Special measures for asylum seekers from safe European countries

Keywords: Asylum

Press Release, SEM, 21.08.2012

Bern. The Swiss Federal Office for Migration (BFM) treats asylum seekers from safe European countries with the highest priority. At the reception and administration centre in Basel, an initial decision is made within 48 hours on all cases for which no further information is required after the interview. This helps the BFM to prevent any possible escalation of the situation, and will also guarantee that genuine asylum seekers can find a place in the system during the coming months. During the summer there has again been a marked increase in the number of people seeking asylum from visa-exempt European countries. Almost all such claims are unfounded and lead to bottlenecks in the Swiss asylum centres.

A marked rise in applications from visa-exempt countries

In the past few months, the Federal Migration Office has recorded an increase in asylum applications from people allowed to enter Switzerland from their European states of origin without a visa. These applications mainly relate to nationals of Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The visa obligation was lifted in 2009 and 2010 respectively, in agreement with the EU, for the entire Schengen area. In July 2012 alone, the number of asylum applications from Macedonia rose by 83% compared to the previous month, while those from Serbia rose by 68%.

Unfounded applications damage the Swiss asylum system

Between 1 January 2011 and 31 July 2012, a total of 4,593 people from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia sought asylum in Switzerland. During the same period, 20 individuals were granted asylum from those countries, corresponding to an acceptance rate of about 0.5%. Such people have hardly any chance of obtaining asylum in Switzerland. This is all the more so because the Federal Council has designated these nations safe countries, which means that adequate state protection is normally assured against persecution, even for minorities. On that basis it is assumed that in most cases, asylum seekers from those countries do not need to seek protection against persecution as defined in the Asylum Act. They also take up places within the Swiss asylum system, leading to bottlenecks. This situation impairs the credibility of the Swiss asylum system, which is based on the principle that people who genuinely face persecution can find refuge in Switzerland and receive decent treatment.

Assistance in home nation

By contrast, asylum seekers whose application is manifestly unfounded cannot receive any assistance: they have to leave the country quickly. However, Switzerland has for years made efforts to improve the situation in their home countries. The Federal government has formed an immigration partnership with Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, stepping up the collaboration with these countries and enabling targeted assistance to be provided. One example, among many, is a project funded by the Federal government to build homes for Roma families in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

48-hour procedure

The Federal Migration Office is now taking steps to process requests for asylum from European safe countries efficiently, so that decisions can be taken quickly. Various teams made up of Federal experts on asylum issues, representatives of relief organisations and interpreters have been set up in the reception and administration centre in Basel. This is where the procedure is carried out for nationals of the above mentioned countries, and where a decision is made within 48 hours from the individual’s first application. This is in all cases in which the legal post-interview statement of the reasons for the asylum application is available, and where no further information is required. All the procedural guarantees, particularly the possibility of appeal through the Federal Administrative Court, remain in place despite the fast-tracked procedure. The usual quality criteria are applied, and Switzerland will continue to offer a fair process to asylum seekers.

Collaboration with the countries of origin

On the one hand, the Swiss government is utilising its legal room for manoeuvre in asylum-related affairs. On the other, when it comes to enforcement, it is working closely with the countries of origin so that the documents needed for travel can be obtained quickly. Collaboration with the countries involved will be intensified in this regard, and discussions with official representatives have already taken place.

The following measures are planned:

Preliminary interview: When an asylum seeker arrives at the Basel reception centre, an immigration office worker will conduct a short interview with him so that he is aware of the problems involved in submitting an application for asylum. The applicant will be given an information sheet with the important details of the new measures.

Abolition of travel contribution: People from the visa-exempt Balkan states have been excluded from the payment of their return fare since the visa obligation was lifted. This measure has been implemented since April 2012. The BFM has now withdrawn the travel contribution from asylum seekers, with the exception of vulnerable people and special cases.  

Travel restriction: In the case of rejected applications by people from visa-exempt European countries, where the deadline for leaving the country is allowed to pass, a travel ban will normally be imposed. The same applies to people who have disrupted public safety, those who have made multiple applications without good reason, and in cases of blatant abuse. The ban applies to the entire Schengen area, but only comes into effect retroactively, so that the persons concerned can travel home voluntarily.

Further information

Fact Sheets

Press Release in other languages

  • Albanian (PDF, 76.60 KB)

    Publikim medial

  • Bosnian (PDF, 115.17 KB)

    Saopćenje za medije

  • Macedonian (PDF, 121.03 KB)

    Соопштение за медиумите

  • Serbian (PDF, 117.51 KB)

    Saopštenje za medije

  • Turkish (PDF, 132.30 KB)

    Basın Bülteni

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Contact / questions

State Secretariat for Migration
+41 58 465 11 11