Prompt and practical support: The impact of the Rapid Response Fund

In 2022 the International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched an appeal for funds to address the needs of people affected by the war in Ukraine. SEM supports individual measures of this appeal through its Rapid Response Fund, funding activities in the areas of asylum, infrastructure and integration in Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

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Painting in a shelter for migrants in Poland

From 11 to 13 October, a delegation from SEM visited some of the projects financed by the Rapid Response Fund to review the implementation of the measures. The delegation began its visit in Poland and continued to Slovakia, stopping along the way in those places where the IOM runs its projects. The itinerary provided the SEM delegation with an opportunity to check out the main elements of the IOM’s asylum, infrastructure and integration projects and to meet its partners on the ground.

A SEM delegation visits IOM projects financed by the Rapid Response Fund in Poland and Slovakia

The projects financed by SEM include the renovation of infrastructure such as reception centres for migrants, language courses, employment assistance by local partners, and awareness-raising training among local and international aid workers to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse.

The successful implementation of the projects reflects what impact the Rapid Response Fund is having and is a good example of direct and straightforward support by Switzerland in EU countries.

Second Swiss contribution and the migration framework credit Pfeil nach unten

At the end of 2021, SEM, SECO and the SDC received the green light from the Federal Council to start negotiations with partner countries to implement the second Swiss contribution. The second contribution consists of the cohesion framework credit and the migration framework credit and is currently being implemented in 15 bilateral cooperation programmes in EU countries. Its aim is to strengthen cohesion and the management of migration structures in Europe.

SEM has a budget of CHF 190 million for 2022 to 2029 to implement the migration framework credit. Of this sum, CHF 161 million are scheduled for use for bilateral cooperation programmes to be implemented in two phases (2022–26 and 2025–29). A further CHF 25 million are budgeted for the Rapid Response Fund and CHF 4 million will be made available in a fund to bring in Swiss experts from outside the Federal Administration.

Countries Switzerland cooperates with under the migration framework credit Pfeil nach unten

In the first implementation phase (2022–26), cooperation is planned with Greece (CHF 40 million), Italy (CHF 20 million) and Cyprus (CHF 10 million). The framework agreements with Greece and Cyprus were signed in October 2022. Negotiations with Italy are still ongoing.

In addition, several projects are being supported under the Rapid Response Fund in Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Croatia, Spain and Greece.

How the funds help strengthen migration structures in Europe Pfeil nach unten

Under the migration framework credit, Switzerland seeks to help better manage migration movements in Europe. The credit is largely intended to finance projects in the areas of asylum procedure, infrastructure, voluntary return, reintegration and integration in order to prevent secondary migration. The funding supports, for example, the construction of accommodation for migrants, training in the field of asylum, the integration of vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied minors and programmes or information campaigns on voluntary return.

How SEM is helping people from Ukraine through the migration framework credit Pfeil nach unten

In 2022, following the escalation of the war in Ukraine, SEM signed a contract with the IOM for a project worth CHF 5 million, allocated from the Rapid Response Fund. The project aims to strengthen the humanitarian response and address the needs of people in the EU member states of Eastern Europe who are being affected by the war in Ukraine. SEM supports specific projects as part of this response. For example, it funds activities that focus on protecting those who are affected and on providing shelter, as well as measures in connection with site management and human rights-based border management.

Under the Rapid Response Fund, SEM also supports the UNICEF project in the same region for enhancing the support, integration, care and protection of refugee and migrant children in EU countries. CHF 2.8 million were allocated for the project in 2022, and a further CHF 2.2 million have been budgeted for 2023.

Who can apply for financial support from SEM for a project Pfeil nach unten

The Federal Department of Justice and Police FDJP, in coordination with other departments, decides what countries are eligible for funding under bilateral cooperation programmes. The countries concerned must show an interest and negotiate the details of cooperation with Switzerland.

With respect to the Rapid Response Fund, project partners are international organisations and NGOs that apply directly for funding from SEM.

The Funds and Support Programmes Section (SFFP)

This section, which is part of the European Cooperation Division of SEM’s International Affairs Directorate, is responsible for deciding how the migration framework credit should be allocated. The Rapid Response Fund is part of this credit. The section is also responsible for allocating funds for border and visa management in Europe and for managing contributions to EU agencies.