The government believes Switzerland could benefit from working more closely with the European Union (EU) over asylum seekers.
It adopted a motion on Wednesday to start negotiations with the EU to give Switzerland observer status at the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).
The EASO was established in May 2010 to promote cooperation between EU members over questions of asylum and to offer support to states which come under particular pressure from large numbers of would-be asylum seekers.
The office started operations last month. It works closely not only with the relevant authorities in the individual countries, but also with a number of EU and other international bodies.
Observer status would enable Switzerland to benefit from the experience of the other states and to offer its own expertise, but would not oblige it to adopt European asylum law.
The exact details of observer status have not been defined, and need to be negotiated.
The government’s decision to hold negotiations is subject to the approval of foreign affairs committees of the two chambers of parliament.
swissinfo.ch and agencies