Ukrainian refugee influx needs flexible solutions, says minister

Refugees from Ukraine, mostly women and children, are continuing to arrive in Switzerland. Keystone / Peter Schneider

Switzerland needs “quick and unbureaucratic solutions” to cope with the influx of refugees from Ukraine, Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said on Friday.

This content was published on April 8, 2022 minutes

Speaking to journalists in the north-eastern Swiss city of St. Gallen, she stressed the importance of European coordination, saying Switzerland had introduced a special “S” permit for Ukrainian refugees at the same time as Schengen countries. She welcomed an initiative for a European platform to register refugees.

“The war in Ukraine has shown how important Schengen/Dublin is," Keller-Sutter said, referring to the agreements on free movement of people. Switzerland is a member of the Schengen group of countries, although not the European Union.

Switzerland has so far registered 26,717 refugees from Ukraine, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) announced on Twitter on Friday. It added that 22,119 of these people have been granted “S” permits, up 235 from Thursday. This special status gives refugees the right to remain in Switzerland for a year and work in Switzerland.

Some 7.3 million people have now fled their homes in Ukraine, according to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, and 4.3 million of these have fled to other countries. Figures have continued to rise since Russia invaded its neighbour on February 24.

Refugee integration grant

Switzerland’s federal government is currently consulting on a grant to cantons to help fund the integration of refugees, including language teaching in German, French or Italian. The current proposal is to grant CHF3,000 ($3,208) per refugee, but no final decision has yet been announced.

Cantons generally deem this proposal acceptable, but some have expressed doubts, reports Swiss public broadcaster RTSExternal link. For example, canton Fribourg says this would not be enough if refugees end up staying long-term, and Neuchâtel says it is not enough to ensure quality language teaching.

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