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13,000 foreigners to get temporary residence

The Swiss government has decided to recommend that 13,000 long-term asylum-seekers, most of them Tamils and Kosovars, be given temporary residence.

This content was published on March 1, 2000 - 18:05

The Swiss government has decided to recommend that 13,000 long-term asylum-seekers, most of them Tamils and Kosovars, be given temporary residence.

The ruling applies to people whose asylum applications are still at the first hearing stage, or whose requests have been turned down, but who have yet to be sent home. The applicants must have filed their requests at least eight years ago and not have a criminal record.

The decision, named Humanitarian Action 2000, was taken after representations from the cantons. It affects around 6,500 Tamils and almost 5,000 ethnic Albanians from the former Yugoslavia.

The justice minister, Ruth Metzler, said the cabinet decided that people who had lived for a long time in Switzerland had the right to have their status clarified.

"We can't leave people in the dark any longer," she said.

The reason why these people have been in limbo for so long is partly because the Swiss asylum authorities are so overburdened by applications, but also because their countries of origin have been reluctant to produce the necessary documentation.

Swiss Radio International's political correspondent, Peter Haller, said Metzler made clear that this was a one-off.

"The Swiss government doesn't want to do this again," he said. "It's eager to conclude readmission agreements with countries in all the world's trouble spots and speed up the asylum procedure so this kind of backlog doesn't happen again."

Metzler signed just such an accord with Albania on Tuesday.

Metzler said that the ruling could not only be applied to Tamils. Because everyone was equal before the law, it had to be extended to cover people from elsewhere.

From staff and wires

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