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In the shadows Fewer clandestine immigrants in Switzerland

Many of the clandestine immigrants from Europe work in seasonal agricultural jobs


According to a report released by the State Secretariat for Migration on Monday, the number of clandestine immigrants residing in Switzerland is estimated to have decreased over the last decade. 

The authorities concluded that the figure was close to the 76,000 mark in 2015, compared to around 90,000 individuals in 2005. The true figure is expected to be somewhere between 58,000 and 105,000 individuals. 

Clandestine immigrants are those who come from outside the EU and do not have the right to remain in Switzerland. Around two-thirds are believed to have entered the country without the necessary documents or have overstayed their tourist visas. Close to 20% have expired residence permits (B and C permits) or have had their asylum requests rejected.

Almost half of Switzerland’s clandestine immigrants are believed to reside in canton Zurich (28,000), followed by Fribourg (20,000), Geneva (13,000) and Vaud (12,000).

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Those from Asia and Africa are believed to be largely men whose asylum applications have been rejected and for whom finding work is difficult. Those from Europe are also mostly men but often find work in sectors like construction, hotels, restaurants and agriculture. Women from Latin America are able to find work thanks to their social networks. Close to half of all clandestine immigrants work in private homes as help.

Around half lack any qualifications beyond secondary schooling but around nine in ten adults are engaged in paid work and are financially independent. Two-thirds of clandestine immigrants live alone and around 10% are minors. 

The information in the report was collected through 60 interviews with experts in twelve Swiss cantons. The study also used data from the central database on migration, pension accounts and other sources.

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