Maria, a 30-year-old woman from Eritrea, arrived in Switzerland at the end of December 2021. She applied for asylum at the federal center in Chiasso. The Swiss authorities refused to accept her on the pretext that she had been granted refugee status in Greece. At the beginning of May, she was transferred to the canton of Lucerne, which is responsible for carrying out forced repatriation. There they wasted no time. A few days later she went to the appointment at the migration office to renew her residence document. But there the police are waiting for her. She is arrested and taken to an administrative prison in Zurich. She is put under a lot of pressure by the police officers: either she takes the scheduled flight that was booked for her, or she is detained and forcibly sent back to Greece. She wants to leave a trace of her experiences and her despair.
Trigger warning: This text shows content that could psychologically, physically or otherwise shock people in some way.
‘When I was 12 years old, I fled my home country Eritrea with my brother and mother and settled in Ethiopia in the Oromo region.’
I fled from Ethiopia three years ago for political and family reasons. Now there is war and a very big famine in this region, but nobody talks about it or does anything about it.
From Ethiopia I came to Turkey. After several attempts to leave Turkey by sea to Greece, I arrived on the island of Chios. I thought Greece was paradise; instead it was hell. I lived in a refugee camp for two years under inhuman, catastrophic conditions. I lived with a friend in a makeshift tent, with a gas cooker for cooking. In winter it was very cold, the tents are not suitable for winter and rain. We didn’t have enough blankets and clothes. The camp was overcrowded, the toilets had holes, the hygienic conditions were pathetic, there was waste everywhere. There was no running water and there was not enough food for everyone. The food that was available was very bad. It was absurd. No one should have to live in such conditions. We had no support from anyone, it was total chaos. Sometimes there were even policemen who chased us away like stray dogs or, at worst, beat us with their batons.
I applied for political asylum without even understanding what was happening to me, nobody explained to me what it was all about and what rights I had. In two years, I received 90 euros. When they gave me the permit, they told me that I had to leave the camp and take care of myself. I think they do this on purpose so they can easily issue permits, because they know that people leave the terrible camps and disappear into thin air. So, after two years I arrived in Athens, we settled in the street (Victoria Square). I did not receive any help. It was terrible, every night my friend and I we were afraid of being attacked. It was too dangerous, as a woman you risk being abused every day.
When I was in Chios, I was a victim of gang rape. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it and received no support, medical, gynecological, legal or psychological. I was alone.
But for the Swiss authorities, everything I experienced in Greece was not enough, they rejected my asylum application. I am just a number, not a person.
They tell me that I have to go back to Greece on the streets, that my story is not credible enough:
How is it possible to be treated in this way? How can I prove that I was raped?
There is no dignity in Greece, no one should live in these conditions. I would like to look them in the face, those people who make the negative decisions from their offices, and have them explain to me how I can live with dignity in Greece: I am a human being, a person with rights, I am not a mouse.
In March, a friend of mine was woken up by police officers, arrested and deported to Athens. S. lived in the room with me, in Chiasso, in Via Motta. Early in the morning they knocked on the door, three of them entered the room, but downstairs at the entrance there were many, maybe a dozen. They handcuffed her in front of me, as if she was the worst of criminals, as if it was a crime in Switzerland to ask for asylum. They took her things and put them in a bag. S. told me a few days after her arrival in Athens that she spent three days, one in Lugano and two in Zurich, in police cells, cold, with nothing, three days without showering, and that she was repeatedly put under psychological pressure: ‘Either you sign the repatriation or you go to prison, you have no other choice.’ She tried to fight back, but after a while she lost hope and is now back on the streets of Athens, always in the same place (Victoria Square), without help, without protection, without dignity.
After a few weeks, it was my turn. I lived every day with the fear that I would be next. I was quite relaxed because I had a repeat application pending at the Federal Administrative Court. But nothing, everywhere I went they chased me away. When I arrive at the migration office in Lucerne, they arrest me there and put me in handcuffs too. They tell me: ‘You have to leave, go back to Greece.’ They take me to Zurich, I sleep one night in a cell without windows, at 9 o’clock a plane is waiting for me; if I don’t catch it, prison and forced repatriation. I don’t know what to do, but I no longer have the strength to resist, to fight, I let myself go….
When I arrived in Athens, no one was there. The Greek authorities knew nothing, although Switzerland is obliged to inform them of my arrival. I am back where I started, again on the streets, again in danger, again without protection. Thanks to some friends I found a place to sleep, but I don’t know for how long…. What misery! Why does Europe treat us this way? There is war in Ethiopia too, why are we not treated like the Ukrainians?”
For several years, numerous NGOs (HCR, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Médecins Sans Frontières, etc.) have regularly denounced the situation of people fleeing in Greece. The assistance provided to refugees and asylum seekers is extremely precarious. People have no access to housing or financial support from the Greek authorities and often end up on the streets without any support .
Why do the Swiss and cantonal authorities harass men, women, children, vulnerable people to send them back to countries where there are no conditions for a dignified life? They are no longer human beings, but only packages. How is it possible to overlook the catastrophic conditions of the Greek reception system?
We demand an end to all deportations and forced returns, an end to state violence, for the reception of all people in need of protection!
Chiasso, June 2022.
 https://www.rts.ch/info/monde/12591862-des-ong-denoncent-la-precarite-des-personnes- au-statut-de-refugie-en-grece.html“
On 21 May, the pre-trial against the Iuventa crew begins in Sicily. While European sea rescuers and activists receive a lot of media attention and support when they are criminalised, the everyday practice of detaining migrants (exclusively men) facing the same charges goes almost unnoticed. Thousands of migrants are arrested and detained in Italy and Greece for alleged “smuggling” and “aiding and abetting illegal immigration”.
In Greece, aiding and abetting illegal entry is punished more severely than murder. There is the case of Hasan and N. Hasan is charged with people smuggling and threatened with up to 230 years in prison. He allegedly piloted a boat that was shipwrecked off Samos in November 2020. On board were also N. and his son, who did not survive the shipwreck. N. is charged because his 6-year-old son died during the escape – because he had put his child in danger by fleeing. Yet the shipwreck is neither Hasan’s nor N.’s fault. It is a direct result of the EU’s increasing border closures, which force people to risk their lives and those of their families. Their trial is on 18 May 2022.
There is the case of Amir and Razuli. They tried to reach Greece on an inflatable boat in March 2020. The Greek “coast guard” attacked the boat and tried to force it back into Turkish waters. After this failed, Amir and Razuli were arrested and arbitrarily charged with “smuggling” and “endangering human life” as well as for their own “illegal” entry. In September 2020, they were sentenced to 50 years in prison. Their appeal was postponed until 8 December 2022 due to “court congestion”.
Or the case of the #Paros3. On 5 May, a Greek court sentenced Kheiraldin, Abdallah and Mohamad to a total of 439 imprisonment for piloting a boat on their own escape. The boat capsized off the Greek island of Paros in December 2021, killing 18 people.
These migrants do what they are told to do by the EU: They come to European soil, in this case to the Greek islands, to apply for asylum. This is the normal process of being able to apply for asylum in Europe. However, as soon as they arrive, they are criminalised for exactly that. It is typical that the people who organise the crossing and earn money with it do not put themselves in danger and migrants are thus forced to steer the boat.
By criminalising the boat driver or any other person on the boat, the Greek authorities can pretend that their work against smugglers is successful. Because: the public is usually not interested in these people. In Greece, 2,000 to 3,000 people have been affected by this criminalisation in recent years. We don’t even know about many of the cases.
A Greek lawyer describes the typical procedure against migrants like this: When a person is detained, a lawyer takes a brief look at the case. After eight to twelve months, the case goes to trial. Ten minutes before the trial begins, the defendants see the lawyer again for the first time. The hearings last a few minutes. No witnesses, no evidence, quick verdict. There is no question of a fair trial that respects the applicable laws. The usual sentence: 5-15 years in prison for each person on the boat. With 30 people, this results in absurd sentences of over 200 years. Even if 12-20 years of this prison term actually have to be served, the psychological pressure of such a sentence is enormous. Especially for a crime that is not a crime and for which one is not guilty. For a crime without a victim. For who is the victim when people are transported from Libya to Italy or from Turkey to Greece at their own request?
The situation is similar in Italy. Migrants arrested in Italy are accused of aiding and abetting illegal migration, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison and heavy fines. Basic human rights are also violated in Italy. Migrants are often detained for months without even knowing the reason. There is a lack of information and translations. Migrants are charged on the basis of extremely weak evidence and unreliable witness testimony, the trials are rarely open to the public, and there is no adequate access to legal defence. The trials are political and the courts are strict. Also in Italy, these trials take place under the assumption that no one will care about the people and the rights violations they experience. In many detention centres it is not possible to apply for asylum. Therefore, pre-trial detention quickly turns into deportation detention.
In early April, the Court of Appeal in Palermo acquitted fourteen migrants who were detained in Italy from 2016 to 2018. They had been arrested in May 2016 immediately after their arrival in Sicily and accused of steering the boats with migrants and thus being guilty of aiding and abetting illegal entry. In a recent report, the NGO Arci Porco Rosso documented that more than 2,500 people have been detained in Italy since 2013 on charges of piloting a boat.
Groups like Arci Porco Rosso and Borderline Europe want to bring this systematic criminalisation of migration to the public. They give names to those affected, draw attention to their cases and provide legal support. We can support them in this, for example, with donations for legal aid or with high-profile actions and media work on the individual cases: Freedom for the #Samos2, Freedom for the Four Footballers, Freedom for the Moria6, Freedom for Amir & Razuli, Freedom for Hamza & Mohamed.
These political processes work because the public discourse follows the narrative: The deaths on the Mediterranean are the result of “people smuggling”. If this were finally stopped, the problem would be solved. But those who use this narrative and accuse people who steered a boat that was supposed to bring people to safety can no longer present themselves as defenders of human rights and certainly not as defenders of migrants’ rights. Naming the real perpetrators of the deaths in the Mediterranean, the European decision-makers and actors like Frontex, is the basis for a broad public resistance against this criminalisation.
People come to the borders for many reasons. They ask people there to bring them across the borders. Because it doesn’t work any other way. They are not being dragged across the borders against their will by smugglers from their places of origin in these cases discussed here. They are not making their way to Europe because of the smugglers. Every person has an individual reason for fleeing or migrating. Migration is a reality that we can only address with safe migration routes.
