A statement from the Swiss Farmer’s Union (USP) announcing a programme to employ refugees living in Switzerland has caused quite a stir – but for the wrong reasons. The USP has been inundated with job inquiries from abroad, despite the fact that the programme is only for refugees currently living on Swiss soil.
The May 20 statement was covered by swissinfo.ch and other outlets with details on the three-year pilot project, which would allow refugees living in Switzerland to be employed as farmhands on Swiss farms. The USP described the programme as a “win-win”, because it would provide job opportunities for refugees as well as support for the agricultural sector, which could face employment restrictions following the immigration referendum of February 2014.
Swiss newspaper Le Temps published an article Saturday morning describing the USP’s surprise and confusion at receiving hundreds of phone calls from foreigners who mistakenly believed they were eligible to enrol in the programme. And they aren’t the only ones being contacted.
“We’ve received around 1,000 calls since the news was published in an Italian paper,” Monika Schatzmann of Agrimpuls told swissinfo.ch. Her organisation is associated with the USP, and helps source farmworkers from EU countries to work on Swiss farms. “We are not getting so many calls now,” she added.
The finer points of the Swiss Farmer’s Union announcement may have been overshadowed by the published salary estimates for programme participants – CHF2,300 ($2,457) for the first month and up to CHF3,200 by the second month. Italian news outlet La Provincia di Varese published a headline on May 25 exclaiming in Italian, “Switzerland Seeks Farmers – Monthly Pay €3,000”.
A loss of meaning in translation may also have contributed to readers’ confusion as to the target audience for the programme – i.e., refugees living in Switzerland rather than applicants from abroad.