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The village with a soft spot for asylum seekers

Projects to house asylum seekers are seldom welcomed by the local population. However, that was not the case for the Bernese village of Riggisberg, which has been hosting 125 asylum seekers since last summer.

They come from Eritrea, Syria, Egypt, Somalia, Turkey and other countries in turmoil and now live in a transit shelter not far from the centre of this village of 2,500 inhabitants, surrounded by hills and farmland.

Riggisberg is a conservative place and four of its councillors are from the conservative right Swiss People’s Party. Its residents had voted in favour of the February 2014 initiative to impose immigration quotas on EU workers.

So it was all the more surprising when the council voted unanimously in July 2014 to place the old army barracks at the disposal of the asylum seekers. The residents were informed of this decision through leaflets and a letter.

Even though not everyone was happy, there was no significant opposition and the villagers and refugees appear to coexist peacefully.

(Photos: Marco Zanoni, Text: Gaby Ochsenbein/

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR