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Integration Refugee farmer pilot project on track

Swiss farms hire between 25,000 and 35,000 foreign seasonal workers every year


A pilot programme for immigrants with official refugee status to work in Switzerland’s agricultural sector has been successful, according to the migration authorities and the country’s main farmers organisation. 

A total of 13 refugees were placed on eight farms last year as part of a three-year pilot project initiated by the Swiss Farmers Association and the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). In 2016, 17 farm jobs have been reserved for refugees. 

“The results are clear for the first year: by working in agriculture refugees are able to access the labour market sooner, and this improves their chances of integration,” said a statement from the Swiss Farmers Association. “The experience gained will be useful for further projects.” 

Of the first batch of 13 refugees that benefited from the scheme, three have had their contracts extended and one has opted for formal agricultural training. There have also been some setbacks. 

“Three refugees quit the programme. One left for personal reasons while two could not cope with the hard work on the farms for ten hours a day in all weather conditions,” Laurence Bovet, a spokesperson for the Swiss Farmers Association told 

Reducing dependency 

The goal is to reduce farmers’ dependency on seasonal workers from the EU and help refugees integrate into Swiss society through learning skills and the local language.

The refugees will be selected by the cantonal services while participating farms either already employ refugee workers or commit to doing so for three months to a year. 

The refugees will initially be paid CHF2,300 ($2,397) for the first month and by the second month this should rise to CHF3,200 – the minimum wage in this sector in most cantons. The farms will be paid a monthly fee of CHF200 for the additional paperwork involved in employing refugees and will also be eligible for an additional CHF200 if they agree to provide board and lodging. and agencies

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