Geneva has launched a programme to grant resident permits to illegal immigrants in Switzerland and combat unlawful work practices.
It applies to several thousand people who have been living in Geneva for at least ten years, or five years in the case of families with school age children, according to Pierre Maudet, head of Geneva’s cantonal security and economics department.
Other conditions to be eligible include command of French (the local language) and a clean criminal record.
The B permit is valid for five years and can be extended.
“It is aimed at illegal immigrants who live a normal life,” he told a news conference on Tuesday.
There are an estimated 73,000 illegal immigrants living in Switzerland, about 13,000 of them in Geneva. Many of them came from southeastern Europe and the Philippines and work illegally as household staff.
The programme, supported by the national immigration authorities, is the first of its kind in Switzerland. It follows a 12-month test phase during which about 600 people were given a permit.
Trade unions, a church groups and non-governmental organisations have welcomed the move, saying it allows illegal immigrants to step out of the shadows and gain some recognition.
However, they warned it was difficult for many illegal immigrants to provide sufficient proof of their presence in Switzerland and their financial independence.