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7 May, 2024 17:55

Roma flocking to Switzerland for benefits using fake Ukrainian passports – media

The ethnic group has reportedly been taking advantage of the temporary protection status granted to refugees from Ukraine
Roma flocking to Switzerland for benefits using fake Ukrainian passports – media

Some Romani people have been abusing social benefits granted by Switzerland to Ukrainian refugees, Nau news outlet reported on Tuesday citing Swiss authorities.

The Roma are an ethnic group that has lived throughout the world since their migration from India over 1,000 years ago. They are not recognized as a national minority in Switzerland, and have reportedly been taking advantage of the so-called ‘S protection status system’ activated in the country shortly after the escalation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in early 2022. S status grants Ukrainian refugees the right to an extended visa-free stay, accommodation, medical care and other social benefits. Those applying for S status also do not have to go through the usual asylum-seeking procedure.

According to the report, authorities in Bern have identified at least ten Roma families who have been staying in the city under illegally obtained Ukrainian passports. Alexander Ott, head of Bern’s immigration police, told the news outlet that the documents themselves were in fact real, but their owners had no true claim on them.

“We discovered irregularities in the documents. For example, if the driver’s license contains different information than the passport, this is often an indication. Or if the people cannot repeat any information contained in the documents,” Ott explained.

Reto Kormann, spokesman for the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), told the news outlet that since March 2023 his agency has detected around 30 fake Ukrainian identification papers used to obtain social benefits, and found that in several cases they were produced and sold illegally in Ukraine. He noted that fake travel and identity documents are “not a new phenomenon” in the SEM’s line of work. However, cases where the documents are genuine but illegally acquired, as in the cases involving Roma, have previously been few and far between and therefore are more difficult to investigate, he said.

Officials noted that the problem involving the Roma using fake Ukrainian identification has been spreading throughout the country. Georg Carl, head of the migration department in the eastern canton of Graubuenden, told the news outlet he suspected that at least half of the approximately 470 people with status S housed in the region were Roma. And, while Romani communities are known to exist in Ukraine, these people were unlikely to be refugees from the conflict, as they speak neither Ukrainian nor Russian.

Earlier this month, following complaints over similar issues in the St. Gallen canton, Swiss MPs Boris Tschirky and Benedikt Wuerth submitted a request to the Federal Council to make adjustments to the S system to stop its abuse. However, the proposal has not been approved so far.