Escape to work

As part of the pilot programme entitled FiZu (which in German stands for ‘financial subsidies for the labour market integration of refugees and temporarily admitted persons’), in 2021 15 people in the canton of Jura alone received training and found work in local companies. SEM visited the AJAM (Association jurassienne d'accueil des migrants) as well as the microtechnology company LEMO5 in Delémont. Two refugees, a human resources manager and two co-initiators of the programme told us their story.

Anbesajer Brhane

"I love my work here."

Anbesajer Brhane fled from Eritrea to Switzerland via Italy in 2015. He had to leave his wife and eight-year-old son behind. After various integration measures and six months of basic training at the AK FORMATION training centre in Courfaivre, he was able to enter the job market at the microtechnology company LEMO5 in Delémont.

Mr Brhane, where are you originally from?
"I am from Adi Habr, a small village in the southern part of Eritrea."

What was your profession in your home country?
"I worked as a farmer in a barren, hilly area."

Do you have a family and children?
"Yes. My wife and son fled to Ethiopia and are currently still living there. I hope I can bring them to Switzerland one day."

How long have you been in Switzerland?
"Since 2015. I came here via Italy and have been living in a three-room flat in Porrentruy for a year now – I am so lucky."

What were your first impressions of Switzerland?
"When I arrived, it rained a lot. That took a lot of getting used to. When it rains in Eritrea, we stay at home. Here, rain is something quite normal. I had to get used to that. Soon after came the first winter..."

How easy has it been to settle in in Switzerland?
"Quite easy. The people are all very helpful and nice, especially here at work. And I can already converse pretty well in French."

How did you get your job?
"Through my job coach Alain Graf from AJAM. In 2021 I did a six-month training course and now I work here at LEMO5. I love my job; all the staff are very patient and nice to me. After completing my twelve-month contract, I would like to continue working here at LEMO5."

What are your prospects?
"I want to keep on learning and improve in small steps – with the goal of one day embracing my family here in Delémont. It's hard; I haven't seen my eight-year-old son for years. I hope that he and my wife stay healthy."

"I hope my son can teach me the language."

Atie Khalil

Atie Khalil fled to Switzerland with her husband in 2017. She has been working for several months in production control at the Jura-based technology company LEMO5.

Ms Khalil, how did you come to Switzerland?
"I am Kurdish and come from Al-Hasakah, a city in northern Syria with a population of almost 200,000. My husband and I had to leave our country five years ago. We came to Switzerland via Beirut."

How is your family?
"I have five sisters and three brothers; they live together with my parents in Germany."

What did you do in Syria?
"I worked as a translator at the university in Al-Hasakah."

What do you think of life in Switzerland?
"It's good. I live here with my husband and my son – and I have a job. That makes me happy."

What are the biggest differences to your home country?
"The climate. And that people live much more secluded lives. It's more difficult to come into contact with people here than in Syria."

Do you still remember your first day at work?
"Of course. It was 27 September 2021. I had completed my basic training and was very nervous. Fortunately, I was very well received."

What are your next goals?
"I want to continue working here and master the language as soon as possible. Maybe my three-year-old son will help me..."

The Enablers

DSF8924 Edit

Two men, one mission. Jérémie Berberat and Alain Graf are the crafters of integration for refugees and temporarily admitted persons in the FiZu pilot programme (see box below) in the canton of Jura. Berberat is responsible for professional integration in the canton of Jura. Alain Graf is a job coach and coordinator of the FiZu programme in the canton. However, the two are only so successful because they can count on the cooperation of others in the local Jurassian economy. A prime example is Frédérique Blaser, the HR manager at the technology company LEMO5 in Delémont.

"The FiZu programme not only gives refugees and temporarily admitted persons job prospects, it also allows them to get off social welfare," explains Alain Graf. And adds: "But it's also about the companies: numerous businesses in the region have realised that they need workers for simple jobs. The basic training that refugees and temporarily admitted persons receive at the AK FORMATION centre in Courfaivre equips them to take on this work."

Graf and Berberat share the job at AJAM: Berberat coordinates SEM's interests and has responsibility for the FiZu programme. Graf is the job coach who coordinates training and contacts with businesses. One such business is LEMO5, the technology company in the immediate vicinity of AJAM in Delémont. Fréderique Blaser, the HR manager, is enthusiastic about what the canton and SEM do to encourage integration. "We are happy to get involved. It's about finding synergies and helping. One thing particularly close to my heart is finding jobs for women in a technical male domain."

For such a pilot project to take off, all the institutions involved have to pull together. From SEM to AJAM, the companies involved and the training centres – and not least, the refugees themselves. "It takes enthusiasm and commitment from all sides. We are doing very well so far: by the end of 2021, we had been able to train and find employment for 16 refugees. By the end of 2022, there should be over 24," says Jérémie Berberat. "In 2021, we trained 15 migrants in the watchmaking industry and in the microtechnology and metal sectors and helped them find jobs. For this year, we plan to attract companies from other sectors, for example from the wood construction and metal industries," says Alain Graf, explaining the long-term aims of the programme. And Jérémie Berberat adds: "Last but not least, we want to promote cross-cantonal exchange and will be contacting the relevant bodies."

What exactly is FiZu?

FiZu stands for ‘Financial subsidies for the labour market integration of ­refugees and temporarily admitted persons’. The pilot programme aims to cooperate with employers who employ refugees and temporarily admitted persons with an exceptional need for training under the usual working conditions. For a limited period of time, these companies receive financial subsidies towards the wage costs or the costs of training the employees in the workplace. The programme is aimed at temporarily admitted persons and refugees who have already completed measures such as initial employment, training programmes or language acquisition as part of their integration process. It is hoped that at least 300 people throughout Switzerland will find work in this way by 2023. The programme’s impact will be assessed in a study conducted by an external company. The pilot is part of the package of measures adopted by the Federal Council to exploit potential in the domestic labour force, which also includes refugees and temporarily admitted persons.

Financial subsidies