The number of overall asylum applications increased in 2012, reaching the highest number since 1999. At the same time, Switzerland rejected more requests as the country tries to speed up the evaluation process.
In 2012, 28,631 applications were filed, most of them from Eritrea, followed by Nigeria, Tunisia, Serbia, Afghanistan and Syria, the Federal Migration Office said on Tuesday. And, the number of decisions that were made at the applicant’s first contact point rose 28 per cent from 2011.
Switzerland decided to give priority to applications not requiring a more thorough evaluation, a strategy which boosted the number of rejections by 45 per cent to 14,008 in 2012. Contrary to forecasts, the threshold of 30,000 applications was not reached at the end of last year.
“This is primarily thanks to a decrease of asylum applications from nationals of the Balkan states, which do not require a visa, after Switzerland introduced a 48-hour process on August 20, 2012,” the migration office wrote in a release.
The office said in August that it would treat requests from “safe” European countries - where no further information is required after the interview - within 48 hours. “Almost all such claims are unfounded and lead to bottlenecks in the Swiss asylum centres,” it explained.
Out of the 24,941 applications which were dealt with at the first point of contact, only 2,507 people were granted asylum, down 32 per cent from the previous year, the office said Tuesday. The number of people granted provisional asylum also dropped 33 per cent to 2,060 in 2012.
Repatriation of asylum seekers to their native countries, third-party nations and Dublin states rose 22 per cent, while voluntary departures from Switzerland soared 84 per cent over 2011. Switzerland transferred 4,637 asylum seekers to the Dublin states, an increase of 28 per cent, while 574 were sent back to Switzerland from other Dublin states. The number of people who were sent back to their home countries by plane increased 45 per cent to 13,801.
On Monday, representatives of national and regional governments agreed on a concept to speed up the asylum process. One of its main features is about 20 national centres housing asylum seekers, authorities, experts and legal advisors.
Representatives of canton Geneva told participants at the conference in Bern that the canton is prepared to run a reception centre for unruly asylum seekers in exchange for government funding and for taking on fewer asylum seekers overall.