Relief associations condemn plan to cut welfare for newcomers to Switzerland
The Swiss Workers’ Mutual Aid Association (OSEO) has condemned a new plan by the Swiss government that would see third-country nationals restricted in how much social security they can receive in their first few years of residence. Already, residence permit holders have been found to be more hesitant in applying for emergency benefits, for fear of losing their right to remain in the country.
Proposal to reduce social security benefits for non-EU migrants in Switzerland
The proposal submitted by the Federal Department of Justice and Police is set to be presented to parliament in June and hopes to revise the social assistance rules for so-called “third-country nationals”. Third-country nationals are people from non-EU, EEA or UK nations who have applied for and received a residence permit in Switzerland.
It proposes that “during the first three years following the granting of a short-term (L) residence permit or a (B) residence permit, the rate of social assistance should be lower than that applied to the native population.” According to the newspaper Le Matin, this amounts to a “national preference” when assigning key social security payments - which usually only amount to a maximum of 1.000 Swiss francs a month.
Social security should be calculated by need not nationality, says OSEO
The idea was immediately condemned by the Swiss Workers’ Mutual Aid Association (OSEO), with the head of OSEO’s national secretariat, Caroline Morel, noting, “In social assistance, the amount of support benefits are calculated according to need and not the length of stay in Switzerland.” She made the case that reductions in social assistance will hinder integration and affect vulnerable people like children, those with special needs and women the most.
The new proposal comes after new laws on integration were imposed in January 2019, which means that some non-EU, EEA or UK residence permit holders risk losing their right to live in Switzerland if they apply for social security. According to Le Matin, even non-Swiss residents who are born in Switzerland run the risk of losing residence, dependent on which canton they live in.
Concluding her statement, Morel said that combining migration and social policy “is inhuman, because anyone who has worked and paid taxes in Switzerland for years must be entitled to social assistance in the event of an emergency.” According to OSEO estimates, 60.000 people in need are choosing to forgo vital welfare aid for fear of losing residence.