Last Updated: Friday, 17 November 2017, 15:16 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Switzerland

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Switzerland , 25 May 2004, available at: [accessed 20 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

At the end of 2003, Switzerland hosted approximately 38,300 refugees and asylum seekers. These included some 26,300 persons with provisional admission status, about 10,400 persons pending at first instance proceedings, and some 1,600 persons granted asylum during the year.

Around one-third of those with provisional admission status at the end of 2003 were from Serbia and Montenegro, as well as large numbers of Sri Lankans and Somalis, many of who fled persecution at the hands of non-state actors. Since Switzerland does not generally accept such persecution as grounds for asylum, unless it can be attributed to the state or to quasi-state actors, the U.S. Committee for Refugees counts them along with refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection.

Some 20,800 applied for asylum during the year, a decrease of 21 percent from 2002. Significant source countries included Serbia and Montenegro (2,900), Turkey (1,700), Iraq (1,400), and Algeria (840). The Federal Office for Refugees made decisions on 27,200 cases during 2003, granting asylum to about 6 percent, a decrease from 8 percent in 2002. Applicants with the highest approval rates came from Turkey (570), Iraq (180), Serbia and Montenegro (110), and Bosnia (110). The refugee office denied asylum to about 22,600 applicants deciding in about 7,800 cases (about 34 percent) "not to enter into the matter." Around 3,000 cases were withdrawn or abandoned.

Asylum Procedure

In March authorities suspended decisions on asylum applications from, and suspended deportations to, Iraq. At the end of January 2004, the authorities resumed decisions, but stated they would not deport Iraqis before May – although they would assist voluntary returns before that time.

The government created a list of safe countries in May 2003, including all European Union (EU) member states, candidate countries to the EU set to join in May 2004, countries of the European Free Trade Association, Albania, Bulgaria, Gambia, Ghana, India, Mongolia, Romania, Senegal, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia. The government planned to re-evaluate the safe country designation at least once a year. Switzerland was the only country in Europe to designate Bosnia and Herzegovina as a safe country, and refugee rights organizations denounced the decision.

The government designated safe country status based on the country's compliance with international conventions and human rights standards. When an applicant from a safe country claims asylum, the authorities will not generally consider the claim. Only if they cannot return the applicant to his country will officials grant provisional admission. In exceptional cases, the authorities will adjudicate the claim.

New Developments

Cantonal police and the national government completed a list of comprehensive measures to follow when carrying out forced expulsions of failed asylum seekers, including requiring that police keep logs of all expulsions and tactics used during the expulsion.

In Zurich, cantonal authorities offered asylum seekers jobs, such as cleaning parks and working in hospitals and schools in order to improve the image of asylum seekers – paying them around 10-12 SFr a day ($8-$9), in addition to the allowance paid to all asylum seekers. Other cities expressed interest in the program.

Readmission Agreements

In 2003, Switzerland signed readmission agreements with Nigeria, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, the Benelux states, and Spain.

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