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Financial burden Swiss town discourages renting to refugees

The town claims it cannot afford to support refugees who are more likely to be dependent on social welfare payments

(Keystone)

The town of Rekingen in northern Switzerland has published an announcement calling on all homeowners to avoid renting accommodation to refugees. The justification was that refugees dependent on social aid would result in a collapse of town finances. 

The announcement asks landlords in the municipality to forego entering into a rental contract with refugees possessing a temporary residence permit (B permit). The move was prompted by the decision of seven refugees formerly staying at the asylum centre nearby to live in Rekingen. Six have already found a place to stay. 

According to the Aargauer Zeitung paper, the president of the town council Renate Gautschy said the notice was a “cry for help” as it would put the town’s finances under enormous strain. 

For the first five years, refugees receive financial assistance from the canton (state) after which they become the responsibility of the municipality. The latest cantonal guidelines on social welfare state that refugees must receive a minimum of almost CHF1,000 ($1,019) in financial support, excluding rent and mandatory health insurance costs. This amount is only slightly less than the minimum pension. 

“You have to understand that for a small municipality like ours [950 inhabitants], which already faces the second highest tax rate in the canton, additional social aid cases represent a great danger,” said Roman Knöpfel, in charge of municipal finances. 

The move has drawn sharp criticism from some quarters. The Aargau Asylum Network called the announcement “dubious, unjust and hasty”, and canton Aargau’s parliamentary representative from the Social Democratic Party referred to it as “pre-emptive, unacceptable, discriminatory and against the freedom of establishment.” 

Not the first time

According to the Tribune de Genève paper, this is not the first time a municipality in canton Aargau has tried to prevent potential beneficiaries of social aid from settling in. In 2014, the town of Riniken called for landowners to boycott refugees. 

This year, the town of Safenwil objected against the establishment of a “container village” designed to house 95 asylum seekers. The town of Oberwil-Lieli made news this May when it opted to pay out CHF290,000 rather than house asylum seekers within its boundaries.

 

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