SVP calls for heavy restrictions on Ukrainian refugees
The largest political party in Switzerland, the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), has called on the government to limit the admission of Ukrainian refugees to those from the east of the country. Currently, 51.000 people fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine are now housed in Switzerland.
Swiss politicians argue Switzerland has reached its limit
National Councillor Martina Bircher argued that Switzerland was reaching its limit in terms of how many people the country could reasonably accommodate. According to SonntagsZeitung, she said that S-permits - residence permits given to Ukrainian refugees to allow them to find jobs, housing and access social security in Switzerland - should only be handed out to those fleeing the worst of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, as opposed to the whole country.
Other parties have also come out in favour of a more reserved approach, with the president of FDP. The Liberals, Andrea Caroni, supporting the idea of “regionalisation”. She claimed that the country “ultimately has a limited capacity” to accommodate refugees, and called on European nations to coordinate in implementing the SVP's idea.
SVP councillor claims people are exploiting S-permits
One of the key complaints from the SVP is the cost of housing refugees in Switzerland. According to NZZ am Sonntag, the cost of health insurance, housing and other support packages for Ukrainian refugees will amount to between 1,25 and 2,25 billion Swiss francs in 2022. This number is expected to climb to 7,5 billion francs by the end of 2023.
Writing on the SVP website, Bircher also made the claim that many of those purporting to be Ukrainian are actually not, alleging that “Kenyan and Lebanese men who claim to have lived in Ukraine or who actually lived there before the war, but who do not have a Ukrainian passport,” have used to system to stay in Switzerland. The State Secretariat of Migration clarified that around 1.000 non-Ukrainian refugees have received S-permits as they are available to all nationalities fleeing the conflict.
Idea condemned by several major parties in Switzerland
The SVP, which has consistently opposed sanctions on Russia, has not clarified how immigration authorities would be able to distinguish between those coming from the east or west of Ukraine. The idea has also been met with condemnation, with Centre Party President Gerhard Pfister noting the plan “would create two classes of Ukrainians." "This is not right,” he said.
Parties on the centre-left and left-wing in Switzerland have also expressed their dismay at the plan. For the first time since the invasion began, according to SonntagsZeitung, “the great solidarity with refugees from Ukraine is cracking.”