Resettlement programmes since 2013

Since 2013, the Federal Council has taken various decisions to enable particularly vulnerable people a direct and safe entry to Switzerland.

Resettlement pilot project

In September 2013, the Federal Council approved the admission of 500 particularly vulnerable refugees under the resettlement pilot project until the end of 2015. All of them were victims of the Syrian conflict, who had already been recognised as refugees by the UNHCR.

Between November 2013 and December 2015 502 persons arrived in Switzerland, mainly Syrian refugees from Lebanon and Jordan, and some Iraqi and Palestinian refugees who were directly resettled from Syria. In Switzerland, they were transferred to one of the eight cantons participating in the pilot project: St. Gallen, Geneva, Solothurn, Lucerne, Valais, Basel-Landschaft, Schaffhausen and Uri.

In a bid to support the integration of these refugees as well as the cantons concerned, the Federal Council allocated CHF 12 million on top of the regular lump sum for integration and the cantonal integration programmes. The cantons received further CHF 20,000 per person for specific integration measures. An additional portion of the funds had already been allocated to provide refugees with a pre-departure orientation in the first-asylum countries (See Integration). A monitoring system for the programmes was set up as well. The two-year integration programmes in the pilot cantons were completed at the end of 2017.

Federal Council decrees of 6 March and 18 September 2015: HUMAK

On 6 March 2015, the Federal Council approved the admission of up to 3,000 additional victims of the Syrian conflict within three years. Under the humanitarian action plan HUMAK, refugees were to be accepted via resettlement as well as by means of a relaxed humanitarian visa scheme. In its decree of 18 September 2015, the Federal Council further decided to participate in the first European relocation programme, committing to take in up to 1,500 asylum seekers. The relocation quota was included in the HUMAK programme approved in March, thus from the overall quota of 3,000 refugees: 1,500 were allocated for relocation, 1,000 for resettlement, and 500 humanitarian visas were issued.

No additional funding was provided for integration in the cantons.

 
Resettlement

On the basis of these Federal Council decrees, 1,000 particularly vulnerable victims of the Syrian conflict were to be resettled to Switzerland over a period of three years. As with the first resettlement pilot project, they were mainly Syrian refugees from the first-asylum countries Jordan and Lebanon as well as Iraqi and Palestinian refugees who entered Switzerland directly from Syria. The admission was carried out in close cooperation with the UNHCR and was completed in January 2017. A total of 999 refugees entered Switzerland.

 
Humanitarian visas

In response to the Syrian crisis, Switzerland temporarily extended the issuing of humanitarian visas through the framework of HUMAK. These facilitated visas applied specifically to close family members (spouses and children under 18) of Syrian nationals who had already been temporarily admitted to Switzerland. At the time of application, beneficiaries had to reside in Syria or without permanent residence status in one of the neighbouring countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan or Turkey) as a consequence of the conflict. From May 2015 until the end of the scheme in January 2018, 501 humanitarian visa were issued.

 
Relocation

On 18 September 2015, the Federal Council decided to participate in the first European relocation programme for a total of 40,000 persons in need of protection, which the European Union had adopted on 14 September 2015. The objective of the relocation programme was to ease the burden on the states on the EU’s external borders, above all Italy and Greece, which were confronted with a particularly large number of asylum applications due to the increased influx of migrants to Europe. Switzerland expressed its willingness to allow up to 1,500 asylum seekers to enter the country, admitting 921 persons from Italy and 579 from Greece, who subsequently went through the national asylum procedure in Switzerland.

Federal Council Decree of 9 December 2016: Resettlement II programme

In December 2016, the Federal Council decided to accept an additional 2,000 victims of the Syrian conflict in Switzerland over a period of two years. These were again refugees recognised by the UNHCR from the first-asylum countries Lebanon and Jordan as well as refugees of Iraqi or Palestinian origin who came to Switzerland directly from Syria. The admission was completed accordingly in spring 2019. A total of 1,993 persons entered Switzerland under this programme.

The Federal Council allocated CHF 24 million to support the cantons in integrating these refugees, amounting to around CHF 12,000 per person. In addition to the usual integration measures, the cantons offered refugees a further integration programme for two years.

Humanitarian Programme Libya

At the urgent request of the UNHCR, the Federal Department of Justice and Police FDJP decided in December 2017 to admit 80 persons severely affected by the Libyan crisis who had already been evacuated to Niger by the UNHCR. Most of the 78 persons admitted were young Eritrean women who had gone through traumatic experiences in their home country and in Libya. They entered Switzerland in spring and summer 2018 and were accommodated in the cantons of Basel-Stadt, Schaffhausen, Zug, Bern, Vaud, Basel-Landschaft, Aargau, Ticino, Solothurn, Neuchâtel and Fribourg.

The cantons offered these refugees a further specific integration programme for two years as was the case in the Resettlement II programme.

Federal Council Decree of 30 November 2018: Resettlement III programme

On 30 November 2018, the Federal Council decided to continue its participation in the UNHCR resettlement programme and to admit up to 800 particularly vulnerable refugees, again victims of the Syrian conflict, to Switzerland within a year.

Due to the continued humanitarian crisis along the Mediterranean route, the FDJP also decided on 16 April 2019 to make available up to 50 places in the agreed quota for the Resettlement III programme for the reception of particularly vulnerable refugees from Libya. Switzerland admitted 35 refugees, including Syrian, Eritrean and Sudanese citizens, whom the UNHCR had already evacuated from Libya to Niger beforehand.

Since 1 May 2019, the integration measures for resettled refugees take place under the Integration Agenda Switzerland IAS.

At the beginning of 2020, the Resettlement III programme was successfully completed, admitting 798 persons in need of protection to Switzerland. Apart from a few individuals from Libya, the resettled refugees were victims of the Syrian conflict – most of them Syrian families who had fled their home country to Lebanon.

Federal Council Decree of 29 May 2019: Resettlement 2020/2021

On 29 May 2019, the Federal Council approved the resettlement framework, of which he had already taken notice on 30 November 2018. The framework had been drawn up jointly by experts from the federal government, the cantons, communes and cities and from other organisations. It envisions a consolidation of Switzerland’s resettlement policy, with the aim of improving planning in accommodation and long-term care of refugees by the cantons and communes. To this end, the Federal Council will decide every two years on the exact admission quota within the range of 1,500 to 2,000 persons.

This framework was first applied for the Resettlement 2020/2021 programme. For these two years, the Federal Council approved the admission of up to 1,600 particularly vulnerable refugees: at least 80% of the quota will cover groups of persons from the crises in the Middle East and along the Central Mediterranean migration route; the remainder of the quota – no more than 20% – is intended for refugees from humanitarian emergency situations.

Last modification 28.07.2020

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