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Three Swiss cities agree to take in vulnerable people from Afghanistan

26. August 2021

The cities of Geneva, Bern and Zurich have declared their willingness to take in vulnerable people from Afghanistan immediately. Since the federal government still does not allow the cities to take decisions concerning this matter on their own, they now want to put pressure on the federal government.

With the violent offensive of the Taliban, the security situation for people living in the country has also deteriorated considerably. Not only local staff of the different European projects in Afghanistan, but especially women, women’s rights activists, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, democrats, artists and many more are in acute danger.

Already after the fire of Moria almost a year ago, on 09 September 2020, these three cities have agreed to take in people beyond the federal distribution key. Now Geneva, Bern and Zurich reaffirm their willingness and put pressure on the federal government. The cities are calling on the Swiss Confederation to immediately introduce a facilitated procedure that would allow a first humanitarian visa to be issued to Afghans at risk.

“I regret that the Federal Council did not want to address the matter. It is irresponsible not to do anything,” reacted Delphine Bachmann, president of the Geneva PDC (Parti Démocrate-Chrétien).

At a recent press conference, the Federal Council finally announced that Switzerland would accept 230 people from Afghanistan for the time being. The Minister of Justice, Karin Keller-Sutter, does not respond to the demand expressed by various cities, NGOs and civil society organizations to take in more vulnerable people from the country. She declares: “This is not possible at the moment”.

Other words come from the city of Zurich: “In 2015, the city of Zurich accommodated 800 refugees on the city’s territory within a few weeks. That would certainly be possible again today. Now it’s up to the federal government to decide how many people it wants to take in,” says Heike Isselhorst, head of communications at the social department of the city of Zurich.

In view of the dramatic situation, the federal government has to no longer prevent the admission of people in need of protection. Switzerland can and must open its doors and show solidarity with Afghans who have stood up and fought for women’s rights, democracy and a free society in recent years.