The Swiss cabinet wants to create a new status for people whose asylum applications are rejected but who cannot return to their country of origin, above all Eritreans and Syrians.
The current legal situation is increasingly criticised because those people given temporary admission often stay in Switzerland for a long time and depend on social welfare.
Parliament called on the cabinet to look into changing the law and on Friday the cabinet presented its suggestions.
In its report, the cabinet said it wanted in particular to support the integration of people who would probably remain in Switzerland for a while. It added, however, that it wanted to avoid Swiss laws being seen as “too attractive” compared with other host countries.
The report listed three variations. Variation 1: replacing an F Permit (for temporarily admitted people) with a B Permit (initial residence permit). Variation 2: replacing temporary admission with the new status of “granted protection”. Variation 3: temporary admission would be adapted in certain points.
The cabinet favoured the second variation, which it said matched current requirements the best. “The status of granted protection would improve the situation for those affected, without granting all rights that are part of a residence permit.
Currently, asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected are generally given a timeframe to leave Switzerland: anywhere from a few days to six months. Failure to leave voluntarily results in forced deportation by the police. Searches will be conducted for anyone who stays in the country illegally.
Rejected applicants have the right to appeal.
When a person is not granted asylum but repatriation is still not an option, the State Secretariat for Migration can order temporary admission to Switzerland. Reasons for this may include a general climate of violence (as in Syria), risk of persecution or situations where a person has no access to necessary health care.
The cabinet on Friday described this as a substitute measure for an unenforceable deportation. Granted protection, on the other hand, should guarantee a more stable status, a right of residence.
Those involved would be entitled to gainful employment, it said, thus reducing dependency on social aid.
The granted protection status would be lifted when the relevant conditions – such as conflict in the homeland – were no longer fulfilled.
After five years, the cantons would be able to give the person a B Permit.
The cabinet's proposals were greeted with criticism from politicians from the right of the political spectrum, who said the move would still make Switzerland popular for "economic migrants".
But politicians on the left called Friday's announcement a step in the right direction and welcomed the new status proposal. The leftwing Green party said that it favoured going further than just a change of status: it favoured the B permit variant.
The Swiss Refugee Council also wanted more action. "We think that those who are temporarily admitted should be given the same status as recognised refugees," spokesman Stefan Frey told Swiss public television SRF. It was not clear why half of the Syrians who have fled their country and came to Switzerland were refugees and the other half were temporarily admitted, he said. Nevertheless, the cabinet's plans were a step in the right direction, added Frey.
The cabinet’s report will now be discussed in parliament.
swissinfo.ch and agencies