The head of the State Secretariat for Migration says that although the number of Ukrainians seeking refuge has levelled off in recent weeks, the economic consequences of the war is expected to keep asylum requests high.
This year Christine Schraner Burgener expects the number of people seeking asylum to be around 27,000 but it could reach as many as 40,000 in a “worst-case scenario”. This depends on the course of the war and how it affects other regions.
Last year Switzerland registered 24,500 asylum-seekers, which was 64% more than the previous year. This excludes some 75,000 Ukrainian refugees, who received a special protection status through an accelerated registration process. The number of Ukrainians seeking protection has levelled off to around 500 people a week.
“We are faced with an extraordinary situation. With such high numbers, we reach our limits sometimes,” Schraner Burgener said in an interview with CH Media newspapers on Thursday. “So far, the asylum system has passed the stress test” but all levels of government have been under pressure, she said.
The repatriation rate for expelled asylum-seekers last year was 54%, which she said was high. This sends a “clear signal” to people coming to the country who are not being persecuted. If you are coming for economic reasons, you are unlikely to receive a positive decision, she said.
Italy announced in December that it would block the return of asylum-seekers as it struggled to cope with a large number of new migrants crossing the Mediterranean. Schraner Burgener said she has urged her Italian counterparts to abide by the Dublin agreement, which allows other countries to deport asylum-seekers back to the Dublin accord signatory country where they first arrived.
She said she backed proposals for strict controls and rapid processing of asylum applications at external borders. After this, “recognised refugees could be distributed among the Schengen countries – like the federal government does with the cantons”, she said.