Migration head predicts most Ukrainians ‘will not stay in Switzerland’

Ukrainians arriving at their temporary accommodation in canton Vaud (southwestern Switzerland). © Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott

Of the 40,000 Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in Switzerland over the past two months, some are already starting to return home, says a top Swiss migration official.

This content was published on April 24, 2022
NZZ am Sonntag/

Christine Schraner Burgener, the head of the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper that she had no exact figures, but that she is aware of cases.

The diplomat, who previously worked in Myanmar and has long experience with such crises, referred to UN figures indicating that over 600,000 Ukrainians have returned to their country after fleeing the Russian invasion on February 24.

The important thing is that “they can do this safely, and that they get help in rebuilding”, she said, predicting that when a solution to the conflict is found, “the Ukrainians are not going to stay in Switzerland”.

Speedy welcome

Some 40,000 have fled to the Alpine nation since February, and Schraner Burgener – who is only four months in the job – said authorities have worked “extremely fast, also in comparison with other countries” to provide a framework to welcome them.

Over 33,000 have received a special legal status [S status] that allows them to bypass normal asylum procedures and to stay, work, and go to school in Switzerland for a year, a length that can be extended for up to five years if the war continues.

And while there have been reports of bureaucratic delays and of Ukrainian refugees queuingExternal link for food and clothes handouts, Schraner Burgener defended her department’s work, saying it was going “extremely well at the moment”.

“Delays [in according the special S status] can happen when Ukrainians have applied for asylum before the S status, or if later they register in several different places at the same time”, she told the NZZ am Sonntag.

Until this week, Swiss authorities have been allowing refugees to choose themselves which region they would stay in, since many have relatives in parts of the country, or have received an offer of private accommodation.

But on Thursday, following the difficulties of certain cities like Zurich, Basel, and Bern in coping with the influx, the SEM said it would revert to a regular geographic reallocation depending on cantonal availability.

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