Media release NoFrontex Referendum Committee of 15 May 22
With today’s vote, Switzerland is complicit in the death of and violence against tens of thousands of people. This is a great disappointment! But let us not forget: resistance against the deadly migration regime existed before the referendum and will continue to exist. As part of this, NoFrontex will also continue to campaign against Frontex and for freedom of movement. We ask the Swiss electorate: In view of the violence and misery at the Schengen external borders, how can you justify this Yes to Frontex expansion?
The NoFrontex referendum showed how Switzerland co-finances and co-administers Frontex. It brought Switzerland’s responsibility for the violence, misery and deaths at the external borders of the Schengen area to public attention. The revelations of the last few weeks underlined what has been in the air for a long time: Frontex does not rescue, but is complicit in the violence at Europe’s external borders. Frontex has no sea rescue ships in the Mediterranean, but observes from the air how people drown. Frontex systematically informs the so-called Libyan coast guard about boats that are sailing from Libya towards Italy. The coast guard intercepts refugees and forcibly returns them to Libya. A similar picture emerges in the Aegean: Frontex provides the Greek commandos with information on border crossings, which they use to enforce their violent pushback regime. Frontex is the backbone of this policy – the agency does not strengthen human rights, but considers migrants as a threat and wages a real war against migration. As a Frontex member, Switzerland is also complicit.
A referendum from below
Because neither the big parties nor the big migration/human rights organisations opposed the Frontex expansion, a referendum from below emerged. It was activists and grassroots organisations around the Migrant Solidarity Network who took up the referendum and carried it to the end – many of them excluded from the vote itself. As an extra-parliamentary, anti-racist movement, they made the referendum possible in an extraordinary final spurt and intervened in the political discourse over the last three months: numerous events, demonstrations and other actions took place. European supporters visited Switzerland and networks of resistance were strengthened both locally and nationally.
Review: Scandal after scandal around the European Border Agency
In the time between the handover of the referendum and the vote on Sunday, hardly two weeks passed without a new scandal about Frontex becoming public: Various media investigations prove that Frontex is systematically involved in pushbacks and deliberately conceals them. Legal complaints against Frontex are piling up, the EU Parliament voted against the discharge of the Frontex budget. On 29 April, Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri resigned.
At the same time, Frontex supporters continue to claim that the agency can be improved. But this is window dressing: not only the systematic human rights violations testify to this, but also a look at the planned expansion. The current reform has cemented the structural problems, the uncontrollability of Frontex and its lack of transparency, not improved them.
Frontex divides the world and hierarchises people
The concerns for national or European advantage fomented by the Yes camp today lead to the racist result that Frontex seeks to perpetuate inequalities between North and South with surveillance and violence. The Frontex expansion protects a colonial world order that violently discriminates against and disenfranchises people from outside Europe.
Current wars, but also climate change, economic crises and the ongoing pandemic require global solidarity and sustainable policies for all. Migration cannot be controlled with military isolation and Frontex – the last 20 years have shown that. It is time for a paradigm shift: the Frontex system has failed. Instead, what is needed is anti-racist dialogue, anti-colonial resistance and spaces of solidarity for relations at eye level.
The resistance continues. Migrant voices need to be heard.
Migration is a fact, not a threat. People will continue to leave countries and seek a perspective in Europe. At the same time, the struggle against the deadly EU migration regime also continues. The networking of numerous grassroots groups and organised collectives throughout Switzerland and beyond is an asset. Global and anti-colonial perspectives on migration became visible and gained new momentum. NoFrontex lives on at many levels: through critical exchange on freedom of movement, lived solidarity or organised anti-racist resistance.
In 2012, the only safe escape route to Switzerland, the embassy asylum, was abolished. Thousands of deaths and countless experiences of violence at the borders later, its reintroduction was demanded – and now rejected. The touted alternatives, such as the granting of humanitarian visas or resettlement, even fall short of the quotas Parliament has set for itself.
Embassy asylum allowed people to apply for asylum outside Switzerland, which was then examined by the authorities. It was abolished on the grounds that this possibility only existed in Switzerland, but not in other European states. There was talk of a “pull effect” that could not be risked (again) under any circumstances and of sufficient other possibilities, for example, to reach Switzerland with a humanitarian visa or via the resettlement programme. In practice, however, the abolition of embassy asylum has meant that to this day people can only apply for asylum on Swiss soil. The way there is illegalised and life-threatening.
Obtaining a humanitarian visa is associated with major hurdles. A person must be in “direct, serious and concrete danger to life and limb” in their country of origin, have a connection to Switzerland, prospects of integration and no possibility of seeking protection in another country. A collective reason for fleeing, such as the threat of war or hunger, is not sufficient. And then the SEM has to judge that as well. In addition, an application must be made at a Swiss embassy, which does not exist in every country and is not accessible to many people. Accordingly, only 296 humanitarian visas were issued in 2020.
The resettlement possibilities are similarly narrow. Since 2019, admission quotas have always been set for 2 years. Previously, the number was 1,600 people per two years, who are pre-selected and proposed by the UNHCR. For this, their refugee status must already have been recognised and a willingness to integrate in Switzerland must also have been promised. In 2020/21, this already very low quota was not met. Only 1,380 people were able to come to Switzerland via resettlement within two whole years. Thousands of people from Afghanistan alone have been seeking protection since the Taliban seized power. Resettlement places in Switzerland for people from Afghanistan in 2021: 219.
In Afghanistan, as in so many other places, it is preferable to help on the spot. The funds, which mostly come from development cooperation, are increasingly linked to migration agreements and sealing-off measures. The countries of origin should actively ensure that people do not make their way to Europe in order to be able to apply for asylum there. After all, an economically better situation for people does not necessarily lead to them wanting to stay in their country of origin. Rather, it gives many people the chance to be able to afford to flee or migrate to Europe in the first place.
Official Switzerland keeps repeating two core arguments like a mantra: “There are enough opportunities to apply for asylum in Switzerland in a safe way”. And: “We cannot do more, otherwise we will be alone in Europe.” Neither statement becomes any truer by being repeated. Both narratives can be changed. Just as a different Swiss policy is possible if one wants to, so too is a different European policy. One in which humanitarian principles and the rule of law are upheld – at least, that is, what one as a state claims for itself. Even then, we are still a long way from a world without borders and equal opportunities for all people.
Even we as Seebrücke cannot repeat often enough: Switzerland has room and more than 30 cities and municipalities that are ready to welcome us. As we write this, there are more and more.
Picture: Swiss Embassy Islamabad © DFA
On May 15, Switzerland will vote on the NoFrontex referendum. Over 80 grassroots groups have succeeded in getting the media and political parties to deal more forcefully with the issue of European external borders in the coming months. Frontex, the official European authority for border protection has been increasingly upgraded since 2015. On May 15, Switzerland will vote on the NoFrontex referendum. Over 80 grassroots groups have succeeded in getting the media and political parties to deal more forcefully with the issue of European external borders in the coming months. Frontex, the official European authority for border protection has been increasingly upgraded since 2015. The Federal Council’s decision in the fall of 2021 even grants Frontex its own personnel. Yet it has long been known that Frontex is involved in systematic violations of human rights and international law.
Frontex is also active in the Mediterranean, where collaboration with the so-called Libyan coast guard is one of the agency’s core tasks. Why Seebrücke Switzerland says NO against Frontex on May 15 we have summarized in the position below.
More than 44,000 people have already lost their lives trying to reach Fortress Europe. Nevertheless, Europe continues to adhere to a brutal policy of sealing off at all costs. Instead of spending even one franc on rescuing people in distress at sea, the border protection agency Frontex is being militarized and increased in funding and personnel. In 2022, the EU will provide Frontex with about half a billion euros, a third of which will go to aerial surveillance. This is to monitor groups of people on coasts, in hiding places, in boats and camps, and to keep them away from EU borders as early as possible. This surveillance is intended to prevent people seeking protection from applying for asylum in the EU. This is often done through forcible illegal pushbacks or other forms of physical and psychological violence. Although there are numerous evidences and reports about these brutal practices, nothing has been done by the EU so far. Frontex has become the symbol of Europe’s externalized migration regime, which has taken the active decision to continue a brutal and inhumane closure day after day by military means, ignoring international standards and rights without having to answer for it. Further arming Frontex is not the solution we need! The financing of unpunished and inhuman structures must not be further supported by the state!
By outsourcing border protection to agencies like Frontex, member states hand over the responsibility for the ongoing psychological and physical violence against people seeking protection to external actors. On the basis of European security cooperation, all Schengen member states have so far accepted and supported this system without hesitation – including Switzerland. Switzerland contributes financially and in terms of personnel to Frontex. Until 2027, an annual contribution of 61 million Swiss francs has been granted, which represents 5% of the total Frontex budget. By supporting Europe’s inhumane sealing-off policy, Switzerland is complicit in thousands of deaths every year at Europe’s external borders. On May 15, 2022, there will now be the first opportunity to influence the European migration regime from below and not to accept the racist actions and decisions forced upon us.
The Swiss electorate can send a signal across Europe with a NO to Frontex funding on May 15; against Frontex and the inhumane European isolationist policy of which it has become a symbol; for the fact that a more humane European migration policy is possible and for the fact that the existing migration regime must and will no longer be accepted.
A “No” vote invalidates the narrative that nothing can be done as a single country and provides a starting point for people and movements that want to fundamentally change the European migration regime. The vote also allows for a long overdue critical public debate in Switzerland on the racist European policy of isolation and the role that Switzerland plays in it, which is largely ignored by the public. It is essential, however, that the people affected by the migration regime, who are almost exclusively excluded from the vote, are given an appropriate platform in the public discourse.
Militarization and armament of Frontex are intentionally used to make Europe further inaccessible for people on the run. With the financing of Frontex, Switzerland therefore supports not only the systematic violation of human rights, but also a system of inherent violent structures, which is embodied by Frontex.
Seebrücke therefore says NO to Frontex on May 15, because instead it needs…
… an end to the personnel, financial and technical support of all Frontex operations and no further increase of the Frontex budget or further powers of the border protection agency!
