the biggest groups. Switzerland has a total population of 8.2 million.
Requests for asylum swelled 66% to 39,523. Around 1.4 million people – most fleeing crisis zones in the Middle East and Africa – sought refuge in Europe last year, twice as many as in 2014.
Almost 10,000 (9,966) Eritreans applied for asylum, said the State Secretariat for Migration; 7,831 Afghans and 4,745 Syrians did so as well.
‘Not a priority destination’
“Although Switzerland was not a priority destination for refugees who had taken the Balkan route to get to Europe, it nevertheless remained an important goal for migrants who have travelled across the central Mediterranean,” the secretariat wrote.
The percentage of asylum applications made in Switzerland compared with those made in Europe as a whole dropped from 3.8% to 3% – “the lowest ratio since 1998,” according to the secretariat.
It also noted that in December, 4,870 applications were made, 14% fewer than in November as applications from Eritreans in particular slumped.
Swiss authorities granted 6,377 people asylum last year. A similar number were granted temporary protection.
SEM head Mario Gattiker said that he expected about as many asylum requests in 2016. But a “serious forecast” was not possible, as there were too many different factors in play, which could change quickly.
However, “we are preparing for several different scenarios, including a very strong rise in asylum requests” he told Swiss public television SRF.
In February canton justice, police and social services directors come together to give their feedback on the plans.
swissinfo.ch and agencies