The sixth federal asylum centre began operations on Saturday in Bern, and Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga was there to mark the opening.
The new centre is located in an old hospital, the Bern Zieglerspital, which was closed last year due to restructuring. The site will be used as a reception and processing centre. Service at the site is restricted to eight years.
At first 150 people will stay at the centre, later up to 350 could be given accommodation there. Building works required to provide the extra beds will be completed in the summer of 2017. Up until the canton can operate its own asylum centre in a different building on the hospital site with space for 200 asylum seekers.
Barbara Büschi, deputy director of the state secretariat for migration said the size of the former hospital meant that it made sense economically and it was well connected from a transport perspective. “Detached houses for one family, and flats are out of the question. That would be inefficient. And expropriation is nonsense, that would be a poor prerequisite for integrating a centre into an area.”
Justice Minister Sommaruga went on a tour of the former hospital on Saturday. She underlined the importance of more than 200 local volunteers who will help with the asylum seekers at the centre. Those seeking asylum will stay at the federal centre for a maximum of 90 days before moving out to accommodation provided by different cantons if needed.
swissinfo.ch and agencies