… protection and safe escape routes for all fleeing people!
… a governmental European rescue program!
… FERRIES NOT FRONTEX!
On 18 March 2022, over 250 people demonstrated in Lucerne for a humane and just Swiss migration policy. The demonstration was called by the alliance “Alle heisst alle!
Media release of the “All means all” alliance
The solidarity that people from Ukraine are experiencing at the moment is great. Unfortunately, it does not apply to everyone. People of non-European origin have been denied humane treatment for years. They are turned away (often violently) at Europe’s external borders, drown in the Mediterranean or die of hunger and cold in the forests of the border regions. Once in Switzerland, they go through a gruelling asylum procedure, which often ends in deportation.
In various speeches, the demonstrators demanded equal treatment for refugees, regardless of their origin or skin colour.
“Now we can see what is possible, how it could be done: borders are opened, people on the run are met with great solidarity. We see: If we want, we can open the border. It is a political decision. Those responsible could decide today that no more people die on the Mediterranean,” the No Frontex group Lucerne expressed critically.
The demonstration started at Schwanenplatz and took the route via the Seebrücke to Theaterplatz and from there to Helvetiaplatz. There, there was a final rally and the demonstration dispersed around 20:00. Over 250 people took part.
“It was nice to see people with such different perspectives on flight and migration. So many people united to make sure that there is protection for all instead of the few,” says Angela Addo from the “All means All” alliance.
For the “All means All” alliance, it is clear that there is still a lot to do politically and activistically on this issue in Switzerland. The next step: No to Frontex on 15 May. The campaign for the referendum in Lucerne will start with an installation on the Kurplatz from 28 March.
The war in Ukraine has begun. Switzerland must now prepare to take in 10,000 people! Sign the open letter to Karin Keller-Sutter.
“Dear Federal Councillor Karin Keller Sutter,The situation for the civilian population in the Ukrainian crisis region is coming to a head: a military escalation and acts of war can be expected at any time. Switzerland and Europe must urgently prepare to take in refugees and find a solidarity-based pan-European solution.
All people in need of protection because they are fleeing a destructive war and are seeking refuge for themselves and their families have a right to protection of life and limb and must have the opportunity to apply for asylum in a safe country. However, due to the increasing isolation of Europe, this is becoming more and more difficult, as the recent refugee drama on the border between Belarus and Poland has shown. In order to protect war refugees from Ukraine as well as from other crisis regions, safe and legal access routes to Europe and Switzerland are needed.
The undersigned call on you, as the responsible head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police, and on the Federal Council, in close cooperation with the cantons, the municipalities and civil society, to take the necessary precautions so that 10,000 protection seekers from the Ukrainian crisis region can be admitted as quickly as possible. Our country must also create legal access routes through which people in need of protection can reach Switzerland safely and unharmed.”
Committee of the Council of States rejects reintroduction of embassy asylum
In March 2021, a motion was submitted calling for the reintroduction of embassy asylum. This would restore the possibility of applying for asylum without having to reach Switzerland via the perilous flight routes. More than 21,000 people have lost their lives on the Mediterranean alone since 2014. On 02.02.22, the State Policy Committee called for the rejection of the motion. The argumentation against the motion speaks of a “pull effect” if Switzerland remains the only country in Europe with this possibility. Moreover, there are already enough possibilities to obtain protection in Switzerland, “especially via the humanitarian visa or through resettlement programmes”. The first argument already linguistically joins a racist vocabulary next to “wave of refugees”, as if people fleeing were an unpredictable force of nature. This talk of the “pull factor” has also been used for years by states all over Europe to evade responsibility, although this migration myth has already been refuted many times. The second argument has little to do with the reality of the Swiss asylum system, as shown, for example, by the current treatment of refugees from Afghanistan or the non-exhaustion of resettlement possibilities.
State initiative to improve federal asylum procedures adopted by the SPK
In the spring of 2021, Basel-Stadt asked the federal parliament and the federal authorities to ensure effective and rapid asylum procedures for people stuck on the Greek islands. The initiative calls for this to be ensured in particular by fully utilising the cantonal and federal asylum centres. In view of the persistently inhumane conditions in the Greek camps, the federal government must act urgently. This was also agreed to by the State Policy Commission, which ultimately approved the initiative by a casting vote of 4:3 by President Marco Romano of the EPP. The Commission based its decision on the conviction that cities must be given a greater role in decisions concerning the reception of people seeking protection. This is in view of the fact that numerous cities and municipalities have already expressed solidarity with people on the run and have spoken out in favour of additional reception.
The Green parliamentary group is making a new attempt in the fight for a different federal admission policy. It is demanding in the National Council that cities be allowed to take in people if they want to. So far, all efforts to achieve this have been blocked by Karin Keller-Sutter.
The Green Party’s demand is as simple as its previous rejection is incomprehensible: cities that want to take in refugees should be allowed to do so. On their own account. Taking into account the UNHCR refugee status. Without any further impact on the asylum process or the reception quotas that cities and municipalities must continue to fulfil.
We know only too well the reasons why this demand is necessary: the accommodation of people on the run in (tent) camps is undignified, but has developed from an emergency solution into an intolerable permanent state. At the same time, numerous cities have been organising themselves for years in an alliance of solidarity to affirm their willingness to receive people.
The Evacuate Now! alliance, the Seebrücke organisation and many other actors have been working for the same goal for years. Now, too, private individuals can strengthen the appeal with a signature. That alone may not be enough to change the course. Let’s take the appeal of the Welcome Cities as an opportunity to lend more weight to our demands on the streets again.
Swiss cities and municipalities have been willing to take in more refugees for years. However, they have repeatedly been rebuffed by the federal government. The Greens are now pushing for a change in the law.
One could be forgiven for thinking that the State Secretariat for Migration and the Minister of Justice, Karin Keller-Sutter, have a chip on their shoulder. They say the same thing over and over again when Swiss cities and municipalities offer to take in additional refugees: There is no legal basis for this, they say, but rather they want to provide help on the ground.
This was the case after the Moria slum on Lesbos burnt down in September 2020. It was the same after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan last August.
Blessing of the people
“Until now, the Federal Council has always hidden behind the current law when cities wanted to show solidarity,” says Green Party President Balthasar Glättli. “That should no longer be possible.” The Greens already submitted a parliamentary initiative in the last winter session calling on the federal government to create the conditions in the Asylum Act for accepting additional refugee quotas at the request of municipalities and cantons. To give their initiative a boost, the Greens are launching a petition with the same demand on the day of publication of this newspaper. “We want to set the course now. If thousands of people are displaced in the next catastrophe, welcome cities should actually be allowed to take in refugees,” says Glättli.
If the Greens have their way, municipalities and cantons should in future be able to directly take in refugees if they ensure their accommodation and take over the financing. In addition, they must fulfil the requirements for admission as a group, i.e. they must be recognised as refugees by the UNHCR, for example. The additionally admitted people should neither be counted towards the cantonal distribution key nor towards refugee quotas decided by the federal government, for example within the framework of resettlement programmes.
The fact that the majority of the urban population supports the demand is made clear by several parliamentary initiatives at the municipal level. For example, at the beginning of January, the Zurich city parliament referred a postulate to the executive with the demand to create a legal basis for the admission of refugees outside the city’s existing quota. The head of Zurich’s social affairs department, Raphael Golta (SP), had already made it clear in autumn 2020, immediately after the fire in Moria, that Zurich could take in 800 people (see WOZ No. 39/2020). At that time, the eight largest cities in Switzerland joined forces to form the alliance “Cities and Municipalities for the Reception of Refugees”, which has since grown to sixteen cities.
“We are convinced that Switzerland can do more for refugees,” says Golta even today. “Europe is closing itself off more and more, and there is an urgent need for more direct access routes. As cities, we want to get involved and have repeatedly communicated this to the federal government. But so far it has shown zero interest.” On the occasion of the postulate, further legal clarifications are now being made. “But for something to really happen, we need the political will at the federal level. The Greens’ initiative will also help,” says Golta.
Twenty were too few
Golta’s Bernese colleague Franziska Teuscher (Green Alliance) does not mince her words either: “The federal government does not regard the cities as equal partners in asylum policy. Otherwise, municipal autonomy is always upheld, but here no dialogue at eye level seems possible.” She also knows that she has the support of the city parliament behind her. When, after the fire in Moria, the city of Bern offered the federal government to take 20 refugees from Lesbos within two weeks, it passed an urgent motion that Bern should take in 500 people – 20 was far too few.
The central element of the petition as well as the parliamentary initiative is the sole financing by the municipalities. But what does that look like for the city of Bern, which is struggling with financial problems? “The question of money is not the first thing that comes up,” says Teuscher. “Switzerland is still one of the richest countries, and despite financial problems we have to show solidarity. The people in the Greek camps are still living in the greatest need. The winter was very cold and made living conditions worse. It is a duty that we take them in.”
Teuscher believes the parliamentary initiative has a chance: “No one is forced to do anything. But those who want to help should be allowed to help”. With the petition, the Greens hope to put pressure on the National Council’s State Policy Commission, which will be the first to deal with the bill. “We have to show again that there are many of us who support this cause,” says Teuscher. She refers to the Easter appeal “Evacuate now!” of 2020, which called on the Federal Council to bring as many refugees as possible from the Aegean to Switzerland – and was signed by 50,000 people.
Sign the Welcome Cities Appeal today and join us in demanding solidarity with refugees! The federal government must no longer stand in the way of Welcome Cities!
We pass on the solidarity contribution of the municipality of Sempach in the amount of Fr. 1,000 to the civilian rescue ship OCEAN VIKING. The municipality declined to declare itself a Safe Haven in the summer of 2021, but fulfilled the request for financial support for sea rescue with a donation.
Currently, all donations to Ocan Viking are doubled by the district of Lüneburg. In March 2021, the district declared its solidarity with the demands of the sea bridge for a “safe harbour”. As a result, the district decided in June 2021 to take on a sponsorship for the civilian rescue ship OCEAN VIKING of the European sea rescue organisation SOS Mediterranee.
