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Welfare controversy

EU jobseekers must be solvent

European Union citizens who are looking for jobs in Switzerland must have enough financial resources to keep themselves afloat before being granted a short-stay permit, the cabinet says.

The move reinforces a rule which was already in force in Switzerland but had been subject to confusion, leading to several cantons giving welfare payments to EU citizens looking for jobs while on these short-stay permits.

This had led to harsh criticism by the conservative right Swiss People’s Party, known for its anti-immigration and anti-EU agenda, and was a particular issue in the run-up to the anti-immigration vote of February 9, 2014. This vote to reintroduce immigration quotas for EU citizens was narrowly accepted by the population.

The current regulation stipulates that people staying in Switzerland while looking for a job for longer than three months must have a short-term stay permit, which can be extended for up to a year.

The government’s clarification will come into effect through the Regulation on the Introduction of the Free Movement of People on April 1, 2015, the State Secretariat for Migration announced in a statement on Friday.

“In addition to unifying the process on a Swiss-wide basis, this change should also ensure legal certainty in that it gives answers to certain questions on the interpretation of the free movement of people accord,” said the statement.

The change had been discussed in a consultation process and approved by the majority of cantons and “interested parties”, it added.

After these cases of EU job seekers drawing benefits while on short-term permits came to light, the cabinet ordered a consultation process on measures to stop potential abuse of the welfare system. This included setting out explicitly in the Foreigners’ Law that EU job seekers were not entitled to benefits.

The government also wanted to make clear under which circumstances EU citizens who have lost their jobs should lose their permits. Both these proposals are still being considered, according to a State Secretariat for Migration report.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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