Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga has rejected a request by the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) to take in refugees trapped on the Libyan-Tunisian border.
At a meeting in Brussels focussing on the influx of North African asylum seekers, Sommaruga said Switzerland had no more “capacity” and that the government did not want to place an additional burden on Swiss cantons.
The UNHCR has asked western nations to receive around 8,000 refugees stuck at the Libyan-Tunisian border.
Sommaruga added that Switzerland had already accepted a “significant number” of refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea” and that receiving any further asylum seekers was not possible.
However, the Swiss justice minister said Switzerland would look into the possibility of taking 10 to 20 of the more than 1,000 North African refugees who have fled to Malta.
Thursday’s meeting in Brussels of European interior ministers was discussing the temporary introduction of border controls, while still upholding Schengen law, to cope with the influx of North Africans.
Sommaruga told the meeting that Switzerland was not ready to hand over control of its national borders to the European Union. Switzerland was not alone in finding such a proposal inconceivable, she said.
swissinfo.ch and agencies