Fast-track visas for Syria-Turkey quake survivors to end on May 12

Picking through rubble in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, 22 March 2023. Keystone / Erdem Sahin

The speedier visa processing for survivors of the devastating earthquakes in February is no longer needed after applications have fallen sharply, Swiss authorities have said.

This content was published on May 2, 2023 - 14:42

By the end of April, over 300 people from Syria and Turkey had come to Switzerland on such a visa, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) said on Tuesday.

The fast-track programme was introduced after several shattering earthquakes struck parts of Turkey and Syria on February 6, killing over 50,000 people.

+ Swiss Solidarity finances 11 projects in earthquake regions

The visas allowed people from the affected areas, who have family in Switzerland, to come and stay with them for up to 90 days.

Overall, 647 visa requests have been received to date – 501 in Istanbul and 146 at the Swiss consulate in Beirut, SEM said. Of these, 96 were rejected, while 241 are still being processed; in most pending cases, authorities are waiting for confirmation by the Swiss-based relatives that they can indeed provide for the short-term needs of the applicants.

Requests reached a peak of around 120 per week at the beginning of March, before falling steadily since, authorities say. Thus, despite the “difficult” situation in Syria and Turkey, “there no longer seems to be any urgency” to warrant continuing the fast-track procedure.

All requests filed before May 12 will still benefit from the speedier programme.

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