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Refugees welcome At Zurich rally, calls for Swiss "solidarity cities" and safe routes

Migrants aboard the Aquarius rescue ship

Migrant arrivals to Europe have been on a downward trend since the political crisis of 2015-16 but the issue remains a hot topic for policymakers.

(Keystone)

Hundreds of people demonstrated in Zurich calling for safe routes for refugees, decriminalisation of sea rescues, and the establishment of solidarity citiesexternal link in Switzerland.

The Saturday rally was spearheaded by "Seebrücke,"external link a movement critical of the European policy shift towards stricter border controls which it says amounts to “letting people drown in the Mediterranean.”

The event's co-organiser, Anna Schmid, said at least 3,000 people took to the streets of Zurich, Switzerland's largest city. 

She urged Swiss politicians to take a stand and no longer tolerate people dying in silence.

Switzerland, she added in remarks published by the Swiss news agency Keystone-SDA, should be taking people in rather than deporting as many refugees as possible to Italy. 

Thomas Nuding, captain of the non-profit ship Sea-Eye, said sea rescue of refugees is not a crime but a humanitarian duty and that “unlawfully blocked NGO ships” should be allowed to resume their work.

Nuding said cooperation with the so-called coastguard of Libya, a major departure point for migrants headed to Europe, should be stopped immediately. 

Lina Rasheed of FIZ Advocacy and Support for Migrant Women and Victims of Traffickingexternal link, warned women in particular are exposed to sexual violence during their escape through the Sahara and Libya. 

There is an urgent need for safe escape routes, Rasheed said. 

The International Organisation for Migration reports 84,645 arrivals to Europe in 2018. More than 1,500 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean since January, according to the same source. 

Keystone-SDA/ds

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