People in Switzerland offer to house over 35.000 Ukrainian refugees
People across Switzerland are opening their doors to Ukrainian refugees, with 35.000 beds offered in the country so far. Meanwhile, the Swiss government has confirmed that it will be activating the S-residence permit for those fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Switzerland activates emergency residence permits for Ukrainians
The new announcement comes amid a deteriorating situation on the ground in Ukraine, with persistent shelling of civilian targets and continued bloodshed around major Ukrainian cities. So far, an estimated 1,5 million people have fled the country, heading towards Europe, Switzerland and the Balkans in the fastest-growing refugee crisis seen since World War Two.
To facilitate the arrival of more refugees in Switzerland, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) announced that it would be activating the S-residence permit for people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine. First created during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, this type of residence permit is designed for people in need of protection, but has never been activated before.
The S-permit will allow refugees to forgo the traditional requirements of a Swiss residence permit and allow for quicker applications. It also permits residence in Switzerland for up to a year before renewal, far longer than any visa would allow.
Swiss families to house Ukrainian refugees
Along with new government programmes, Swiss families have also been offering to house refugees. According to Campax, one of the main organisers of the relief effort, over the last few days approximately 35.000 beds in houses across Switzerland have been offered to those in need. Currently, only 2.000 beds are free in government-run facilities, not enough to receive the tens of thousands of refugees expected to reach Switzerland in the coming weeks.
As of Monday, 330 Ukrainians have reported to authorities in Swiss cantons, according to Head of Information at the SEM, Daniel Bach. Bach said that the process has been designed to be “quick and absolutely uncomplicated.” However, there have been reports of some families waiting up to six hours to be seen, which Bach apologised for.
People in Switzerland protest in support of Ukraine
Offering their homes to help is just one of the ways people in Switzerland have been helping Ukrainians. Over the weekend, an estimated 40.000 people protested against the Russian state’s invasion of Ukraine in Zurich. Smaller protests took place in Geneva, St. Gallen and in Bern, where the Ukrainian ambassador thanked the Swiss population for its widespread support and solidarity.
The march was organised in part by the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland, which demanded the government set up a task force to see the impact of Russian money in Switzerland. A new report by the Neue Zürcher Zeitung found that Russian money in Swiss banks and insurance firms could exceed 150 billion Swiss francs, 15 times higher than the estimate by the Swiss National Bank.