The Asylum Seeker Issue

Yesterday the parliament voted in favour of the asylum seekers new reform, the aim being to make the whole process a lot smoother and faster. One of the motions passed is that asylum seekers cases will be processed within 140 days maximum (including appeals). They will also have access to free legal representation. The third motion that was passed was that asylum seekers who commit crimes whilst they are waiting for their cases to be processed will be placed in special centres. Although not locked up venues as the SVP party had suggested. The two motions which were refused were, first that asylum seekers could apply through Swiss embassies abroad and that there should be a moratorium of one year on taking in new refugees (another SVP initiative).

All of this will probably come as small comfort to Syrian Pastor Fared, whom I heard preach at the ICL this past Sunday and who has been refused asylum on the grounds that Christians are not in danger in Syria! He has been given an F Permit until the situation in Syria improves at which point he will have to leave the country immediately. The permit allows him to live and work in the canton of Luzern only and he cannot leave the country. He and his wife and three sons have been here for two and half years and until his case was decided (last week) they had no access to German classes or much chance of integrating.

In Switzerland, every canton is given a quota of asylum seekers that they have to take in and it is divided up amongst the various towns and villages. Currently the canton is offering shelter to 4.9% of the asylum seekers in Switzerland (compared to Zug with 1.9%) and they are way over their quota. This means that 200 new asylum seekers are arriving each month, and there is an urgent need for an extra 1100 beds. All of this costs money for the communities. The parliament gives the canton roughly CHF 1460.- per person per month, but the actual cost of hosting an asylum seeker is between CHF 3500.- and CHF 4500.- a month, this being financed by the canton, cities and towns.

Up to now Caritas has been doing an amazing job helping and looking after asylum seekers and refugees, but the canton in an effort to save 1 million francs has decided to take the contract away from them and do the job themselves.

This is as ever a complex issue, where compassion is confronted with the stark reality of bureaucracy and practicality. Let us hope that where there is a will, there is a way.

P.S.: I was reminded that until they are accepted, refugees (Flüchtlinge) should be referred to as asylum seekers (Asylbewerber). Although this may sound like a semantics problem, refugees have a lot more rights than asylum seekers in this country.


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