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Government wants to improve health of immigrants

The Swiss government wants to improve the health of immigrants by introducing a new programme swissinfo C Helmle

The government is pushing ahead with a programme to improve the health of immigrants in Switzerland as part of efforts to promote integration.

This content was published on July 14, 2002 - 10:37

The four-year programme, which will cost SFr26 million ($17.2 million), includes education of medical staff treating immigrant patients, as well as prevention projects and information campaigns.

Part of the funds is also destined for special therapies, counselling services and research.

The Federal Health Office said the programme aimed to boost integration and was in line with the policy of the World Health Organization to give immigrants equal access to health care.

Thomas Spang of the federal health office said immigrants in Switzerland were more often subject to health problems than other groups of the resident population.

“Immigrants in Switzerland often works in jobs which have a certain health risk, for example in building, which means they have certain risks,” Spang told swissinfo.

“There is also a communication problem as the immigrant and the doctor do not speak the same language and we don’t have qualified interpreters,” he added.

Initially the government had earmarked SFr47.5 million for the next four years to boost healthcare for asylum seekers and refugees. But because of cutbacks in public spending this amount was later reduced to SFr25.8 million.

Opposition

The programme has attracted criticism by two of the main political parties in Switzerland. The right wing Swiss People's Party in particular rejected the health measures.

In November Swiss voters will have the final say about a plan by the People's Party to drastically limit the possibilities to apply for asylum. The proposal also foresees cuts in social security programmes for asylum seekers in Switzerland.

Last week the authorities reported a growing number of asylum requests. Most requests came from people from Balkan countries and Turkey.

The Federal Refugee Office said 11,843 applications had been handed in the first six months of this year. This is an increase of more than 28 per cent compared with figures from the same period last year.

The authorities earlier this year reported a marked increase of applications by asylum seekers from Africa, including Angola, Nigeria, Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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