Geneva investigators probe fraud in Papyrus migrant scheme  

Hundreds of people took part in an information session in Geneva on February 28, 2017 for the Papyrus scheme aimed at regularizing several thousand long-term clandestine migrants in the canton. © Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi

The Office of the Attorney General of Geneva is investigating a suspected case of fraud linked to the Papyrus scheme to regularise the situation of long-term clandestine migrants living in the canton. 

This content was published on January 29, 2020 - 11:24
Keystone-SDA/Tribune de Genève/sb

The attorney general’s office has confirmed that prosecutors are carrying out several investigations, one of which led to the arrest of a man on January 13. 

“The suspect is alleged to have created and produced several false documents for money,” spokesperson Marc Guéniat told Keystone-SDA on Tuesday, confirming a report in the Tribune de Genève newspaper. Ongoing probes are seeking to determine the extent of the fraud. 

The initial alert was reportedly given by Geneva’s Cantonal Population and Migration Office (OCPM). Subsequent checks uncovered the alleged fraudulent cases, which were passed on the attorney general’s office.               

Around 3,500 long-term clandestine migrants living in Geneva are expected to be regularised under the canton-run ‘Papyrus’ scheme, which officially began on February 20, 2017, preceded by a test phase that began in 2015. Around 76,000 illegal immigrants are believed to be living in Switzerland. Of these, canton Geneva is home to 13,000.  

Laurent Paoliello, spokesperson for the Cantonal Security, Employment and Health Department, stressed that problematic cases like the one reported by the Tribune de Genève were the exception. He added that Papyrus dossiers are examined on a case-by-case basis and any suspected cases of fraud are immediately passed to justice officials. 

According to the Tribune de Genève, the arrested suspect is a Kosovar man who allegedly helped dozens of people regularise their situations by offering them false documents in return for payment. 

+ A closer look at the Papyrus scheme in Geneva

Papyrus has been viewed as a positive development by many Geneva politicians, officials and migrant associations, allowing a significant number of people to come out of the shadows. It has also given the authorities a clearer view of the underground sector and related issues like employment and health. Critics, like the local chapter of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, reckon that the programme sends a “disastrous signal” and will simply attract more illegal immigrants to the region.

Under the Papyrus scheme, Geneva has introduced accompanying measures to prevent abuses and to keep newly regularised workers on the job market, so they do not have to rely on social assistance if they lose their jobs. It has, for example, launched a website for domestic employment where employees can offer their services. The Geneva authorities have pushed employers to conform with the law and declare their staff. Additional checks have been carried out among employers.    

People applying to be regularised under Papyrus had to meet strict criteria. For families with children, one family member had to prove they had been living in Geneva for at least five years continuously. For people without children, the requirement was ten years.  

Applicants also had to be financially independent, declare all current employment, be free of debt or legal proceedings, and demonstrate basic French language skills.

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