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Fewer asylum requests received in 2009

Asylum requests fell in the first quarter of 2009 in comparison with the last quarter of 2008, the Federal Migration Office reported on Wednesday.

This content was published on April 15, 2009 - 15:35

The office said the greatest drop had been in the number of Eritreans and Somalis. The reason is that far fewer people from the Horn of Africa attempt the sea crossing to southern Italy in winter because of storms.

Nevertheless, Eritrea, with 782, continued to head the list of countries from which asylum seekers came. Sri Lanka, with 454 was second, and Nigeria third with 431.

The office dealt with 3,664 applications in the same quarter, granting asylum in 484 cases, or 14.5 per cent of the total.

Meanwhile, political parties and interest groups in Switzerland are debating proposals put forward by Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf for tightening up the law on asylum.

Supporters believe new legislation is needed in the face of the general increase in applications and to combat abuse.

Opponents on the left say it would violate Switzerland's humanitarian tradition and that the number of asylum seekers depends on the situation in their home countries, not on the policies of potential hosts.

However, the rightwing People's Party says the proposed measures are not tough enough.

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