Seebrücke Lüneburg writes: “This sponsorship means that the district, in cooperation with Seebrücke and SOS Mediterranee, will launch a public appeal for donations to financially support the OCEAN VIKING. The district pledges to participate in this appeal by doubling the donations received up to a maximum of € 100,000 in total. In this way, the district is following the example of the city of Munich, which took on a similar sponsorship for the same ship in December 2019 and conducted a successful fundraising campaign.
The EU states, which should actually provide state-coordinated sea rescue, are not living up to their responsibility. Since 2014, more than 22,940 people have drowned while fleeing across the Mediterranean. Since then, civilian sea rescue has become more important than ever!
Since 2016, SOS Mediterranee has been conducting civilian sea rescue in the Mediterranean and has been using the OCEAN VIKING as a rescue ship since 2019. Since its foundation, the humanitarian organisation has saved the lives of more than 34,500 people. But running a rescue ship is time-, labour- and cost-intensive: it costs €14,000 to fund the OCEAN VIKING for one day. This represents all the costs involved in running the ship, such as chartering, fuel, logistics, teams on board and equipment.
In order for the OCEAN VIKING to continue rescuing people from distress at sea, it needs your support. Her mission is funded by donations.
Donations should be sent to:
Account holder: District of Lüneburg
Credit institution: Sparkasse Lüneburg
IBAN: DE60 2405 0110 0000 0038 71
Reason for payment: OCEAN VIKING
Please be sure to state the intended purpose!
Donations can also be made from outside, these donations will also be doubled!”
Dragan Umičević supported a family in claiming their right to apply for asylum. He was criminalised for this. Seebrücke Schweiz is supporting him to cover the costs. Do you also support?
“On Tuesday, 14 December 2021, Dragan Umičević, a volunteer with the Croatian NGO Are You Syrious, was sentenced to a fine of 60,000 kuna for “aiding and abetting unauthorised entry”, which is equivalent to about 8,000 euros + court fees. This is more than 12 times his monthly income.
In March 2018, he had alerted the police to a larger group of refugees who had just crossed the Serbian-Croatian border. As the Croatian border police are known for systematically pushing refugees back with brute force, Umičević accompanied the group to the police station to ensure that the group could actually apply for asylum. In this particular case, the people he accompanied were the family of Madina Hussiny, a six-year-old girl who was killed on the railway tracks after Croatian police had previously pushed the family back.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled just this November that Croatia had grossly violated her right to life. Furthermore it was found that the authorities had tortured her family, denied them access to legal assistance and international protection, prevented th em from investigating her death, and systematically harassed Are You Syrious activists and lawyers.
When the family crossed the border again after losing their daughter in the previous push-back, Umičević wanted to ensure that this time the rest of the family would finally get their due. As a result, the police launched an investigation for “aiding and abetting unauthorised entry” and Umičević was fined 60,000 euros in 2018, against which he appealed. Yesterday, the Supreme Court in Zagreb upheld the sentence.
This is an outrageous, blatant act of revenge and intimidation that seeks to punish and stop all those who fight against the cruel practices at the borders.
We will not and must not allow Dragan to bear this burden alone.
If you would like to help Dragan pay the fine and continue his legal battle, you can donate to Are You Syrious, IBAN HR6824020061100765183 (SWIFT/BIC: ESBCHR22), using the reference “for Dragan”.
We stand with Dragan! We will not be discouraged and keep fighting!”
Legal Centre Lesvos sues against pushbacks. Seebrücke Schweiz supports this financially, further donations are needed. Do you also support?
Appeal for donations from Open Eyes Balkan Bridge:
“The Legal Centre Lesvos (LCL) needs support to continue its important work. That is why OpenEyes has launched an appeal for donations for the LCL. In addition to providing legal advice and legal representation in individual cases, the LCL participates in documenting the structural violence and systemic rights violations at European borders.
For example, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) just communicated two complaints filed by the LCL against two pushbacks to the Greek government in December 2021. This is therefore good news because it means that the ECtHR wants to rule on the complaints.
Clearing this hurdle of entry is extremely challenging because the very very very most cases are not even accepted by the ECtHR. Following up on these two pushback cases will keep the LCL team busy in the coming weeks and months.”
Contribute with a donation to:
Open Eyes Balkan Route,
3011 BernPostal account: 61-499563-0
IBAN: CH02 0900 0000 6149 9563 0
A contribution by Frontex Referendum.
According to media reports, Frontex is planning to deport approximately 1,700 Iraqi nationals who are currently stuck in Poland. These are people who recently crossed the militarized border region between the EU Member State Poland and Belarus. At the border between Belarus and Poland, the situation is worsening: Several hundred to a thousand people have been waiting in the wooded border region for weeks, some of them. The only answer from Europe? Barbed wire, military and brutal pushbacks, instead of a quick pick-up and help.
And those who made it across the border into EU territory should now be brought back without further ado. With Poland’s current approach, which is solely based on complete isolation and militarizing the border, it is unlikely that the waiting people will have received a fair asylum procedure in such a short period of time. And now Frontex is supposed to get rid of the people from Poland. That would be mass pushbacks carried out by the EU border protection agency Frontex.
According to the EU Commission, Frontex is also available for operations in the border region itself, but Poland is still resisting EU support. The fact that Frontex wants to support the Polish security forces, not surprisingly, Frontex Director Leggeri praised the brutal actions of the Polish troops in full weeks ago: «Executive Director Leggeri […] was impressed by the means used to secure the border . He also thanked Poland for the cooperation with Frontex since the beginning of the crisis through the constant exchange of information and the provision of data on the situation on the Polish section of the external border for the agency », the agency said in a statement.
The brutal defense policy of Poland, which violates the right to asylum, is praised from the front ranks of Frontex. The dead and suffering that this policy produces on both sides of the border are meanwhile not regretted at all. The human rights situation? Leggeri is not worth a line. With the mass repatriations, Frontex would again not stand up for human rights, but would help enforce the European policy of isolation by force – co-financed by Switzerland, which is watching the situation indifferently.
We asked the Frontex press office and the Federal Customs Administration: What exactly is the role of Frontex in the planned deportations, on what basis are they planning them at all? And what role does Switzerland play in this? Updates will follow on this blog.
EU must prepare for more migrants trying to enter, border agency chief says
Nikolaj Nielsen on Twitter
Frontex Executive Director visits Poland’s border with Belarus
Pressemitteilung von Frontex, 4.10.2021
Flüchtlingskrise an polnischer Grenze: Schweiz schaut hilflos zu
On Monday evening, the finissage of the installation on the disinterest of Central Swiss municipalities and Fortress Europe took place on Lucerne’s Inseli. The installation, in the form of a border fence, addressed Europe’s policy of sealing itself off and Switzerland’s lack of solidarity with people who are fleeing. The border fence was torn down in protest against this.
For two weeks, the installation on the disinterest of Central Swiss municipalities and Fortress Europe stood on the Inseli in Lucerne. The border fence was set up by activists from Seebrücke Schweiz, the Autonomous School Lucerne, Solinetz Lucerne and the AbolishFrontex campaign. On the one hand, the installation addressed the European border protection agency Frontex, which repeatedly carries out illegal pushbacks at Europe’s external borders, systematically violates human rights and allows refugees to drown in the Mediterranean. On the other hand, the installation also showed the lack of solidarity in the heart of Europe, in Switzerland.
Daily, people fleeing experience violence – just a look at the last two weeks shows this. In the same period that the border fence was up on Inseli, a UN commission of enquiry confirmed the systematic and cruel violence experienced by people fleeing Libya. On the Polish border with Belarus, another fleeing person died, while at the same time the construction of a stronger border wall was approved. And video research once again proved the violence by border guards experienced by people fleeing on the so-called Balkan route.
This inhumane policy of deportation can no longer be watched. For this reason, activists have taken the dismantling of the border fence into their own hands. Abolish Frontex, open the borders – these are their demands. With bolt cutters, head torches and pliers, they set about dismantling the fence.
Not only bolt cutters and pliers were used to fight Frontex on the Inseli today, but also pen and paper. A few days ago, people around the Migrant Solidarity Network started the referendum against Frontex. The Swiss Parliament has decided to strengthen the European Border Management Agency with 61 million Swiss francs annually. With this money, Frontex is to seal off Europe’s external borders even more, making flight and migration even more insecure. Money for Frontex means: More deaths in the Mediterranean, more torture in Libya, more illegal pushbacks, border violence and suffering on the Balkan route or in the Aegean. “We say YES to freedom of movement for all and NO to money for Frontex”. Here is more information on the referendum.
Left-wing members of the European Parliament have written a letter of solidarity to Mimmo Lucano, joined by members of the Swiss National Council, to show that across European borders this judgment against humanity and humanitarian values cannot and must not be tolerated.
The original letter can be found here.
As members of the Swiss National Council, we would like to express our solidarity, as well as our full human and political support, to you, to your fellow campaigners and to all those who have been involved in the realization of the experience of Riace, the city of hospitality. Thanks to you, this small town in Calabria has become an example of humanity and hope against xenophobia, racism and fear.
The first instance sentence is not only disproportionate, but also unjust and absurd. This is a poster child for what criminalization of solidarity looks like. We must raise our voices against this throughout Europe and therefore send you our full solidarity.
The sentence pronounced is an attack on a living example that has shown how it can be possible to open doors to welcome refugees and build communities instead of walls when people are fleeing war, poverty and misery. Riace was all of these things. It was the opposite of the hate speech on which the radical right across Europe builds its racist narratives. It was the opposite of the inhumane European migration policies that focus on expanding Fortress Europe and keeping people from arriving here at all costs. Riace was an example that was admired throughout Europe because it put the dignity and human rights of people on the run first.
You need to know that you are not alone, neither in Riace nor in Italy. Throughout Europe and here in Switzerland, we admire and support what you have done and will continue to support the fight for justice and the proof of your innocence. The only interest you have pursued is that of solidarity. This is the common cause for which we continue to fight, that of humanity against barbarism.
The members of the Swiss National Council
come deputati del Consiglio nazionale svizzero, vogliamo esprimere la nostra solidarietà, il nostro pieno sostegno umano e politico a te, ai tuoi compagni e a tutti coloro che sono stati protagonisti della costruzione dell’esperienza di Riace, città dell’accoglienza. Grazie a voi questo piccolo paese calabrese è diventato un esempio di umanità e di speranza contro la xenofobia, il razzismo e la paura.
