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Government under fire as Switzerland marks refugee day

The head of Switzerland's refugee aid society, Markus Loosli

(Keystone)

The head of Switzerland's refugee aid society has attacked government policy towards asylum seekers, as the country marks refugee day.

Swiss refugee day, which takes place today, is an annual event organised by the refugee aid society. Markus Loosli used the occasion to draw attention to the situation of refugees and asylum seekers in Switzerland.

Addressing the society's annual general meeting, Loosli urged the authorities to do more to help integrate people who have sought sanctuary in Switzerland. He said Swiss policy towards these groups was more a case of segregation than integration.

Loosli called on the government to grant citizenship to refugees, who have been given permission to remain in Switzerland. He said statistics showed that refugees or asylum seekers who had been in Switzerland for five years or more were overwhelmingly likely to remain here, and should therefore be given the same rights as Swiss citizens.

Under Swiss law, a foreigner must live in Switzerland for 12 years before becoming eligible for citizenship, and even then local voters can sometimes torpedo the procedure.

This year's Swiss refugee day comes against a background of increasing controversy over the government's policies towards refugees and asylum seekers. This month, the government began forcibly repatriating asylum seekers from Kosovo, who have failed to win the right to remain in Switzerland.

It has also rejected calls to halt the forced repatriation of asylum seekers from Iraq and Sri Lanka, dismissing claims that they would be in danger if they returned home.

swissinfo with agencies

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