A very challenging year

What comes to mind when I think of the past year? Above all, memories of encounters with people who have left their homeland to seek protection in Switzerland. First and foremost, of course, the many women and children from Ukraine who are with us and hope that this murderous war will end soon, that their relatives will survive it, and that they can return to them. I've been to the federal asylum centres several times and have talked to many people seeking protection there. I was always impressed by how, despite all the bad news from home, they have remained optimistic and taken control of their own destiny. But I was just as impressed by the Swiss people's willingness to help. Tens of thousands of people in need of protection have been warmly welcomed and cared for by host families. They have been supported through everyday life and in many cases have gone from being guests to family members.

The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) was under a lot of pressure in the initial days following the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Thousands of people in need of protection wanted to register in our federal asylum centres, so there were long queues and waiting times. Thanks to the support of staff from across the Federal Administration and a rapidly developed app for making appointments, we quickly got to grips with this challenge. Our job was then to offer all of these people a roof over their heads and a bed. This too was successful because the federal government, cantons, cities and communes worked well in close liaison with one another and with the support of the Swiss people. By the end of 2022, around 75,000 people from Ukraine had found a temporary home in Switzerland and could quickly begin to reorganise their lives, learn one of our national languages and, where possible, already look for a job. Several hundred people from Ukraine are still applying every week for protection status S in Switzerland. We'll find solutions for them, too.

511748410 highres
On the left of the photo: State Secretary Christine Schraner Burgener,

SEM was also very busy with asylum seekers in 2022. Around 24,500 new asylum applications were submitted – the highest number since 2016. We were able to almost double the number of accommodation places thanks to the support of the Armed Forces and provide support at all times with the help of civilian service staff. SEM expects the number of new asylum applications it receives to increase again in 2023. The search for additional support staff and beds for asylum seekers has therefore become an ongoing task, not only for the federal government, but also for the cantons, cities and communes. And yet I'm pleased to say that our asylum system has so far successfully passed the litmus test – because everyone involved has been pulling together.

Although we have had to accommodate significantly more people than planned in the federal asylum centres, the number of security-related incidents in 2022 has decreased markedly. SEM drew up a far-reaching strategy to prevent violence in 2021 and has already implemented a number of measures that are proving to be effective. We are aware that we have to stay on top of this sensitive issue, which is why further measures are to be implemented in 2023.

In the face of all these challenges in the asylum sector, it is sometimes forgotten that SEM does a lot of work in other areas too. In fact, more persons subject to a removal order left Switzerland in 2022 than in previous years. Here we benefit from good cooperation with the cantons, but also with many countries of origin – a collaboration that is the envy of other nations. There is also positive news on integration efforts. The employment rate of recognised refugees and temporarily admitted persons is rising steadily, and the integration measures taken by the federal government and the cantons are having an effect. One example is the pre-apprenticeship integration programme for young people, which enables many of them to start an apprenticeship; it has become a real success story.

Migration affects us all. You can find the facts, figures and stories from the past year in this migration report. SEM will continue to do all it can to ensure that we overcome the many challenges. We must never forget that behind all of the numbers are human beings with their hopes and fears. I look forward to listening to some of them again in 2023.

Christine Schraner Burgener

State Secretary for Migration