Some Swiss politicians and personalities pressured the government on Saturday to accommodate 50,000 refugees to help ease a crisis in Europe inflamed by the five-year-old war in Syria.
In an online petition posted at change.orgexternal link, which also was published in the Tribune de Genèveexternal link, some of the proponents called for the Swiss cabinet to open the nation’s arms to many more of the wave of refugees that has fled the horrors of war.
Some 60 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes by war, violence and persecution, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency. More than one million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe mainly via the Mediterranean Sea last year, fuelling crisis and conflict within the European Union over how best to resettle all the people.
Most of the arrivals have been by sea, but some also make their way by land mainly through Turkey and Albania. Many of the refugees and migrants heading for Europe have come from Syria, but others have fled other violent conflicts such as those in Afghanistan, Eritrea and Iraq.
“Faced with this humanitarian crisis, the walls are erected across Europe while some countries like Greece face a human tragedy,” the petition, signed by nearly 400 supporters as of Saturday afternoon, said. “Given the urgency of this situation, we, Swiss nationals, living in Switzerland, launch a national call for our country to quickly host 50,000 refugees.”
The supporters encouraged public authorities to join with efforts in Madrid, Barcelona and other European cities to create a network of “cities of refuge”external link to accommodate more people. “In the name of humanity, we cannot ignore the terrible distress in these people’s lives,” the petition concluded.
Among the signers were parliamentarians Lisa Mazzone, Yvonne Feri, Chantal Galladé and Philippe Hadorn, and Swiss writers Adolf Muschg and Pedro Lenz.
In Switzerland, which has a long humanitarian tradition, the number of asylum seekers has also increased, but not as much as expected in some quarters.
At the end of November last year more than 34,000 people requested asylum in Switzerland, already 10,000 more than in the whole of 2014. But this figure is well below the record of 47,500 set in 1999 in the wake of the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.