BERN, SWITZERLAND – Both houses of parliament have now approved tougher measures for asylum seekers, including ending the possibility of using military desertion as a reason for applying. The upper house, in a 25-20 vote approved measures that will go into effect at the end of September, with the lower house having approved the more stringent rules earlier.
While some politicians on both the left and right voted against the new policy, there appears to be widespread support for ending what is seen as abuse of the current system. Federal Councilor Simonetta Sommaruga, who has responsibility for immigration and asylum, argued in parliament that tougher measures must be combined with speedier handling and other improvements to better cope with the 30,000 requests a year.
Her department issued monthly figures 7 September that show 2,788 requests in August, just one less than the previous month. The number of Tunisian requests fell by 26 percent to 134, following new rules to make “manifestly unfounded requests” the first priority to avoid these people staying in the country. And 158 requests from Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovinia were withdrawn once the applicants learned of tougher rules for them starting 20 August that involved decisions in 48 hours and a much stronger possibility of being returned.
The Migration Office, which is responsible for asylum demands, handled nearly 17,000 requests in the first eight months of the year, a 38 percent improvement over the rate during the same period in 2011.