La sentenza di primo grado non è semplicemente sproporzionata, ma ingiusta e assurda. Vediamo qui esattamente cosa significa la criminalizzazione della solidarietà. E dobbiamo parlare e opporci a questo in tutta l’Europa; per questo ti mandiamo tutta la nostra solidarietà.
Ciò che è stato colpito con questa sentenza è un esempio, che ha mostrato come sia possibile aprire porte e accogliere i profughi, costruendo comunità invece di muri quando le persone fuggono dalla guerra, dalla povertà e dalla miseria. Riace era tutto questo. Era l’esatto opposto dei discorsi di odio su cui l’estrema destra in tutta Europa costruisce le sue narrazioni razziste. Era l’opposto delle disumane politiche migratorie europee, che si concentrano sulla costruzione della Fortezza Europa e impediscono a tutti i costi di entrare nell’Europa. Riace ne è stato un esempio, ammirato in tutta Europa mettendo al primo posto la dignità ei diritti umani dei migranti.
Devi sapere che non sei solo, a Riace e in Italia. In tutta Europa e qui in svizzera ammiriamo e sosteniamo ciò che avete fatto e continueremo a sostenere la battaglia per la giustizia e per dimostrare la vostra innocenza. L’unico interesse che hai seguito è quello della solidarietà. Ed è la causa comune per la quale continuiamo a lottare, quella dell’umanità, contro la barbarie.
I membri del Consiglio nazionale svizzero
Delphine KLOPFENSTEIN BROGGINI
The verdict further highlights the isolation Europe so desperately wants to advance. The increasing criminalization of migration, a phenomenon that is as old as humans themselves, is currently exploding and is causing innocent people to experience the most brutal repression.
In a speech in Rome on 07 October, Lucano stressed:
There are the transcripts of the trial, to a question asked not only once: “but did this mayor have economic interests?” the colonel says “no, he has no economic interests”, a question that was repeated … “no he has no economic interests, he has political interests”, as if taking an interest in politics is a criminal fact.Domenico ‘Mimmo’ Lucano
The defense filed a direct appeal against the sentence, while an enormous wave of solidarity reached the streets of Europe. Not only in Italy, many people took to the streets to show solidarity with ‘Mimmo’ Lucano and fight for his innocence.
Here is a list of all past and present protests in Italy. Now, we invite you to organize your own demonstration, protest or solidarity action in your city!
The Left MEPs have also written an Open Letter in which they stand in solidarity alongside ‘Mimmo’ Lucano and condem the exaggerated guilty verdict.
Swiss members of the National Council co-signed this letter from the Left MEPs.
From the civil society, Abolish Frontex has published an Open Letter, which individual groups or organizations are invited to sign.
If you still want to do contribute with your voice, there is this online petition that expresses it’s solidarity with Lucano and condemns the verdict.
#AbolishFrontex: Who joins the referendum against Frontex?
The Swiss parliament has decided to strengthen the European border protection agency Frontex with 61 million Swiss francs annually. With this money, Frontex is to seal off Europe’s external borders further and speed up special flights for forced deportations across Europe. The Migrant Solidarity Network says YES to freedom of movement for all and NO to Frontex. Therefore we start a referendum against Frontex.
Frontex: More border violence, surveillance and deportations
Frontex is closing the European borders violently and makes migration routes more unsafe for people on the move: more deaths in the Mediterranean, more torture in Libya, more (illegal) pushbacks and suffering on the Balkan route or in the Aegean. After the perilous flight or migration and after sometimes years of living inside Europe, Frontex stands more and more for discrimination and humiliation through deportations.
Referendum: Fundamentally saying NO to Frontex
The Migrant Solidarity Network is urgently looking for 1,000 people to collect 50 signatures each. Those who decide to collect 50 signatures can sign up here. Groups and organizations that want to support the referendum against Frontex are also welcome to sign up. A referendum requires 50,000 signatures from people eligible to vote in Switzerland. The signatures must be collected by the end of 2021.
With this demonstration it has to be clear that we are united against this unacceptable system. The events of the last months have shown us once again that the conditions must change fundamentally:
No to physical, psychological, social and economic violence against refugees!
We demand refugee status for all Afghans present in Switzerland. In addition, the admission of people from Afghanistan as well as family reunifications must be made possible quickly and unbureaucratically.
We demand housing for new arrivals and access to professional psychological and social support as well as independent legal representation. The current closed federal asylum camps, isolated from civil society, are not suitable accommodations for newly arrived people (including children and youth). They have been proven to promote and require psychological and physical violence behind their walls.
We demand the immediate abolition of the emergency assistance system. All rejected asylum seekers must be able to have their case reviewed with a view to legalization (hardship cases). They should be entitled to social assistance, adequate housing and medical care that meets their needs.
We demand a stop to the policy of control and isolation. Compulsory attendance, daily police checks and isolation from society are breaking people in the camps. We condemn the criminalization of undocumented persons and the imposition of fines and imprisonment for illegal stay. No person is illegal!
We demand a general stop to deportations, as they disregard the need for material and physical security of people who have fled. This includes the deportations to Ethiopia and Eritrea, which are of particular concern.
We demand the abolition of Frontex and the immediate end of cooperation between Switzerland and the European border agency.
We demand the immediate evacuation of all camps around the Mediterranean, especially Moria. We are ashamed of the ridiculous contingent that Switzerland intends to take in. Several municipalities and cities have agreed to take in people from the camps. We have room!
We demand Switzerland’s withdrawal from the Dublin Agreement and, until then, a consistent and humane application of the sovereignty clause.
Finally, we demand what should be self-evident: the right to a free and dignified life for all.
In April 2021, Franziska Grossenbacher (Greens) and Karin Künti (SP) submitted the Motion “#evacuate NOW – to Muri-Gümligen!”. The motion calls on “the municipal council to join the Alliance of Cities and Municipalities for the Reception of Refugees, to declare its readiness to accept refugees from the Aegean Sea who are in particular need of protection, and to urge the Federal Council to act together with the Alliance and the 132 #evacuateNOW organisations”.
In June, the municipal council had recommended the motion be rejected. The municipality itself takes responsibility for the care and integration of the 90 asylum seekers assigned to it. There is no living space available for additional accommodation.
After a controversial debate in the Municipal Council, the motion was rejected by 19 votes against, 13 votes in favour and one abstention and was therefore not referred to the Municipal Council for implementation. In the justification, it is pointed out that questions of asylum policy are the responsibility of the federal government and should not be implemented by the municipalities “on their own”.
The fall session has started taking place from September 13 in the National Parliament. Today, on September 14, it is very likely that the motion 19.4034 “Humanitarian emergency in the Mediterranean. Switzerland should participate in the distribution mechanism of the “Coalition of the Willing””, will be dealt with materially, two years after its submission. Several politicians have put it on the agenda.
The motion asks the Federal Council to show solidarity with European border states and the states of the “coalition of the willing” by participating in the “solidarity mechanism for the distribution of people rescued in the Mediterranean Sea “1. Two possibilities are proposed in this regard:
Even if the focus in the last weeks was on a great solidarity with individuals in Afghanistan, the Mediterranean Sea remains a central place where European deterrence takes place unhindered. Rescue ships are still waiting several days for the allocation of a safe harbor, while the people on board need to get ashore and to a safe place as soon as possible2. The Federal Council also contributes financially to Frontex operations undertaken by the Libyan Coast Guards, which returns shipwrecked people to detention centers where mistreatment and other human rights abuses are widespread3.
The federal government, however, does not seem to be touched or altered by these points. It sees no need for action in its own policy and recommends rejecting the motion. However, Seebrücke is of the opinion that it is not enough to support the member states at the european external borders financially. Switzerland must act actively and show solidarity with people who need international protection for various reasons and have a right to claim it.
The Federal Council can no longer continue unnoticed a racist migration policy while citizens push for an open welcoming culture.
The Federal Council rejected the motion on 21 September 2021.
On Friday evening, over a thousand people took to the streets of Zurich for several hours. With diverse speeches, slogans and banners, they demanded the abolition of the border agency Frontex and criticised the racist Swiss migration regime.In diverse and powerful speeches, people spoke about racism, about the violence in the Swiss asylum system and at the borders, and about the everyday life of Sans-Papiers in Zurich. People who are affected by structural racism as well as everyday discrimination had their say. A minute’s silence was observed in memory of the people who lost their lives fleeing to Europe.
Actions and demonstrations also took place in other European cities. The next transnational day of action is on 03 October. For Switzerland, an action is then planned in Lucerne.
Also this weekend, the Enough. Action Days took place in Zurich. They facilitated workshops, inputs and networking on migration struggles and anti-racist resistance. The topics were climate and flight, freedom of movement from a Tunisian perspective and blockades of war material in the port of Genoa. Seebrücke Schweiz was present with an information stand.
The second Solicamp4Moria took place in Wil, the home of Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter. She was asked to open the doors to Switzerland for people on the move.
Thousands of people live at Europe’s external borders in rural camps where at most their basic needs for clean toilets, water, food and security are provided. A collective from eastern Switzerland wants to make this structure visible with the action form Solicamp.
Karin Keller-Sutter bears responsibility for the fact that people come to camps like Moria and are left there. Passers-by and activists wrote messages to the Minister of Justice on Saturday, which were summarised on a huge postcard. This was handed over at Karin Keller-Sutter’s house in Wil on Sunday afternoon.
It would have been surprising if she had accepted it. Even without her reaction, it is important and valuable to draw attention to the issue away from the big cities.
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.
Time and again we receive enquiries about what we can currently do to help people in Afghanistan or to support their admission to Switzerland. Here we summarise some options for action.
Switzerland is currently only prepared to evacuate 230 people from Afghanistan. Yet several cities would be willing to take in more people (see SRF report). You can ask your place of residence whether it is also prepared to take in people from Afghanistan and inform the federal government.
You can also write directly to Karin Keller-Sutter and ask her to act or tell her that you have space at home to take in people. Address: Karin Keller-Sutter, Federal Councillor, Bundeshaus West,CH-3003 Bern.
