Sometimes asylum seekers go underground, as they have no hope of getting official refugee status. They’re known as “sans papiers” (without papers). (SRF/swissinfo.chExternal link)
Asylum is only granted to those who face persecution or imprisonment in their country of origin for reasons of race, religion or nationality or because of their political views. Most asylum seekers arriving in Switzerland do not meet these criteria – they are economic refugees.
In 2015, roughly half of all asylum seekers whose requests were rejected left Switzerland under supervision. But there were no supervised departures for more than 80,000 people asked to leave Switzerland over the past 13 years, and nobody knows where they are now.
In 2015, more than 5,300 asylum seekers disappeared off the radar in Switzerland, 70% of them Africans. In the same year, about 500 former asylum seekers were rounded up by the police in Zurich.
The Swiss government wants to introduce new measures to dramatically cut down the average asylum application processing time. There are fears that this could lead to an increase in the number of rejected applicants going underground before the government has a chance to forcibly expel them.
Swiss public television, SRF, met a man who has been living underground for two years, after his asylum request was turned down.