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Petition “Stop dying in the Mediterranean!” also rejected in the Council of States

19. March 2021

On 7 January 2020, the organisation Solidarity Network and other organisations submitted the petition “Stop Dying in the Mediterranean!”. The petition immediately demands that Switzerland participate in the establishment of a European-organised and financed civilian sea rescue system; that people rescued from distress at sea be distributed among the countries according to the rule of law and humanitarian principles; and that the legal foundations be created in Switzerland so that boat people can be taken in quickly and in a decentralised manner.

The petition was rejected in the Council of States by 25 votes to 14 with 6 abstentions. While the Council of States is not prepared to do at least a minimum against the deaths on the Mediterranean, Thomas Hefti, a supporter of the rejection, finds: “It bothers me when this discussion is conducted here and there in such a way that we are made to look like the bad guys and the bad ones.” But isn’t it the case that those in power are causing this situation with their isolationist policies?

We would therefore like to give more space to Daniel Jositsch’s vote for the acceptance of the petition:

“This petition deals with a situation that, in my view, is objectively an injustice, regardless of where one stands on migration and refugee policy. It represents an injustice that urgently needs to be remedied. Why?

Refugee policy, and this is true from a pan-European perspective, but also in relation to Switzerland, is based on the fact that as a refugee, even if you are legally entitled to be recognised as such and to be granted asylum in Switzerland, you have no possibility of asserting this entitlement in any way in your country of origin. You are forced to fight your way to our country by illegal means, for example by smugglers across the Mediterranean, risking your life, in order to be able to make a request here.

It may be that the smugglers are evil, money-grubbing criminals, but – and here I must partly contradict the Commission rapporteur – they are also the only ones who provide a way to get across the Mediterranean. In this respect, I have to tell you: the fact that there are traffickers is due to the pan-European migration policy. There is no other way to get across the Mediterranean.

This situation has led to the deaths of 21,000 people fleeing across the Mediterranean since 2014. That is ten people per day! You all may remember this picture of this child who was found on the Mediterranean beach. (The speaker shows a photo) This picture shocked us all and we all asked, for God’s sake, what happened to this poor child? – This is exactly what happens ten times a day! This is what happens to children, to mothers, to men and women, some of whom are fleeing without being able to do anything about it!

If you now say – as the Commission rapporteur said – that we are passing the ball to the administrations and governments there, that will not help these people. If you are in such a situation, if you are in Syria or in another country where you can no longer live and are therefore fleeing, it does you no good if we say here, yes, your government has just failed. I would also like to point out to you that Swiss people – even though it was some time ago – have also had to apply for asylum in other countries and be recognised as refugees.

I would simply like to point out to you that Swiss people – even though it was some time ago – have also already been dependent on obtaining asylum in other countries and being recognised as refugees.

What does the petition want? The petition wants nothing more and nothing less than a European organised sea rescue organisation. It wants an orderly distribution of people rescued from distress at sea and it wants a rapid and decentralised reception of boat refugees in Switzerland.

The Federal Council sees this need, it also sees that today’s migration policy, as it takes place throughout Europe, is not in order. But first of all – as the Commission rapporteur also said – it refers to the resettlement programme; that is actually the only version of how they come to our country in an orderly procedure, as it were, from their country of origin. But you simply have to see that we are talking about a good thousand people per year. I am not minimising the problem, but it concerns hundreds of thousands and not thousands.

The Federal Council’s second comment is: Yes, we are not alone in Europe! I have to tell you: Yes, we are alone in Europe, because we have decided to be alone in Europe! In this respect, I find it somewhat cynical when we say: We are sovereign! We insist on our sovereignty in all areas. But then, when it comes to helping people, we simply say: “Yes, unfortunately we can’t do it alone; we are an independent country and therefore we have to decide independently.” This is about people in need. It seems a bit cynical to me to simply say: “Yes, if the others don’t do anything, we won’t do anything either”.

From this point of view, I am of the opinion that we have to go new ways here. We have to take responsibility for this situation. This is not about me calling on you to change our migration policy. No, you can still decide who comes to our country and who does not, as is done today. The only difference is that I expect people to have access to due process of law without having to fight their way across the Mediterranean, organised by a smuggler, in a nutshell and risking the lives of their entire family.

I simply want them to be able to register as refugees in an orderly system, in an orderly procedure. Only then is it to be decided whether someone has a right to come to Switzerland. If so, then this path should be paved – no more and no less! From a humanitarian point of view, this seems to me to be the least that can be done.

So that we no longer have to look at pictures like this one (the speaker shows the photo again) and can prevent situations like this, I urge you to refer the petition back to the Commission with the mandate to draw up a Commission proposal.”

All details on the petition.

Picture: Petition handover in Bern in January 2020, https://beobachtungsstelle.ch/news/sterben-auf-dem-mittelmeer-stoppen-petitionsuebergabe/