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Making space Playing host to asylum seekers

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When space got tight for housing asylum seekers in Switzerland, one village was asked to find a way to accommodate newcomers. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)

The municipality of Wildhaus-Alt St Johann, in canton St Gallen, is home to 2,700 residents. At the end of last year, the village’s civil defence centre was chosen by the federal government to serve as a temporary shelter for asylum seekers. The centre hosted asylum seekers until the end of January after which they were relocated elsewhere.

Their presence received mixed reactions from the town’s population. Some residents were fearful of increased crime rates while others volunteered their time to help the asylum seekers. In the end, their time in the village passed without incident and many locals characterised the hosting experience as positive.

The number of asylum applications in Switzerland have risen in the past year. Swiss authorities have received a total of 23,765 asylum applications, representing an increase of 11% over 2013. However this figure is dwarfed by the increase of 35% seen in the rest of Europe.