There is also a petition that can be signed and circulated. In it, the SP demands from the Federal Council: “Immediately grant protection status to all Afghans in Switzerland, rescue their families from the war zone, take in an additional 10,000 vulnerable people – especially women and girls – and increase humanitarian aid in neighbouring countries!” Over 40,000 people have already signed it:
There is a call for a vocal weekend of action: Airlift Now! Organise an action in your city and make more people aware of the emergency situation in Afghanistan. The call and action materials can be found here:
Last Saturday, 07 August 2021, various actions took place in Switzerland and Germany under the motto “Sea rescue is #nonnegotiable”. This was also the case in Bern together with Amnesty Youth Bern.
In the last days and weeks, we have all seen how bad the situation in the Mediterranean is – there are many deadly shipwrecks and rescue ships continue to be detained. Safe escape routes or only state sea rescue are a long way off. This year alone, more than 800 people have already drowned in the Mediterranean. More than 14,000 people have been brought back to Libya by the so-called Libyan coast guard in violation of international law, where they face torture and the most serious human rights violations. For years, civilian sea rescue organisations have been filling a gap that the EU should never have allowed to arise.
We do not look the other way! Sea rescue is and remains #nonnegotiable #LeaveNoOneBehind #LeaveNoOneToDie #NoBorders #sea rescue.
On Saturday we wrote that the municipality of Schwyz stands in solidarity against the criminalisation of sea rescue and were pleased with the positive statements of the municipal council.
After a conversation with the president of the municipality, we have to retract the publication. The intention was to cancel with friendly words. The municipality expressly refrains from participating in the campaign.
We apologise for the misunderstanding.
After the fire in the Moria camp in September 2020, a non-party urgent motion had asked Ostermundigen to take in ten people from Greek camps. The municipal council has now agreed to lobby the federal government and the canton and also to ask them to take in as many people as possible from these camps in Switzerland.
Ostermundigen is thus strengthening the cities’ movement, which is putting pressure on the federal government to become active in taking in people from the Greek camps. In addition to large cities such as Zurich, Basel and Geneva, smaller municipalities such as Burgdorf and Spiez have also declared their solidarity with people fleeing their homes.
On the occasion of World Refugee Day on 19 June, Seebrücke Schweiz has called on numerous communities in Central Switzerland and St. Gallen to also declare their solidarity. They hope that the pressure from below will increase and that there will be a change towards a fairer Swiss policy.
Image source: https://www.ostermundigen.ch/
The political map on which we present the commitment of Swiss cities to a solidarity-based migration policy expands every week. We keep receiving new proposals from active groups all over Switzerland. We also keep getting news from the campaign “500 people for the municipalities in Aargau”. This represents a strong civil society voice demanding a humane migration policy in Switzerland.
A deadly reminder of the European and Swiss policy of deterrence is the Mediterranean Sea. Since 1993, more than 44,000 people have lost their lives trying to flee to Europe. Most of them have drowned. Today, in St. Gallen, the names and stories of the deceased were read aloud as part of the action “Beim Namen nennen”. The names were also written on strips of cloth and hung on the outside façade of the St. Laurenzen church.
SEEBRÜCKE Switzerland has taken today’s event in St. Gallen as an opportunity to write to 73 municipalities in the canton. This corresponds to all political municipalities in St. Gallen that have not yet taken a public stance in relation to the reception of people arriving from the Mediterranean. The municipalities of Buchs, Sevelen, Wil and the city of St. Gallen have already sent a political declaration against the inhumane asylum policy.
Today’s letter was addressed to the respective municipal administration and asks them to declare their solidarity with people on the move as a first step. This public declaration of solidarity can be followed by further concrete steps for action, such as addressing the concrete demand for additional admission of refugees to the federal government.
With the aim of increasing pressure from below on the federal government and Federal Councillor Karin Keller-Sutter through the communities, SEEBRÜCKE Switzerland has sent out the following letter:
“Am 20. Juni ist Weltflüchtlingstag. In der Stadt St. Gallen organisieren zahlreiche Organisationen, darunter die katholischen und reformierten Kirchen, den Aktionstag “Beim Namen nennen”. Seit 1993 sind über 40’000 Menschen auf der Flucht über das Mittelmeer verstorben. Die Namen und Geschichten dieser Menschen werden heute während 24 Stunden in der Kirche St. Laurenzen vorgelesen. Wir möchten diesem Gedenken politisches Handeln folgen lassen.
Jeden Tag sterben Menschen im Mittelmeer, gleichzeitig werden NGOs bei der Seenotrettung behindert und müssen teilweise wochenlang mit geflüchteten Menschen an Bord vor den Küsten Europas warten. Die Schweiz verfügt über die nötige Erfahrung und Infrastruktur, um vulnerable Personen aufzunehmen und deren Asylantrag zu prüfen. Um das weitere Sterben tausender Menschen zu verhindern, ist ein schnelles Handeln unabdingbar.
Die SEEBRÜCKE setzt sich dafür ein, dass Menschen, die fliehen mussten, einen Ort zum Ankommen finden – einen Sicheren Hafen. Das könnte Ihre Gemeinde werden. Aus unserer Sicht sollten die Städte stärker Einfluss auf migrationspolitische Fragen nehmen und sich klar positionieren. Erklären Sie sich solidarisch mit Menschen auf der Flucht? Das ist ein wertvolles politisches Zeichen, auf das konkrete solidarische Handlungen folgen können.
Wir fordern Ihre Gemeinde auf, sich zum Sicheren Hafen zu erklären.
Zu einem Sicheren Hafen gehört, dass die Gemeinde:
1. sich mit Menschen auf der Flucht und den Zielen der SEEBRÜCKE solidarisch erklärt.
Aktive Unterstützung der Seenotrettung
2. sich öffentlich gegen die Kriminalisierung der Seenotrettung auf dem Mittelmeer positioniert und diese aktiv unterstützt sowie die Patenschaft und finanzielle Unterstützung für ein ziviles Seenotrettungsschiff übernimmt bzw. sich daran beteiligt.
Aufnahme zusätzlich zur Quote
3. die schnelle und unkomplizierte Aufnahme und Unterbringung von aus Seenot geretteten Menschen und Menschen aus den griechischen Lagern zusätzlich zur Verteilungsquote von Schutzsuchenden sicherstellt. Konkret erklärt sich die Gemeinde bereit, eine selbst gewählte, verbindliche Anzahl an geflüchteten Menschen, beispielsweise von einem zivilen Seenotrettungsboot oder aus einem griechischen Lager, ähnlich eines Relocation-Programms, direkt aufzunehmen und unterzubringen. Diese Aufnahme geschieht zusätzlich zur Verteilungsquote Asylsuchender. Hierzu wird ein Einvernehmen mit dem Eidgenössischen Departement des Innern und dem Amt für Migration hergestellt.
4. sich gegenüber dem Bund für die Einrichtung neuer bzw. die deutliche Ausweitung bestehender Programme zur legalen Aufnahme von Flüchtenden einsetzt und dazu selbst zusätzliche Aufnahmeplätze anbietet.
Kommunales Ankommen gewährleisten
5. für ein langfristiges Ankommen sorgt, indem alle notwendigen Ressourcen für eine menschenwürdige Versorgung, insbesondere in den Bereichen Wohnen, medizinische Versorgung und Bildung, zur Verfügung gestellt werden.
Nationale und europäische Vernetzung
6. sich auf regionaler, nationaler und europäischer Ebene aktiv für die Umsetzung der oben genannten Punkte einsetzt.
Bündnis Sichere Häfen
7. sich für ein Bündnis aller Sicheren Häfen in Europa zur aktiven Gestaltung einer menschenrechtskonformen europäischen Migrationspolitik einsetzt.
8. alle unternommenen Handlungen zeitnah und fortlaufend veröffentlicht, mit denen die Gemeindzu einem Sicheren Hafen wird.
Der Weg zu einem Sicheren Hafen ist für uns ein Prozess, der sich über einen längeren Zeitraum erstrecken kann. Der entscheidende erste Schritt ist die öffentliche Solidaritätsbekundung. Ihre Gemeinde setzt damit ein wichtiges politisches Zeichen. Sie macht damit auf die humanitäre Notlage aufmerksam, von der nicht länger die Augen verschlossen werden können.
Bitte traktandieren Sie diesen Antrag an der nächsten Gemeinderatssitzung und teilen Sie uns mit, ob Sie unserem Begehren zustimmen. Wir zählen auf die Solidarität unserer Exekutive und freuen uns auf den Bescheid. Natürlich stehen wir Ihnen gerne auch für ein Gespräch zur Verfügung.
Mit freundlichen Grüssen
As summer approaches, thousands of People on the Move (PoM) are currently attempting the criminalised border crossing via the Balkan route to Western Europe. Seebrücke Schweiz wants to show active and concrete solidarity. For this reason, Seebrücke activists have been involved in solidarity project structures on the ground for several months. Through these activists, Seebrücke Schweiz is making CHF 3,000 available to the PoM.
Fortress Europe continues to seal itself off with inhumane pushback practices. Illegally and on behalf of the EU, the Croatian police push people back to Bosnia every day. PoM are exposed to physical and psychological police violence without protection. In most cases, all valuables as well as clothes and food are taken away from them during a pushback in order to make living conditions and another attempted border crossing as difficult as possible.
Seebrücke Schweiz wants to actively support people in this situation, which has been going on for years. The donated money is available for smartphones, powerbanks, food and medicine.
If you would also like to provide material support, the following is urgently needed on the Balkan route:
Working smartphones: Collection points at Open Eyes Balkanroute (Bern, Lucerne, Zurich, St.Gallen)
Money:Account of Seebrücke Schweiz with subject “Bosnia”. CH12 0839 0036 7691 1000 2
Let’s stand together shoulder to shoulder and fight Fortress Europe, day by day – brick by brick.
leavenoonebehind #stopthefortress #nobordersnonations #borderless solidarity
While the city of Solothurn has already repeatedly confirmed its willingness to take in additional refugees, the canton is reserved. It sees the responsibility with the federal government.
In May 2020, Christof Schauwecker (Greens) demanded that the government of the Canton of Solothurn lobby the Federal Council to take in a contingent of refugees from the camps on the Greek islands and to accommodate them in the canton.
At that time, the outbreak of the Corona pandemic had further worsened the already precarious situation of thousands of people. Due to the cramped conditions and poor hygiene in the camps, people were – and still are – at great risk from the virus. Nevertheless, Switzerland had only agreed to take in 21 unaccompanied minors.
