In an open letter to the authorities, 27 organisations have urged Switzerland to accommodate 100,000 Syrian refugees.
Groups like Solidarité sans frontières and the Swiss Peace Council say that Switzerland can and must do more to help people fleeing the conflict in Syria. They say that since the Second World War, there have never been so many people on the run – and that it is “incomprehensible” for the European Union and Switzerland to adhere to a policy of isolation.
Those behind the letter say that Switzerland, as one of the world’s richest countries, should be able to help far more than it is doing now. According to Swiss Peace Council President Ruedi Tobler, today’s defensive attitude towards refugees is not natural, but the result of “brainwashing” and a “smear campaign" launched mainly by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party.
Protecting people - not debating what precise asylum status Syrian refugees should receive - should be the priority. The initiators say Switzerland should commit to accepting a certain number of people identified by the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR.
In 2013, the Swiss cabinet decided to accept 500 especially vulnerable refugees from Syria over a period of three years. Solidarité sans frontières criticised this as a “symbolic, indeed hypocritical gesture” in view of the millions seeking shelter.
According to Swiss public television RTS, Lebanon has imposed visa requirements for Syrians entering the country from Monday onwards, making the situation even more precarious for those fleeing the conflict. Lebanon currently hosts around 1.2 million Syrian refugees.
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