War in Syria

Switzerland must strengthen its humanitarian commitment to Syrians

The Syrian conflict has now been going on for seven years. Assad is more firmly in the saddle than ever. The people who have fled to neighbouring countries or to Europe cannot return home in the near future. Greater support for the Syrians displaced by the war is urgent. The international community needs to follow through on commitments in the areas of emergency aid and survival assistance, education and income security. Switzerland, too, must do more: The Federal Government should increase its aid to 100 million Swiss francs a year.

 

Caritas Switzerland has so far implemented humanitarian projects in Syria and in the neighbouring countries of Lebanon and Jordan amounting to 37 million Swiss francs. It has used these contributions in three humanitarian fields. In the area of emergency aid and survival assistance, it distributes hot meals and food parcels. It provides financial aid for the purchase of food, clothes, hygiene products and baby food, and it assists destitute families with rent subsidies. In Lebanon and Jordan, it is engaged in educational measures to benefit refugee children by enabling them to have access to state schools, and is training teachers in educating traumatised children. In Jordan, it is implementing a work programme in municipal waste disposal. This provides 2,300 households with a regular income.

Despite the fact that the situation of the war victims in Syria itself, in the neighbouring countries, but also in Europe is becoming increasingly difficult, the international community is only providing a proportion of the funds required. Caritas Switzerland expects the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs to press for more generous support of the Syrian war victims at the second Syria Conference in Brussels on 24 – 25 April. Switzerland must set a good example and increase its annual aid to Syria from an average of 50 million to 100 million Swiss francs. The additional funds should be used for the schooling of children as well as training programmes for youth and young adults.

Improve the residence status of Syrians displaced by the war

Of the nearly 17,000 Syrians displaced by the war who live in Switzerland, 7,000 people have the status of temporarily admitted persons. They are neither able to return to Syria, nor do they have any realistic prospect of integration. What is needed is a residence status for all people coming from Syria that gives them protection and promotes their integration in the labour market and in society.

That is why the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) must abandon its restrictive policy and decide, in pending asylum applications (3,000 persons), in favour of a recognised refugee status. Syrians displaced by the war have the same need for protection as other refugees. The SEM and the cantons must also be generous in their interpretation of the applicable hardship clause for the conversion of temporary admission to a residence permit. Because many of these people have been in Switzerland for nearly five years and thus fulfil the requirements for the conversion of their residence status.

 
 
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