Bern says 9 June vote on asylum major step forward

Citizens to vote on key reforms that would shift weight from cantons to federal gov’t

Immigration in Switzerland

Refugees seeking asylum in Basel, Switzerland: new measures would speed up the process

BERN, SWITZERLAND – The debate has just opened on major Swiss reforms in the law covering asylum seekers. The federal government said Tuesday 26 March that a new law will simplify and speed up the procedure. Voters go to the polls 9 June to vote on the new measure which would give the federal government, and not cantons as is currently the case, responsibility for housing and processing asylum requests from start to finish.

The current process can take months, during which time the asylum seekers live in political limbo, without jobs and with housing that is very basic.

The new “emergency measures” which are designed in part to end a backlog, would give the Swiss Confederation the right to house asylum seekers in federal buildings wthout seeking permission from a canton, and it would allow the federal government to provide cantons with funds for safety and security measures related to housing people whose requests are being processed.

Requests for asylum cannot be accepted from abroad, under the proposed measures, unless a person’s life or physical well-being is directly threatened. Military desertion and refusing to serve would not be considered reasons for asylum, although anyone persecuted or who risks a heavy penalty for refusing to serve would be considered.