How to apply for asylum in Switzerland?

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Switzerland is one of the countries with a long tradition of humanitarianism, so much so that it is home to the headquarters of the Red Cross. And it currently admits significantly more asylum seekers than most European nations. In fact, in 2018, it received 1.9 refugee cases per 1,000 inhabitants, when the continent’s average was 1.2.

To continue its support for migrants , since 2019, Switzerland has implemented new rules that allow it to process such applications more efficiently by reducing the waiting time from 400 to 140 days, including the appeal deadline. As a result, the government estimates to admit about 29,000 petitions annually.

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In addition, the Swiss territory has a fast-track procedure that takes only 48 hours and applies to applicants from so-called safe countries. However, from this origin, few cases are approved.

On the other hand, those coming from Africa, Asia and Latin America get more support. By 2020, 60% of the petitions were admitted and the most benefited foreigners were natives of Afghanistan, Turkey, Eritrea, Yemen, Djibouti, Georgia, Morocco, China, Colombia and Cameroon. If you want to be part of the list of refugees in Switzerland then read on and discover the steps to do so.

First considerations for applying for aid in Switzerland

The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) is responsible for processing asylum applications. This agency is governed by the 2019 refugee law, so one of its biggest challenges is to complete immigration procedures within 140 days.

One of the aspects you should keep in mind is that if you were forced to flee your country of origin, but you resided in a third country, Switzerland will not consider that you are in real and immediate danger; according to the Dublin regulation. Therefore, you should ideally travel as directly as possible to Switzerland.

Procedure for making an asylum request in Switzerland

Once you arrive on Swiss territory or at some of its borders, it is recommended that you start your asylum application as soon as possible. To do so, apply the following steps:

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Step 1. Record

If you are already in Switzerland, go to one of the six reception and management centers opened by the State Secretariat for Migration in Chiasso, Vallorbe, Basel, Kreuzlingen, Altsttäten or Zurich. Provide your personal data, your travel itinerary and the reasons that led you to apply for asylum. Remember to detail the events in detail and in chronological order.

You should also declare any possible illnesses, which you were aware of at the time you started your case. This way you will be able to get help for treatment or be removed if your health problem poses a risk to the rest of society.

The staff in charge will record your information, and will include in your dossier a passport photograph, fingerprints and portraits at different angles. The objective is to verify that you have not previously applied for asylum in Switzerland, under a different name, or in any other country of the European Union.

It should be noted that SEM will send the information of applicants, especially those coming from high-risk countries, to the Intelligence Service of the Confederation. The reason is to prevent terrorists from entering the territory.

Step 2. preparatory phase

Within the first 72 hours of completing the registration process, you will be assigned to a Federal Center for Asylum Seekers (CFA). This phase lasts between 10 and 21 business daysand has been designed to clarify any doubts that may arise about your case, which will undoubtedly allow speed up the process.

At that time, a team of specialists will carry out an exhaustive review of the documents you submitted and, based on the refugee law, will determine if the process progresses or not. In the meantime, SEM will grant you a residence permit in Switzerland type N, which is valid to legally reside in the country until the case is resolved.

During your stay at the CFA you can enjoy benefits such as food, recreation, psychological help, accommodation and more. You will also have the right to exercise work activities.

Step 3. Audience

Your hearing will take place at one of the confederation’s centers, which you will be notified of in advance. At the end of the discussion, the officials will record your statement in writing, where the persons involved will sign.

It is important that during the hearing you do not omit any relevant event that may be decisive in the evaluation of your asylum application. On the other hand, keep in mind that you have the right to request an interpreter, free of charge.

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Step 4. Research

During the process, it is essential for the State to validate the information provided since step #1 in order to determine if you meet the principles set forth in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and to be able to grant you refugee status. Once the investigation period is over, the officials will issue their respective decision and will inform you as soon as possible.

It should be noted that, if you come from the so-called safe countries, this investigation is carried out in less than 48 hours. If you are not admitted as a refugee, you will be sent back to your country of origin immediately.

Step #5. Decision

There are three possible results to the decision of the Secretary of State for Migration, let’s see what they are:

• Grant of refugee status. You will be issued a renewable type B residence permit. With it you will be able to stay for up to one more year in the CFA where you live. Once you have been in Switzerland for 10 years, you will be entitled to claim a residence document.
• Refusal of the application with temporary protection. This is the denial of refugee status, but with temporary protection for one year. It applies when you cannot be repatriated, usually for health or security reasons. After the 12 months have elapsed, you may renew the process by requesting a type F residency, after being approved according to the conditions of the case at that time.
• Rejection of the application. If you are not admitted, you may appeal the decision before the Federal Administrative Court. If the answer does not change, you will have six months to leave the country voluntarily. If you fail to do so, the state will proceed to a forced deportation, after a nationwide search process.

Rights and duties as an asylum seeker

Temporarily residing in Switzerland.Respect and faithfully abide by the laws of Switzerland
Request an interpreter to facilitate the process.Maintain a conduct that allows coexistence with other applicant members and residents of the country.
Request legal advice.Do not leave the country, and if necessary inform the SEM in a timely manner.
Have a place to stay with all the basic services and food.Comply with the rules of coexistence of the CFA.
Receive social assistance if you lack financial solvency.
Participate in solidarity employment programs, working for the community.

While it is true that the percentage of applicants who receive refugee status is low, there is no doubt that Switzerland grants other opportunities to foreigners to stay, temporarily, in its territory; because it considers that many countries in the world violate the human rights of its population. In this sense, if you are persecuted or discriminated, knock on the doors of this beautiful nation to be part of Swiss immigration.

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Maya Martinez

Legal advisor for immigration processes. In addition to providing support in the legal procedures, I offer integral and informative support in relation to the obligations that are acquired when arriving to a new country.

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