The number of asylum requests in Switzerland dropped by 31.2% in 2016, largely because of the partial closure of the Balkan Route used by asylum seekers trying to reach Germany.
There were 27,207 asylum requests last year, according to official figures released by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) on Monday. The office said it expected numbers to vary in 2017 between 24,500 and 32,000, depending on the flow of refugees via the Mediterranean and whether a deal Europe struck with Turkey to hold back migrants was maintained.
In December 2016 there were 197 fewer requests, and 64% less when compared with the same time in 2015.
Eritreans were the largest nationality seeking asylum, but even these numbers fell by 7.5%. In 2016, there were half as many Eritreans arriving from Italy. The next biggest contingents were from Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Iraq.
Afghan, Syrian and Iraqi asylum requests were most closely linked to the Balkan Route. More than 90% of people entering Europe via the Balkan Route were from these countries.
Refugees and illegal immigrants use the popular route once they arrive in Greece, usually from Turkey, to proceed either through Bulgaria, former Yugoslavia or Albania, and then on to Hungary, Austria and Germany. The last large influx to reach Switzerland from the Balkan Route was in the last quarter of 2015.
Switzerland granted asylum to 5,985 people in 2016, around 3% less than in the previous year.
The ten-year high for asylum requests was in 2015, as this graphic shows.
Since the UN rehabilitation programme for the most vulnerable refugees was launched in August 2015, 968 people have been granted asylum in Switzerland. Migration officials say up to 2,000 vulnerable people will be accepted in the next two years.
Switzerland also took in 368 people from Italy and Greece as part of the European resettlement programme in which refugees registered in other countries are relocated to other states.
Across Europe there were nearly 1.3 million requests, on a par with the previous year.
Meanwhile, a network of organisations and professionals working for minors’ rights has launched an information websiteexternal link targeting the growing number of underage unaccompanied asylum seekers arriving in Switzerland. It aims to answer questions such minors would need to register for asylum.
The Alliance for the Rights of Migrant Children is behind the information portal. They hope it will become the main reference site for minors and professionals in the field.
Almost 3,000 unaccompanied minors – particularly those between the ages of 14 and 16 – came to Switzerland in 2015, and made a request for asylum. This compares with 795 for 2014. Their most common countries of origin are Eritrea, Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria.