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Refugees Minister defends Swiss policy on Syria

Justice Minister Sommaruga says Switzerland is willing to contribute to a Europe-wide asylum policy 

(Keystone)

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga says she supports a coordinated European plan to take in more refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria. But she dismissed allegations that Switzerland had been ungenerous to refugees.

In an interview in the French-speaking Le Temps newspaper, Sommaruga said Switzerland was ready to contribute if the European Union succeeded in agreeing on a common strategy.

She described the current European asylum policy as inefficient and imbalanced, saying 90% of all asylum requests were filed in ten countries, including Switzerland. The other 22 member states of the Schengen accord only process the remaining 10%, she lamented.

The justice minister dismissed allegations that the Swiss government had failed to show generosity towards Syrian refugees.

“Nearly 10,000 Syrians have found refuge in Switzerland since the beginning of the civil war. Switzerland is the only country to ease visa restrictions to re-unite families,” she declared.

Aid on the ground

“I know this is not a lot but don’t forget that aid on the ground has always been very important for Switzerland,” said the minister, adding that Switzerland had spent CHF128 million ($142 million) in aid for victims in Syria and neighbouring countries over the past three years.

The government is now considering extending long-term assistance.

Ahead of a meeting of EU justice and interior ministers in Latvia later this week, the Swiss minister also expressed concern about the spread of radical Islam in Europe and European citizens fighting with militant groups in Syria and Iraq.

Latest figures show that 18 radical militants have returned to Switzerland mainly from Syria and Iraq since 2001. At least three of them have been arrested suspected of illegal activities in Switzerland.

Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch and agencies


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