Switzerland urged to take in refugees stranded in Greece

One third of the refugees and migrants who have arrived in Europe are children, according to UNICEF. Keystone

More than 100 humanitarian groups are calling on the Swiss government to take in refugees stranded in camps in Greece. The coronavirus pandemic, they argue, makes such acts of international solidarity all the more urgent.

This content was published on April 13, 2020 - 12:11

The number of asylum application in Switzerland is at an all-time low and the country has the funds, space and human resources needed to look after many refugees, noted the “Evacuate Now”External link campaigners in a statement published on Monday.

“We urge the Federal Council [Switzerland's executive body] and parliament to bring as many refugees as possible from the Aegean to Switzerland,” they said. “As a Dublin country, Switzerland shares responsibility for the humanitarian catastrophe on the Greek islands.”

The Dublin system

The so-called Dublin Regulation includes the European Union's 27 members, as well as Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. It determines which member state is responsible for processing an asylum claim so that an application is examined just once within the Dublin area. A key goal is to ensure that an application is actually examined and that asylum-seekers cannot be shifted from one country to another without receiving a proper asylum procedure. Another aim is to prevent asylum-seekers from migrating on to other member states and lodging an asylum claim multiple times.

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The statement called for quick action considering the coronavirus pandemic. It pointed to the dire situations in camps such as Moria, which was built to house 3,000 people and now holds about 20,000, on the Greek island of Lesbos. An outbreak there would be catastrophic and cause many deaths.

“In the past few days, Switzerland has shown with the largest repatriation campaign in its history that evacuations are possible,” continued the statement. “What applies to people with a Swiss passport must also be possible for the most vulnerable.”

According to Swiss public radio, SRFExternal link, Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter is cited as suggesting that Switzerland could not unilaterally solve the situation. The report cited a State Secretariat for Migration official as saying that plans announced in January that would have allowed some underage refugees to travel to Switzerland have been suspended.

The statement is co-signed by 107 organisations including Amnesty International Switzerland, FIZ Office for Women Trafficking and Migration, Society for Threatened Peoples and Public Eye.

+ A look at Switzerland’s new asylum system

There are 70.8 million forcibly displaced individualsExternal link worldwide, according to the United Nations refugee agency. Some 14,269 asylum applications were made in Switzerland in 2019External link, a 6.5% decrease relative to the previous year, according to official figures. Migration authorities expect to process about 15,000 new asylum applications in 2020.

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