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Foreigners excluded by provisional permits

The Commission says F permit holders should be given more rights swissinfo.ch

A government advisory committee has warned that holders of a provisional residency permit are unable to integrate into Swiss society and suffer from prejudice.

This content was published on October 21, 2003 - 14:39

It said some 26,000 foreigners in Switzerland were being denied access to social support and to the job market, and were sometimes stripped of their human dignity.

The Swiss Federal Commission against Racism said holders of an “F permit” – a provisional 12-month residency permit – also had no proper access to the country’s education system.

The F permit, which is renewable, is granted to certain foreign nationals who do not qualify for asylum.

"It is actually a provisional permit, which was initially [meant] for people persecuted for their political beliefs," Doris Angst of the Commission told swissinfo.

"But now we've seen that more than 60 per cent of F permit holders have been in Switzerland for more than five years and about 21 per cent have lived here for 10 years or longer," she added.

In two reports published in Bern on Tuesday, the Commission also said foreigners with the F permit were also unable to benefit from Swiss integration programmes for foreigners.

The findings come as the Swiss parliament is considering revising the country’s asylum laws.

Human dignity

While some restrictions were justified over a short period, the Commission noted that holders were often stuck with the permit without much opportunity to improve their status.

"If the restrictions only last for a certain period of time it is fine, but if people have to deal with it for three years or longer they are stripped of their human dignity," Angst told swissinfo.

"We demand that people who have lived here for more than three years be granted a B permit [which grants them the right to work for at least one year]."

In particular, the Commission was concerned that the lack of prospects for young people could lead them to “revolt or turn against society”. Around 45 per cent of F permit holders are minors.

Reforms

One of the studies, carried by Bern University’s law faculty, also concluded that people admitted provisionally were not protected by anti-discrimination legislation, unlike other groups.

In December, the Swiss parliament is due to vote on a savings plan, which includes proposals to remove state support for asylum seekers who have had their applications turned down.

"I am just a bit worried that the newly elected parliament be tougher [against asylum seekers]," she said.

The Swiss Refugee Council, a non-governmental organisation, has voiced concern that asylum seekers will lose welfare benefits and turn to crime.

As part of its reform package, the government also wants to shorten the deadline for appeals. Eighty per cent of all asylum cases are decided within two months, but the complicated appeals process can last for years.

Even if the end result is expulsion, repatriating immigrants can be problematic, with some African countries refusing to allow asylum seekers back home.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

26,000 people have a provisional residential permit in Switzerland.
The majority of F permit holders come from the former Yugoslavia and Sri Lanka.
Around 45 per cent of F permit holders are minors.

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