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Campaigners demand simplified visa for Syrians

Up to four million people have been displaced by the conflict in Syria Keystone

The Swiss Refugee Council has called on the government to simplify the visa procedure for vulnerable Syrian refugees with relatives living in Switzerland to the “bureaucratic minimum”.

This content was published on April 11, 2013 - 18:46
swissinfo.ch

“The credibility of Switzerland’s asylum policy is at stake,” secretary-general of the council Beat Meiner said in a statement.

The humanitarian visa introduced last September to replace the scrapped embassy visa appears not to be working, the council claims. Up to September 2012, Switzerland was the only country in the world still offering the option to apply for asylum at its embassies.

Since then those seeking asylum can no longer file applications at Swiss embassies, unless they find themselves in clearly life-threatening danger. No such visas were issued in the first few months after the system changed.

The refugee council said there was an urgent need to act and it repeated previous calls for the reintroduction of the policy of accepting contingents of refugees, established as best practice in the past.

“But almost nothing has happened and while official Switzerland looks the other way, the tragedy continues,” Meiner said. “Switzerland has just once made it possible for a contingent of 37 people to travel to Switzerland – in a context of more than four million people who are hanging on as refugees in their own country and in camps in neighbouring countries.”

Exception

Last month 37 refugees fleeing violence in Syria were accepted by Switzerland as part of a United Nations resettlement programme. This is the second such group to be given special protection in Switzerland.

The recent arrivals were the second such group of refugees to be welcomed in Switzerland under the resettlement scheme. A family of 36 Syrian refugees were admitted last September. In 2012, 1,209 Syrians applied individually for asylum in Switzerland.

The Swiss Refugee Council also called for immediate effective assistance to be provided to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, “so that the situation is not escalated and more suffering caused by the Syrian civil war refugees who are arriving there daily”.

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