Eine Frau geht an einer Weltkarte, die aus Kinderporträts besteht, am Freitag (18.06.2010) im JuniorMuseum in Köln vorbei.

3.7.2012 | Von:
Noemi Carrel

Refuge and Asylum

In connection with the subjects of refuge and asylum, frequent reference is made to the humanitarian tradition of Switzerland, which was demonstrated particularly in the taking in of Huguenots in the 17th century and of political refugees from throughout Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. Tendencies to closure are, however, also a part of Swiss asylum policy. This becomes clear in light of the closing of Swiss borders in 1942 to Jewish refugees as well as with respect to the restrictive character of more recent asylum policy.[1]

Asylum seekers and people in the asylum process, 1995-2010Asylum seekers and people in the asylum process, 1995-2010 Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de (bpb)
In 1955 the Geneva Convention on Refugees came into effect in Switzerland and formed from then on the basis of Swiss asylum policy. Subsequently, the East-West conflict marked the practice of taking in refugees. Switzerland provided refuge above all for those who were fleeing communist regimes. This was true in 1956 of Hungarian, in 1963 of Tibetan and in 1968 of Czechoslovakian refugees.[2]

Beginning in the 1970s the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) began to organize contingents of refugees and distribute them among host countries. Switzerland took on such a contingent for the first time in 1972 when it accepted refugees from Uganda. The willingness to take in contingent refugees, however, was already declining when Chilean refugees were taken in in 1973. In the following years, Switzerland took in fewer and fewer contingent refugees and finally completely refused to accept contingents from the UNHCR.

This development coincided with the entry into effect of Switzerland’s first asylum law in 1981. This liberal asylum law underwent several adjustments in subsequent years. Particularly the revision of 1990 introduced a significantly more restrictive asylum policy. But in the same decade, the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia triggered new waves of refugees, and a sharp increase in the number of applications for asylum followed. They reached a peak of 41,600 in 1991. Another peak of 46,000 applications for asylum was reached in 1999. However, since the end of the Kosovo conflict, the level of asylum immigration has declined (cf. Fig.).[3]

After the turn of the millennium, additional reforms aimed at reducing the attractiveness of Switzerland as a country of asylum as well as the expenditures and the duration of legal procedures in the asylum sector. Thus, individuals whose application for asylum is not taken up for review have been excluded from social assistance since 2004. The revision of the asylum law approved in 2006 put through additional tightening measures. Thus, for example, in the absence of identity papers an application for asylum is no longer taken up for review as long as the lack of documents remains unfounded and the refugee status of an individual cannot be proved. In addition, the maximum duration of preparatory custody (prior to repatriation) and detention pending deportation have been increased (from three to six months or from nine to 18 months, respectively), and coercive detention of up to 18 months has been introduced. As of 2008, individuals with a legally binding rejected decision on asylum are excluded from social assistance and are only eligible for emergency assistance (Nothilfe).[4]

Moreover, the coming into effect of the Dublin association agreement of 2008 between the European Community and the Swiss Confederation was decisive in changing Swiss asylum policy. Since then, Switzerland has been entitled to hand over asylum seekers to the responsible Dublin countries.[5]


Parini (1997).
Swiss Integration Office EDA/EVD, Swiss Federal Chancellery, Swiss Federal Office for Migration.
Swiss Federal Statistical Office: The Statistical Encyclopedia, Piguet (2006).
Swiss Federal Office for Migration, Efionayi-Mäder et al. (2011), Swiss Federal Commission for Questions on Migration. Emergency assistance (Nothilfe): According to the Federal Constitution (Art. 12) all persons in Switzerland have a ‘right to assistance in states of emergency’. Persons in such an emergency situation can apply for emergency assistance if they do not draw on other social welfare benefits provided by the State. Emergency assistance provides a minimum of aid to ensure the survival of a person. The design of emergency assistance is based on cantonal law. Therefore, requirements for and benefits of emergency assistance differ significantly from canton to canton (cf. article 12 of the Swiss Federal Constitution; articles 80-84 of the Swiss Asylum Law; Achermann 2009; Efionayi-Mäder et al. 2010). Since 1986 detention pending deportation (Ausschaffungshaft) is tied to the so-called administrative detention. This form of detention does not serve the investigation or punishment of a criminal offense in terms of the Swiss Penal Code. Instead, administrative detention is about guaranteeing the deportation or repatriation of a foreigner and hindering their escaping and hiding. There are three types of administrative detention: preparatory custody, detention pending deportation, and coercive detention.
Hruschka (2011).


Zuwanderung, Flucht und Asyl: Aktuelle Themen

Ein Kurzdossier legt komplexe Zusammenhänge aus den Bereichen Zuwanderung, Flucht und Asyl sowie Integration auf einfache und klare Art und Weise dar. Es bietet einen fundierten Einstieg in eine bestimmte Thematik, in dem es den Hintergrund näher beleuchtet und verschiedene Standpunkte wissenschaftlich und kritisch abwägt. Darüber hinaus enthält es Hinweise auf weiterführende Literatur und Internet-Verweise. Dies eröffnet die Möglichkeit, sich eingehender mit der Thematik zu befassen. Unsere Kurzdossiers erscheinen bis zu 6-mal jährlich.

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