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More asylum seekers leave Switzerland than enter country

The Swiss authorities said Tuesday that, for the first time in years, more asylum seekers have left Switzerland than entered the country.

This content was published on October 5, 1999 - 12:39

The Swiss authorities said Tuesday that, for the first time in years, more asylum seekers have left Switzerland than entered the country.

The Federal Refugee Office said the figures for the month of September were mainly due to a federal repatriation programme, which grants financial and material support for those Kosovar refugees who decide to return home voluntarily.

The office said 4,569 Kosovars returned to their home region under that repatriation programme last month. Another 2,096 asylum seekers also left in September.

At the same time, only 2,161 new asylum requests were filed with the authorities, marking the lowest such figure since 1997 and taking the application numbers back to a pre-Kosovo conflict level.

The refugee office said that 60 percent of the asylum requests still came from Kosovar refugees, and that the number might increase again should living conditions not improve before winter weather arrives in the Balkans.

Switzerland and Germany have taken in the highest number of Kosovar refugees, and as Swiss refugee centres filled to bursting point earlier this year, the refugee situation became a controversial political issue.

The refugee issue takes on added significance as Swiss voters are preparing for parliamentary elections later this month.

Some conservative and right-wing parties have condemned the government’s refugee policy and demand that Switzerland radically reduce the number of asylum seekers it lets into the country.

From staff and wire reports.


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