For 20 years, Switzerland has been helping asylum seekers who choose to return to their home countries. The government is positive that giving money and advice to people to return home is part and parcel of a credible asylum policy. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
For the government Switzerland's repatriation program is a success story. It says, helping people go back to their home country is an integral part of the asylum system. According to justice minister Simonetta Sommaruga, convincing people to return of their own accord is the top goal. She claims that this kind of aid costs Switzerland less than keeping asylum seekers in Switzerland for years before forcing them to return, if their plea is rejected. In many cases, returning asylum seekers receive money in cash right at the airport gate. It's both money for the journey as well as financial aid to make a new start in their home country.
One key element of the programme is counselling, which is supposed to help people upon their return. This is also where people with slim chances of being granted asylum are persuaded to make the return trip.
Since 1997 over 90,000 asylum seekers returned to their home countries voluntarily. The largest group, of 40,000 people, returned to Kosovo; 10,000 people returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to the State Secretariat for Migration, over the last five years 230 people a month from over 60 countries made use of repatriation aid.