As early as May 2020, the cantonal council did not find it urgent to deal with this looming catastrophe. The cantonal council had later recommended the order for rejection. The Cantonal Council now rejected it a year later “by a large majority”, as the resolution puts it. As is so often the case, the responsibility of the federal government is referred to.
Meanwhile, the situation in the Greek camps has not improved at all. Last September, the Moria camp on Lesbos burnt down. In the quickly built new camp directly on the coast, people spent the winter in unheated tents and continued to lack everything they needed to live. The proven lead exposure endangers the health of the people housed there, especially the children. The situation is similar on the other islands. In the Vial camp on Chios, the body of a man who had died in these precarious conditions was found last week, eaten by mice.
There remains an urgent need to evacuate all camps.
Photo: Alea Horst
The municipalities of Frick, Vordemwald and Uerkheim responded positively to the campaign “500 people for the municipalities in Aargau”. The Aargau Asylum Network had asked all municipalities at the beginning of the year whether they were willing to take in people from the camps on the Greek islands.
The Frick municipal council declared itself ready to take in 4 more refugees “if the federal government would heed the call of the Easter Appeal and evacuate 5,000 people from Greek camps, 500 of whom would have to be taken in by the canton of Aargau.”
The municipality of Uerkheim is prepared “to accommodate further persons in the property “Rudolfhaus” […] if this is possible in consultation with the Cantonal Social Service.”
The municipality of Vordemwald replies: “The situation in the refugee camps is dramatic according to the available media reports. In our opinion, the canton of Aargau would be able to take in 500 people today. The Vordemwald municipal council would not close its mind to such a readiness, should the federal government and the canton plan corresponding capacities and decide on the admission of long-suffering refugees.”
Together with Aarau, Baden, Brugg, Laufenburg, Lenzburg and Windisch, nine municipalities in Aargau have already confirmed their willingness to take in refugees. We call on the canton as well as the federal government to take this seriously and to create the possibilities for reception.
Several countries have ended their reception programmes from the precarious Greek camps that were promised at European level. In total, less than 4,000 people have been evacuated, 91 of them to Switzerland.
A year ago, several European countries pledged to take in people from the Greek camps. At that time, 40,000 refugees were in the camps waiting for a chance to leave the camps and find a perspective in Europe. Last week, the last plane of the German reception programme landed in Germany with 103 people on board. A total of 3,782 people were taken in from Greece by European countries, of which around 2,750 were taken in by Germany. With almost 250 cities willing to take in people, considerably more would have been possible. However, Interior Minister Seehofer continues to vehemently block the possibility of municipal admission. As a result, thousands of people seeking protection are still left behind in the camps.
Sadly, Germany nevertheless leads Europe with this low number of admissions. In addition to Germany, Portugal with 1,500 and France with 1,000 people had made a relatively generous pledge to take in people. So far, however, they have admitted only 81 (Portugal) and 576 (France) people respectively. By March 2021, only Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands had fulfilled their promised quotas – in total, however, the three states have admitted just 140 people.
The Federal Council’s “Report on the Activities of Switzerland’s Migration Foreign Policy 2020” states that a total of 71 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers (UMAs) with a family connection to Switzerland were admitted in accordance with the Dublin provisions, as well as another 20 UMAs after the fire in Moria in September 2020. A sad result for one of the richest countries in the world.
But the fact that it was due to the political will and not to a lack of financial means is shown by the expenses for the sealing-off. There was money, after all, for 1,500 days of Frontex operations, mostly on the land border between Greece and Turkey, and for the secondment of an expert to Frontex’s so-called “Fundamental Rights Office” from February to June 2021. The serious allegations of human rights violations by Frontex officials are mentioned in the report, but the Federal Council considers them to have been dealt with sufficiently, since there is an internal committee of enquiry. Nothing is to be expected from this committee. If one looks at Switzerland’s sealing-off goals, Frontex is doing its job very well from the point of view of the Swiss authorities anyway. They keep people away from European soil and thus also from Switzerland.
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.”
Picture: Petition handover in Bern in January 2020, https://beobachtungsstelle.ch/news/sterben-auf-dem-mittelmeer-stoppen-petitionsuebergabe/
The Cantonal Council of Geneva has approved a motion by 17 politicians promising to take in 20 families from the temporary camp Kara Tepe on Lesbos. Kara Tepe was built after fire broke out at the original camp Moria in early September. It still houses 10,000 people in inhumane conditions.
The motion, titled “Request for humanitarian admission of refugee families living in the Kara Tepe camp on the island of Lesvos,” initially called for up to ten families to be taken in. However, after the motion was declared urgent, there was also a change in the text. In the end, the new text and an admission of 20 families was approved by 52 to 43 votes.
Although many cities and municipalities in Switzerland have shown solidarity with the refugees in Moria, this has not yet been followed by concrete measures. The federal government is keeping a low profile and apart from taking in a few children and young people, most of whom already had family ties in Switzerland, we have yet to see any active, let alone humanitarian, action.
Switzerland has never received so little refugees as in this current period. In light of the current pandemic, this is frightening. The pandemic should not be a reason for us to try to deny what is happening on Lesbos and at the European external borders!
With this proposal, Geneva has once again shown how important it is to continue to build pressure on the federal government. Swiss cities and municipalities must do the same, because this is the only way to ensure that the fundamental right to asylum is not completely dehumanized and that Switzerland ends its restrictive migration policy.
Unfortunately, the Grand Council of the Canton of Bern decided today to reject the motion “Evacuate now! Refugees from Greece need our protection”.
Many cities in Switzerland have long shown solidarity and are willing to take in people. This willingness is undermined by such resolutions!
We cannot understand in any way why people who have fled and are now stranded in misery in Greece are left behind and deliberately forgotten. Why eyes are closed is a mystery to us….
Since August 2020, people from Moria and a photographer from the Netherlands have been documenting the conditions in Moria. With their pictures from the camp, they draw attention to the catastrophic situation. In February, a campaign was launched in which posters were designed with their photos.
We also want to set an example! As of today, posters with the pictures are hanging in various places in the city of Bern. Do you have the possibility to hang up a poster? Let us know! Have you seen a poster somewhere? Send us a photo or post it in your story!
The welcoming spirit of cities must not be undermined – we have space and people need protection!
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.
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.
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!
The city council of Kriens reacts positively to the request of a Kriens resident. In a letter, she drew attention to the situation in the camps at Europe’s external borders and the willingness of many Swiss cities to accept refugees directly.
“The dossier is a federal matter, but courageous cities are needed to exert pressure and signal to the federal government that a humane refugee policy is feasible. As a resident of Kriens, I would be very happy if Kriens also became a safe harbour and supported this cause.”
The city council supports the appeal to the federal government to allow direct admission from Moria and calls on the federal government to enter into dialogue with the municipalities and cities for implementation. In the city’s response letter it says: “We hope to set a sign of the humanitarian kind with this decision to improve the situation of refugees from Lesbos.”
Would you also like to make your city a safe harbour? Contact us at email@example.com.
Image source: https://www.stadt-kriens.ch/stadtbuero/dienstleistungen/medienanfragen.page/1669
The towns of Laufenburg and Lenzburg in Aargau have agreed to take in three and eight people respectively from the Greek camp in Moria. Previously, Aarau, Baden, Brugg and Windisch in the canton had already declared their solidarity.
In Laufenburg, the city council accepted the initiative of IG Asyl Laufenburg and acknowledged the devastating conditions in the European camps. It declared its willingness to take in refugees and to care for and integrate them with the support of IG Asyl Laufenburg.
In Lenzburg, the town council accepted the motion directly after voting on the urgency. City councillor Andreas Schmid expressly supported the request: “The city council has already dealt with this postulate. We are of the opinion that this is about people in need. It is not a matter of pursuing asylum policy. If the town of Lenzburg can do something to help these people who have lost their belongings, the town of Lenzburg will do so. For this reason, the town council agrees to accept this postulate without a vote.”
The successful political initiatives in the canton of Aargau are part of the campaign “500 people for Aargau” of the association Netzwerk Asyl Aargau.
Photo source: https://www.laufenburg.ch/fotoalbum/
The municipality of Windisch (AG) has agreed to take in six refugees from the Greek island of Lesbos. Since it is basically the federal government that decides on admission, the town has called for a change in the law at federal level.
This decision was already made in October 2020. We are pleased to be able to add Windisch to the list of cities in Switzerland that show solidarity.
Image source: https://www.windisch.ch/windisch-im-portraet/portraet/unser-dorf.html/26
With a clear majority of 34 to 14 votes, the city council of Brugg accepts the postulate concerning the reception of refugees from the Moria camp.
Björn Urs Bürkler (Greens) and Pascal Ammann (SP) had demanded that the city of Brugg take in nine refugees from the Greek island of Lesbos. Furthermore, it should call on the canton and the federal government to take the necessary measures to make the reception possible and coordinate with other cities within and outside the canton that are willing to take in refugees.
It is gratifying to see the advocacy for this cause not only from the SP and the Greens, but also from the EVP, CVP and GLP. If these parties also support a humane and welcoming asylum policy beyond the municipality of Brugg, the demands for an evacuation of the Greek camps can find majorities in many places.
The initiative is part of the campaign “500 people for Aargau”, which is coordinated by the association Netzwerk Asyl Aargau. It calls on the municipalities of Aargau to accept one refugee per 1356 inhabitants. Numerous municipalities have already given positive feedback.
Image source: https://www.stadt-brugg.ch/
In December, many activists wrote to Federal Councillor Karin Keller-Sutter demanding the evacuation of the Greek camps. The answer came in the form of a standard letter.
The letter from Federal Councillor Karin Keller-Sutter documents what Switzerland has done so far. It supports structures in Greece that do not allow a dignified life. It has also allowed a few children and young people to enter Switzerland, but most of them would have been able to come anyway because of the current right to family reunification. But the fact that Switzerland is now trying to make a name for itself with these people is cynical, because at the same time thousands of people without protection are still living in inhumanly precarious conditions.
We demand that rich and privileged Switzerland act in a way that opens up a new real perspective for the people on Lesbos and elsewhere. It is time to stop merely glorifying the Swiss tradition of humanitarian aid and to translate it into concrete action.
