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Firms close ranks over rejected asylum seekers

Cleaning companies were among those businesses which signed the letter to the Vaud government

(Keystone)

Around 30 businesses in canton Vaud are refusing to comply with an order to sack hundreds of foreign workers who have had their asylum requests rejected.

If they fail to do so by the end of the month, they could be hit with fines of up to SFr5,000 ($3,900) per illegal employee.

In April this year the authorities in Vaud announced that all rejected asylum seekers facing expulsion would no longer be allowed to work in the canton, bringing it into line with the federal asylum law.

Employers were recently informed that the ban would take effect from July 31. Campaigners estimate there are around 400 people affected by the move.

But businesses, including hotels and cleaning companies, have now written to Vaud’s seven-strong government saying they will not fire staff. (read related stories)

"We are being forced to sack people who have been in Switzerland for several years, who have made great efforts to adapt to our customs and way of life even though they have experienced traumatic events in the past," they said in their letter.

Employers also highlighted the time and effort invested in training staff, the arbitrary July 31 cut-off date, and the fact that workers would now have to rely on "paltry" welfare handouts to survive.

No change in policy

The cantonal authorities told swissinfo that they were unable to comment on the contents of the letter since the government had yet to read it.

But they said that there had been no change in the policy announced in April whereby rejected asylum seekers ordered to leave the country would no longer be allowed to work.

The stand taken by businesses in favour of rejected asylum seekers comes shortly after the issue provoked a political crisis within the canton.

At the beginning of the month Vaud’s parliament voted narrowly in favour of a freeze on repatriations of a group of rejected asylum seekers.

But 24 hours later the canton’s government ruled that it would not consider the resolution until it met again in August.

It said expulsions would go ahead as planned during the summer, adding that it had no option but to fall into line with federal law.

swissinfo, Adam Beaumont

In brief

Vaud has a long history of offering humanitarian assistance. It was the only canton not to follow federal instructions to deport those whose applications to stay in Switzerland had been rejected.

But last year it came under pressure from the federal authorities in Bern to fall into line with other cantons.

The French-speaking canton announced in September that it would start repatriating people without temporary residency status.

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