The cantonal authorities have been asked to gear up for a steep increase in the number of refugees expected to arrive in Switzerland.
The State Secretariat for Migration – a unit of the justice ministry – said it sent a letter to the 26 cantons warning them they might have to accommodate more refugees.
It added that the federal refugee centres had already boosted their capacities to 3,100 from 2,400 over the past few months and it was time for the cantons to begin preparing more housing facilities, given the volatile situation notably in neighbouring Germany and Austria, as well as in southeast Europe.
Last year, the justice ministry and the cantons, which have a large degree of autonomy, agreed to set up centres for about 5,000 people in an effort to speed up the asylum procedure.
The move comes as the government is reportedly considering advancing plans to take in about 3,000 refugees from the conflict in Syria. In March the cabinet decided to accept the refugees from camps in the Middle East over the next three years.
Meanwhile, rightwing political parties and organisations have called on the government to re-introduce regular border checks.
The People’s Party wants to dispatch members of the armed forces to support border guards stopping illegal immigrants at the Swiss borders.
The conservative Campaign for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland group earlier this week said it was launching a people’s initiative for systematic border controls, as the European single border system had collapsed and threatened the independence of Switzerland.
Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch and agencies