Asylum seeker army tents coming down in Bern

The temporary tent accommodation will not be used in winter, as some politicians had feared Keystone

Army tents housing 300 asylum seekers near the capital, Bern, will be dismantled from mid-December and not used for emergency accommodation this winter. Meanwhile, Swiss cantons are struggling to find sufficient housing to cope with large influxes this year. 

This content was published on November 17, 2015 - 17:07
swissinfo.ch and agencies

In a statement issued on Monday evening, the Lyss-Kappelen communal authorities said they were “happy” that the decision had been taken to end the emergency tent accommodation set up on the property of the local asylum centre. 

Occupied by 300-350 people, the tent infrastructure and organisation was ‘overloaded’, the communal presidents declared.

The army tents had been set up in September as a temporary measure to cope with influxes of asylum seekers.

Local politicians criticised plans to reinstall the tents elsewhere and use them during the cold winter months as “unacceptable and unworthy”. Some 200 asylum seekers will be housed at the transit centre from mid-December, the statement said. 

In canton Aargau as well, tents were used this summer to temporarily house asylum seekers but later dismantled. Officials are considering replacing them with mobile Ikea housing units, as are cantons Basel and Fribourg.

Asylum figures

Swiss migration officials anticipate 29,000 asylum applicants for 2015, an increase on recent years but below the peaks of the 1990s.

However, the State Secretariat for Migration recently warned the 26 cantons that they might have to accommodate more arrivals.

Local resistance and a dearth of suitable accommodation mean that housing for asylum-seekers remains a challenge.

In order to put up new arrivals for short periods, the cantons and communes have resorted to providing a wide range of unusual properties such as underground military bunkers, converted shipping containers, army tents, hospitals, an old fire station and even a country mansion.

No emergency

Despite calls to activate an emergency plan, the justice ministry and the cantons last Friday stopped short of taking special measures for the time being.

Instead, they agreed to speed up preparations for the opening of three federal asylum centres.

The cantons for their part are to provide additional emergency accommodation.

They also want the government to simplify procedures to activate the crisis concept.

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