Up to 40% of asylum seekers in Switzerland ‘disappear’– report

© Arnd Wiegmann
Up to 40 percent of refugees who asked for asylum in Switzerland over the past three months reportedly disappeared from Swiss reception centers shortly afterwards, with their whereabouts unknown to the authorities.

The country’s State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) confirmed that within the last quarter some 20 to 40 percent of refugees who have been assigned to reception centers have vanished from the monitoring system completely, Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung reports.

The migration authority, however, did not provide exact figures for each reception center.
Most of those who disappeared from Swiss reception centers have most likely traveled further into Europe, heading for Germany, SEM spokeswoman Chloe Kohlprath told ATS news agency, as cited by news outlet 20 Minuten.

Under Swiss legislation, refugees may only enter the country if they apply for asylum. Anyone with no intention of staying in Switzerland is refused entry, and those who do are sent to SEM reception centers while their asylum applications are processed.

Kohlprath said the problem was actually not surprising, as migrants have been increasingly using the loopholes in the Swiss migration system, claiming they wanted asylum in Switzerland upon arrival but vanishing before their request was officially registered.

Citing the SEM’s internal documents, SonntagsZeitung also suggested that in some parts of Switzerland the number of newcomers who fled the centers shortly after arriving is as high as 90 percent.

“According to the papers, in St. Gallen [canton] 50 percent withdrew their applications, in Thurgau – between 80 and 90 percent, and in Bern half the allocated asylum seekers never even arrived at the local [refugee] lodgings,” the report stated.

Commenting on the findings, Christoph Neuhaus, a senior government official in the Swiss capital, Bern, said they appear “highly problematic,” and not only because migrants use Switzerland as a transit zone. He explained that as authorities cannot track where exactly those people go, they pose a threat because they make up an “entire army of illegal aliens [who may join] the black market, prostitution or criminal environment.”

Swiss centrist People's Party (SVP) President Albert Rosti called the situation when a newcomer simply vanishes a “massive security risk,” suggesting the “only solution is the border should be closed.”

Switzerland has been struggling to cope with the migrant influx over the summer, as it effectively became the new route for asylum seekers aiming for Germany after many Balkan countries shut down their borders.

Migrants have mostly been entering Switzerland through the southern region of Ticino, near Italy's Como, with Swiss Border guards reporting a significantly higher number of illegal border crossings along the route over the past few weeks. The influx has forced Swiss authorities to turn many away, with Amnesty International slamming them last month for refusing entry to migrant children.