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Concerns of municipalities about their expression of solidarity

2. March 2021

The new camp on Lesbos still hosts about 7,000 people in non-winter-proof and unheated tents, directly at the sea, exposed to the weather. Compared to the camp Moria, which has burned down in September, conditions have even further deteriorated. The situation is an unacceptable physical and psychological burden for the people accommodated there.

The association Netzwerk Asyl Aargau started the campaign “500 people for the communities in Aargau” for communities and cities to voluntarily increase their quota of receiving people. This gives way to the possibility of creating necessary capacity in the cantons and register “free space” with the federal government for the reception of people from those precarious camps. Numerous municipalities have already given positive feedback.

Aarau, Baden, Brugg, Laufenburg, Lenzburg and Windisch expressed their willingness to the federal government to welcome people from Moria in their communities for humanitarian reasons. The next step is to engage in discussions with the federal government and the canton to inquire into problem-solving and to jointly address solutions for future communal reception.

Despite the large number of positive responses to the request of the association Netzwerk Asyl Aargau, some reservations about the campaign remain for certain municipalities. Among those are Wohlen, Ennetbaden and Wettingen. While those municipalities recognize the plight of people in the Greek camps, they still reject the request due to a number of different administrative concerns.

Competences of the federal government and the canton

One reason for the reservation is the clearly separated are of competences between the federal government and the municipalities. In order not to exceed these powers, the municipalities want to refrain from exerting municipal pressure on the federal government. Nevertheless, it is sometimes explicitly added that they would be willing to take in refugees and would also have accommodation capacities, however they would only be made available if a corresponding demand were made by the canton.

Financial burden

In addition, it remains unclear for many municipalities as to what would the costs amount when receiving additional people. Here, different numbers were raised in relation to what municipalities have to calculate with. Reference is also made to the procedural path: Municipalities would not be able to commit to additional reception without the budget for it being officially approved elsewhere.

Fulfillment of tasks

Many municipalities state that they already take care of significantly more refugees than they would have to according to the cantonal key. This aspect also shows that they are willing to assume responsibility in the Swiss asylum system, but also expect this from the other municipalities.

Housing options

In some cases, the lack of accommodation is cited as a reason for refusal. This aspect is often only a snapshot of the situation in many municipalities. In particular, the change in space requirements during the Covid pandemic have shown that in many places it is possible to make additional properties available for accommodation at short notice.

Whether these reasons were pretextual or actually decisive for the decision, we from SEEBRÜCKE Switzerland would like to know and therefore call on the federal government to no longer block the way for the municipal reception of people on the run.

The campaign is still ongoing! In twelve municipalities, a response to the request of the Netzwerk Asyl Aargau is still pending. In order to continue building up pressure from below together with those municipalities that show solidarity, any support for the campaign is welcome. Whether through media, actions or letters, be creative!