Update: 18.12.2008

Failed Asylum Seekers Trying to Survive on Emergency Aid

Since 1 January 2008 the so-called emergency aid for asylum seekers is no longer only applied to asylum seekers whose applications have not been given close examinations, but has been extended to all refused asylum seekers. The emergency aid allocated to failed asylum seekers, as guaranteed by the Swiss Constitution, amounts to a mere 8 Francs a day for food and toiletries as well as a bed in an emergency shelter organised by the cantons. Even families, who have been living in Switzerland for years and have now been given a negative decision on their asylum application, fall under this rule. The Swiss Refugee Council recently published a report on the implications of this new law.

Basic rights violated

According to a press release by the Refugee Council from 16 December 2008, the situation of vulnerable people is very often not taken into account when handing out the money or allocating beds in emergency shelters. It can happen that single women will have to share a room with several strange men or that sick people do not receive the necessary care. In the canton of Bern children of failed asylum seekers are not even allowed to go to school. In the canton of Ticino all persons who do not belong to the group of vulnerable persons do not receive any emergency aid at all, which is a clear breach of the Constitution.

Allocation of emergency aid varies

In some cantons the failed asylum seekers do not receive the full amount, some receive the money only in form of vouchers for Coop or Migros, which means they have no money to buy train or bus tickets to get into larger towns to do their shopping. This practice has triggered several solidarity networks which exchange these vouchers for money. Furthermore, there is great discrepancy over how the emergency shelters for these people are operated. Some close during the day, even on cold winter days, which means putting people out on the freezing streets.

Children the most affected

These measures had been “designed for single, healthy young men”, as the Asylum Network of Luzern stated in their press release on 2 December 2008. But they are completely inappropriate for children and families. The new regulation states that it is the responsibility of the cantons to take appropriate measures for vulnerable people. But as the report of the Refugee Council shows, this is not always adhered to. Thus the Swiss Refugee Council demands that the cantons will take a closer look at how they implement these new measures and that vulnerable people and refused asylum seekers waiting for their deportation should not have to survive on emergency aid.

Further information

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