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Living underground Vaud struggles to provide housing for asylum seekers

This year has seen an increase in asylum seekers, in particular from Eritrea and Syria. But across the country local authorities are struggling to find appropriate housing for migrants. (RTS/

In canton Vaud the practice of accommodating people in underground bunkers has caused a controversy. The air raid shelter in the village of Bussigny for instance houses up to 50 men in three bedrooms, with two showers and four toilets. There are no windows. To get fresh air, the men have to show their ID cards.

The Vaud Establishment for Migrants admits that the conditions are not ideal, but because of a shortage of housing all over canton Vaud and around lake Geneva, authorities are struggling to find alternatives. Across the canton, asylum seekers are currently housed in nine air raid shelters. This is much more than in other parts of the country. Geneva for instance is opening a second bunker for the same purpose. Bern has five, Neuchâtel two and Fribourg has one. Jura and Valais manage to do without bunkers.

While the numbers of Syrian asylum seekers has remained relatively stable since the beginning of the year, people coming from Eritrea have increased drastically, reaching a peak of almost 1,500 in July. These two groups make up one-third of Switzerland’s asylum seekers.

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