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Few humanitarian visas granted by Swiss

Large numbers of asylum seekers arriving in Switzerland recently have forced the government to open army facilities to host them Keystone

The Swiss authorities have handed out only six so-called “humanitarian” visas since new legislation was introduced last year, while appeals are pending in a federal court for three applications that were rejected.

This content was published on April 25, 2013 - 21:11
swissinfo.ch and agencies

Since the end of September, asylum requests can longer be filed at Swiss embassies, ending a tradition that Switzerland was among the few countries to still practise. After that date, diplomatic representations have only dealt with short-term humanitarian visas.

According to the Federal Office for Migration, there have been 364 requests for information concerning these visas, but there are no up-to-date figures concerning actual demand for the three-month document. Precise numbers are not expected before next year.

Under Switzerland’s revised asylum legislation, these visas are granted to people whose life or physical integrity is seriously and concretely under threat in their homeland. Those whose applications have been rejected by the embassy can appeal to the migration office and if necessary to the Federal Administrative Court.

The scrapping of asylum requests at embassies was part of a controversial package of measures that includes the creation of special centres for unruly asylum seekers and refusing to accept requests by conscientious objectors.

They could be overturned by Swiss voters on June 9 if a referendum launched by the leftwing parties, trade unions and human rights groups is accepted. The measures are valid for three years, but further reforms are on the way.

More than 14,000 asylum requests filed under the earlier system were still pending when the revised legislation was introduced on September 29. Since then, slightly less than 3,700 applications have been processed, with just 216 people being authorised to stay in Switzerland.

Surge

Embassies saw a surge in requests just before the September deadline. According to migration office spokeswoman Gaby Szöllösy, it was notably the case in Sudan where Eritrean citizens were seeking to file an application.

Around 1,800 asylum requests were filed from abroad last September, while the previous month it was just 800.

According to migration office figures, it processed 26,000 cases filed from Swiss embassies between January 2006 and February this year. For the years between 2010 and 2012, most applications came from Eritrea, Somalia and Sri Lanka.

Between 2006 and 2013, 10.8 per cent of applications for asylum in Switzerland were accepted, of which around 1,000 people were granted refugee status.

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