Bern monitors North Africa refugees closely

Switzerland is attending talks in Brussels being held by European Union interior ministers on the expected influx of refugees fleeing Libya, Tunisia and Egypt.

This content was published on February 24, 2011 - 13:49 and agencies

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said after arrival on Thursday that it was “very important for Switzerland to show that it, too, is clearly affected” by the refugee issue.

She added that she hoped the round table discussions would produce an exchange of information and good cooperation in asylum matters.

“We must not act in panic but consult each other,” she said, noting that no one was at present in a position to give any figures.

Sommaruga explained that given the large number of refugees who might be tempted to flee to Europe, she would try to work towards a common policy with the EU.

Switzerland, which is not an EU member, is working on a number of possible scenarios, she said.

The Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, estimated on Wednesday that up to 300,000 refugees could arrive in Europe as a result of the upheaval in their countries. However, the European Commission and several EU countries described this as “very speculative”.

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