The number of people requesting asylum in Switzerland dropped by almost a third last year, reaching its lowest level for 17 years.This content was published on January 21, 2005 - 15:30
The Federal Migration Office said on Friday that the decrease was particularly marked in Switzerland compared to its European neighbours.
According to the office, the country recorded 32.3 per cent fewer requests for asylum in 2004 than in 2003.
The fall in requests was greater in Switzerland than in the rest of Western Europe.
Figures for the first nine months of 2004 show that the Swiss rate was 28 per cent, whereas the figure generally stood at 20 per cent in its European neighbours.
“The lower numbers can be explained by fewer conflicts in Europe,” said office spokesman Mario Tuor.
He added that the implementation of tougher policies last year also helped drive down asylum statistics.
These measures included cutting off financial aid to people whose requests were rejected, speeding up the processing of requests and more deportations.
Officials said at the time that the move would deter bogus asylum seekers from coming to Switzerland and encourage rejected applicants to leave the country.
But the office added that despite a calming of the conflict in the region, most asylum seekers still came from the Balkans, followed by the former Soviet Union states. Demands from western Africa have dropped off substantially.
The number of people waiting for a decision from the authorities was just over 55,000 at the end of December, down nearly 15 per cent. More than 14,000 others were still waiting to leave Switzerland after being refused admission to the country.
In all, asylum was granted to 1,555 people last year. While this was a lower number than in 2003, it represented a higher percentage of all requests made.
Meanwhile, nearly 2,600 people returned to their home country of their own volition in 2004, while another 2,330 were deported. Officials believe there were more than 10,000 unregistered departures.
swissinfo with agencies
In 2004, 14,248 people made an asylum request in Switzerland.
The authorities turned down 10,080 requests last year.
Asylum was granted to 1,555 people.
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