Social assistance

The public social assistance authorities provide support to destitute persons with refugee status, asylum seekers, provisionally admitted persons and those in need of protection1).

The cantons are responsible for providing social assistance: in some cantons this task is delegated to the communal authorities, in other cantons relief organisations undertake this task. The costs are reimbursed by the Federal Government. The assessment of social assistance, i.e. the amount of money available for the payment of benefits, is made according to cantonal law. Thus the amount the Federal Government reimburses can have a considerable effect on the amount of payments made to asylum seekers and provisionally admitted persons. Persons with refugee status have to be treated equally to the native population, receiving the standard rates of assistance that apply to their place of residence.

Approximately 70 percent of asylum seekers, provisionally admitted persons and persons with refugee status received financial support in 2009. In the same year, the Federal Government reimbursed 299 million Swiss francs in social assistance for asylum seekers and provisionally admitted persons and 64 million Swiss francs for persons with refugee status.

Every canton has an asylum coordination office which on the one hand ensures the coordination of social assistance within the respective canton and on the other functions as a contact agency for the State Secretariat for Migration.


1) The status «Persons in need of protection» was introduced during the complete revision of the Asylum Act in 1999. Since then, this status has never been granted to a group of persons.

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