The city of Geneva has decided to provide key administrative documents and public information in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Albanian and Arabic to help new residents integrate. Previously, many of these documents had been available only in French.
The authorities announced the move on Tuesday, explaining that every year Geneva welcomes more than 20,000 new residents, many of whom do not speak French.
“The city of Geneva experiences major migration movements,” Geneva mayor Esther Alder told the Tribune de Genève on Wednesday. “Around 50% of residents are of foreign origin and 10% of the population is renewed every year.”
The city itself has 200,860 inhabitants, while the canton has 482,545, according to 2015 figures. Geneva is home to the headquarters of 32 international organisations, such as the World Health Organization, and over 900 multinationals, providing over 76,000 jobs. Many use English as their working language.
“Language should not constitute a barrier to people having access to public services,” Alder said.
In 2014, the communal authorities consulted various groups of foreigners in the city to decide which information should be translated. Some of the key documents to be produced in the five languages in addition to French include basic information for new arrivals, as well as child day care, waste recycling, libraries, culture and sports facilities and other important public infrastructure.
Since December 2015, additional multilingual staff have been employed at four key information points in the city.
The website press release said Alder and her government colleagues, Guillaume Barazzone and Sami Kanaan, recognised it was important for Geneva to assume its status as an international city and to “address the numerous communities living on its territory”.
“International civil servants, expats and migrants need to understand without delay the main formalities concerning their arrival,” the statement said.
“Experience shows that translations of basic documents encourage integration and have a positive influence on new residents, who are then able to better exercise their rights and duties towards their community.”