Letter of reply from Karin Keller-Sutter dated 22.01.2021
On 30.01.21, Seebrücke Schweiz participated in the action day #KeinPushbackistlegal – Aufnahme statt Abschottung.
In summer Moria burned, now Lipa. On 23 December 2020, the Lipa camp in north-western Bosnia burnt down almost completely. In one fell swoop, more than 1,000 people lost their roof over their heads and are now defenceless against the snow and cold.
Even before the fire, the situation for refugees in Bosnia was catastrophic: thousands had to hold out in forests and ruins.
At Croatia’s external border with Bosnia, all means are being used to prevent people seeking protection from entering the EU. The border police carry out pushbacks in which violence is systematically used. The German government supports this procedure – as recently as December, 20 vehicles worth 800,000 euros were donated to the Croatian border police.
Vucjak, Moria, Lipa – the names of the camps change, but what they show remains the same: the EU is committed to sealing itself off at any price!
We will not accept this any longer! We demand:
Switzerland and the EU must finally take responsibility. The makeshift reconstruction of tents in Lipa is not a solution for the people. Camps are not a solution. They are part of the problem!
We will stay loud until the EU’s external borders are no longer a lawless space! Because #NoPushbackIsLegal!
The city of Lucerne is still not backing down from the announced demolition of the Eichwäldli alternative housing. Today’s demo is directed against the nonsensical demolition, for self-determined projects, neighbourhoods and cities as well as a life in friendship and solidarity. Seebrücke Luzern is taking part with a speech on the action day #KeinPushbackistlegal, which is also taking place today.
Perhaps the comparison between a sealed-off external border in Europe and the threatened eviction of a Lucerne resident seems far-fetched. But basically, departments and governments prevent one thing in common: and that is the good life for all!
They neither want people who come here from somewhere else, nor do they want people who live a different life than the one their bourgeois norm demands.
The devastating fires of Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos, the Lipa camp in Bosnia, and the Vathy camp on the Greek island of Samos have become emblematic of the European solidarity crisis. This crisis has long since turned into a humanitarian catastrophe.
For today, the Balkan Bridge has called for an international day of action. In the Balkans and in the camps on Europe’s external borders, people are exposed to the struggle for survival. They are freezing, starving, physically and emotionally injured. Let us also think of them today. Let us welcome people together and fight for their arrival and right to stay.
We know the Eichwäldli as a place where people are allowed to arrive. As a place where anti-racist and anti-fascist people can network. The Eichwäldli is a place with creative and angry personalities. That is exactly what we need.
Let’s join together and work and stand up for what we all want: Housing and shelter for everyone. Eichwäldli remains, Refugees Welcome!
Image source: https://www.facebook.com/eichwaeldlibleibt/photos/108203174449647
In December, a petition was submitted in the Aargau municipality of Turgi to accept refugees from Moria. The initiators criticise the situation in the camps on the Greek islands and emphasise the broad support for the evacuation of these camps by the Swiss population, the national churches and numerous organisations.
However, the local council is not prepared to accept further refugees. Once again, the responsibility of the Confederation is pointed out. In addition, more refugees are already being cared for than the quota stipulates.
The fact that these arguments do not speak against the federal government’s decision to accept more refugees has already been demonstrated by 25 cities and municipalities in Switzerland, including the neighbouring municipality of Baden, which would like to take in 14 people from the new Kara Tepe camp.
Image source: https://static.az-cdn.ch/__ip/nUyE6Jf3rMSaucWthTaA27YfjxQ/27d056c675cf5002fc1b1e68b9202867b6b05500/n-small2x-16×9-far
In 2020, the route across the Mediterranean Sea was again one of the most frequent and deadliest escape routes to Europe. Most inflatable or wooden boats set off from Libya. There, people wait in inhumane camps and many are intercepted by the Libyan coast guard or get into distress at sea.
Although sea rescue is a state task, civilian sea rescue organisations have to save people from drowning and are additionally hindered and criminalised. For example, ships are often refused permission to enter a European port for a long time, even though there are often people on board who need urgent medical care, including children and pregnant women. Or ships are detained for abstruse and incomprehensible reasons and operations sometimes have to be carried out without the coordination of the maritime authority.
In 2020, a total of 3,500 people were saved by eight NGO ships. But by far not all people fleeing across the Mediterranean can be discovered. For the whole of 2020, the IOM (International Organization for Migration) recorded 1’111 deaths in the entire Mediterranean and 739 deaths in the Central Mediterranean. 82’704 people have reached the European mainland. More than 11’000 people were intercepted by the Libyan coast guard in 2020 and brought back to shore. The Covid 19 pandemic further complicated the work of NGOs this year. The crisis brought some missions in the Mediterranean to a complete standstill at times.
“Because of the Corona pandemic, politicians have rightly talked a lot about the need to do everything possible to save lives. Unfortunately, this does not seem to apply to the people drowning in the Mediterranean. Today we are at the point where EU governments stand idly by while people drown in the Mediterranean and protection seekers suffer hunger, fear and pain on Greek islands.”Gordon Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye
In March, all civilian sea rescue ships were detained due to a change in the Ship Safety Regulation or on the grounds of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to research by Der Spiegel, the Ministry of Transport wanted to deliberately prevent sea rescue. Letters from the Ministry of the Interior were sent out explicitly asking not to leave. The new EU mission “Irini” has the task of monitoring the arms embargo against Libya and the expansion of the Libyan coast guard, sea rescue is not taken into account.
On the flimsy grounds of the Covid 19 pandemic, ships are often not given permission to enter a port. As a result, the situation on the ships has deteriorated enormously, with one man attempting to commit suicide and over 120 people attempting to swim to the Italian mainland in September. In May, several rescue ships were detained by the Italian authorities. In response, the UN Human Rights Office demanded an immediate opening of the ports and criticised the detention of rescue ships as well as the “pushbacks” to Libya, which were in violation of human rights. The EU countries involved violated international law with these measures.
The last months of 2020 were riddled with renewed detentions of civilian rescue ships and civilian reconnaissance aircraft. A few rescue missions could be carried out despite the blockades.
“The year 2020 was extremely exhausting and frustrating for all sea rescuers”.Gordon Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye
In October 2020, Sea-Eye purchased an offshore supply vessel (built in 1972) with the support of the sea rescue alliance United4Rescue in order to convert it for rescue operations. The Sea-Eye 4 should be operational from February 2021. We hope for your support both on land and at sea. Get the word out to yourselves and others. Currently, Sea-Eye is still running a fundraising campaign in Bern. We want to finance a rescue day of the new ship. You can help reach the goal at the following link: https://betterplace.org/f36493
Yesterday, the residents’ council of Baden (AG) approved by a clear majority the admission of refugees from the former Moria camp on Lesbos. A majority of all political groups voted in favour of the initiative, with the exception of the SVP. Previously, the city council had already expressed its willingness to accept them.
Specifically, the city of Baden has declared itself ready to accept 14 refugees from Moria. It will call on the canton and the federal government to take the necessary measures to enable the reception of refugees from Moria.
Initiator Nora Langmoen said: “The canton and the federal government are blocking the reception of refugees from Moria. This is incomprehensible and disappointing. It is therefore all the more important that the Baden residents’ council also declares itself willing to take in refugees if possible. The more towns and municipalities that participate, the more likely it is that the canton and the federal government will move”.
To this end, Baden will also coordinate with other cities and municipalities in the canton of Aargau that are willing to accept refugees, as well as with Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Lucerne, St. Gallen, Winterthur and Zurich, which have adopted similar initiatives to accept refugees.
Some 25 cities in Switzerland have now declared their solidarity with people on the run and are ready to welcome them.
Local councillors of the SP Bülach and Grüne Bülach call on the city council to support the direct admission of refugees from the Aegean region.
In April 2020, an appeal signed by over 100 people entitled “Bülach supports refugees” was presented to the city council. Since the city council did not fully respond to the demands, a postulate with a concrete demand is now following:
The city council should declare to the Federal Council that it is prepared to accept refugees directly into its community. “Since the Federal Council has so far refrained from accepting refugees directly, it is up to us municipalities to urge the Federal Council to change direction and at the same time show willingness to accept the consequences,” explains initiator Dominik Berner of the SP Bülach.
In addition, the city council should clarify how direct reception and accommodation of refugees in the “Müliweg” asylum centre is possible in the near future if direct reception is approved by the federal government.
Picture source: SP Zurich, https://buelach.spkantonzh.ch/app/uploads/2020/04/2020.04.08.Rathaus_1.jpeg
Ten major Swiss cities have already declared themselves ready to receive refugees from the humanitarian catastrophe in the camps on the Greek islands in recent months, but more and more smaller towns and villages are now also willing to welcome refugees. This increases the pressure on Federal Councillor Karin Keller-Sutter, who is blocking the reception by the cities at federal level. At the same time, the legal conditions for this are already in place.
In a first wave of positive feedback, six cities have publicly declared their willingness to accept refugees and communicated this to the Federal Council:
Wohlen (BE): The Municipality of Wohlen has written to the SEM asking it to significantly step up its assistance to the area, and in particular to facilitate the reception of vulnerable refugees from the burnt-down camp in Moria in view of the humanitarian situation in Lesbos. At the same time, the municipality is offering, within the limits of its possibilities, both financial support for local aid and assistance in the form of accommodation and care in the community.
Sevelen (SG): The municipality of Sevelen is willing to host and care for a family in addition to those already allocated.
Arlesheim (BL): The Municipal Council supports the petitioners’ request and has confirmed its willingness to accept five more people from a camp on a Greek island. The canton has been informed of this readiness.
Baden (AG): The city of Baden is prepared to consider additional admissions if the federal government and the canton create the legal conditions. This has been communicated to the federal government via the City Initiative for Social Policy.
Penthalaz (VD): The municipality of Penthalaz expects Switzerland to provide adequate reception for people from the Greek camps in order to reduce the emergency situation there and declares its readiness to take in families itself.
The city of Lausanne (VD) has once again expressed its willingness to receive people and its efforts to work for a solution at federal level. The city hopes to cooperate with the other host cities.
The appeal to the cities was made in the form of a petition, which may continue to be used to further increase the number of welcoming cities and make them visible.