Extra accommodation

On 10 March 2022, SEM announced: “Army provides accommodation for possible war refugees. In order to have emergency accommodation ready for war refugees from Ukraine, the Swiss Armed Forces have vacated the barracks in Bülach as a precautionary measure.ˮ This was the first military facility made available to SEM in 2022. Over the course of the year, more than two dozen more became available – thanks to close cooperation between SEM, the Swiss Armed Forces, the cantons and communes, and private partners.

Why was extra accommodation needed? Pfeil nach unten

From spring 2022, Switzerland was confronted with an enormous influx of refugees. In addition to the approximately 75,000 people fleeing the war in Ukraine, around 25,000 people sought asylum.

SEM normally has a capacity of around 5,000 places in the federal asylum centres, a number that was agreed between the federal government and the cantons in 2014. In the exceptional situation of 2022, 5,000 places were not enough. SEM had to arrange extra accommodation very quickly.

How did SEM come by this accommodation? Pfeil nach unten

As part of an emergency response plan, the Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) undertook in 2016 to support SEM in searching for and providing suitable asylum accommodation. The Armed Forces therefore made various military sports facilities and multi-purpose halls as well as vehicle and storage buildings available to SEM for temporary use during the course of the year. SEM was responsible for getting the facilities up and running.

In addition, a few communes provided underground shelters and some home-owners offered to house the refugees in private accommodation. However, very few of these facilities were suitable because the buildings were either too small or the effort required to equip them would have been disproportionately high.

SEM unterkuenfte map EN
In the course of the year, the SEM opened additional temporary accommodation in two dozen locations.

How did preparing the accommodation go? Pfeil nach unten

The cantons and communes were involved in all aspects of setting up accommodation. The general conditions for the intended use of the facilities were discussed, rental contracts were negotiated and a joint communication strategy was agreed upon.

Minor structural adjustments, particularly with regard to sanitary facilities, often had to be made to the buildings. Where no or not enough furniture was available – usually beds and mattresses – this had to be acquired quickly. At the same time, security and support staff had to be recruited. All these steps generally took between one and two months.

What were the greatest challenges? Pfeil nach unten

Everything had to happen very quickly. A lot of political agreements and operational arrangements had to be reached within a very short time. Delivery times for material and infrastructure as well as the recruitment of staff were also sometimes difficult. SEM clearly noticed a shortage of skilled workers.

Overall, however, cooperation with the cantons, the communes and the Armed Forces went extremely well. The emergency response plan proved successful in the exceptional year of 2022.