A European born cousin of mine asked me this past weekend about Switzerland. Does it take refugees and asylum seekers? I didn’t know, but just today comes a report about the rise in numbers of people seeking asylum in Europe that answers the question. Iraqis are responsible for the rise according to this article in Swiss.info.
After falling for five years, the number of asylum applications in industrialised countries rose by ten per cent in 2007, the United Nations refugee agency reports.
Switzerland, where numbers remained almost static, was in 11th place overall for the number of asylum applications it receives, comparable with Austria and Belgium.
The overall trend, which saw figures reach a 20-year low in 2006, has been reversed “largely because of an increase in the number of Iraqi asylum seekers”, the UNHCR said.
By the way, we haven’t mentioned Asylum much and can only say it differs from Refugee Resettlement in that those seeking asylum arrive in the country in which they request asylum on their own steam (and find good immigration lawyers!). Refugees are processed abroad and then we pay their travel expenses. Both groups are treated the same when they get here and are eligible for all sorts of healthcare and welfare.
We’ve heard stories of Africans (others probably too) who get on a plane somewhere in the world with a passport of some sort and dump it in the toilet upon landing in the US where they then ask for asylum.
Back to Switzerland, a Swiss refugee agency says that Switzerland could do more for refugees. No offense to the Swiss, but I’ve spent a little time there and I was struck by how inflexible many of its citizens are, or at least the ones I knew. They are complete neat freaks—I knew one girl who ironed her underwear! They freshen their bed covers out the window every day! Can you imagine the culture clashes they must have with some refugees.
According to Golay, the Swiss Refugee Council has also been calling on Switzerland to be more generous in admitting groups of refugees.
“A policy of taking in resettlement groups would have its place considering how few Iraqis are currently being accepted into Switzerland,” he said.
“Switzerland has not done this on a significant scale since the mid-1990s. We have asked Switzerland to re-adopt this policy, particularly in the case of Iraqis, some two million of whom are living outside their country in very difficult conditions with very little support.”
The largest single nationality group of asylum seekers in Switzerland in 2007 was Eritreans (1,662), followed by Serbs (953) and Iraqis.
Here are some interesting numbers from the article:
The industrialised countries that lodged the most asylum applications in 2007 were:
The United States: 49,200
Switzerland was in 11th place with 10,390.