Is Switzerland a safe place to live?

Finally a safe place Syrian families in Switzerland


1 REPORT Finally a safe place Syrian families in Switzerland Millions are on the run, the borders of neighboring countries and Europe are practically closed: The SRC supports Syrians who want to bring family members to Switzerland. Because of his knowledge, our advice service is now the first point of contact for those seeking advice.

2 OVERVIEW OF SYRIA Advice and financial support for Syrians in Switzerland who want to bring family members to join them. CONTACT Swiss Red Cross SRK Rainmattstrasse Bern Contact Carolin Krauss, T; Head of Department Entry, Stay, Return; Donations postal account IBAN CH note “Syrian refugee families in Switzerland” Photos by SRK Vanessa Ballarin (title page, p.2 / 5); ICRC (p.3); IFRC Caroline Haga (p.4); SRK graphics (p. 5) Editor Dagmar Wurzbacher; > Link RESULTS OF OUR WORK The SRC advisory service had clients, most of whom live in Switzerland, but some of whom were abroad, mainly in Syria and the surrounding countries. They sought advice in order to plan the departure of relatives from the war zone and to make the appropriate mostly humanitarian visa search. They received advice by phone, email or a personal conversation. Those seeking advice contacted us regarding 1,534 people, in most cases relatives, but also acquaintances and people close to the people came from Syria. We also received inquiries about people in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Iraq, Israel, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sudan, Turkey and Uganda. 148 This is the number of humanitarian visas granted in 2015 following contact with the SRC. In total, the State Secretariat for Migration approved 240 humanitarian visas for people from Syria last year. This indicates that the SRC's advisory work has a major influence on whether applications are ultimately approved. 282 The SRK financed 282 people entering Switzerland by flight. A little more than half of the people were women. Almost half of the people were minors or people over 63. There were an above-average number of particularly vulnerable people. 4 Four people work for the advisory service with a total of 160 percent of the workforce. April 2016 Visa Advisory Service Syria. Report page 2

3 THE WAR IN SYRIA Home and playground of many internally displaced refugees in Syria: a boy in the middle of the ruins of a house in Qussayr, near Homs. A population on the run since 2011 What began with peaceful protests in the wake of the “Arab Spring” can hardly be described in its current brutality and hopelessness. The suffering of the people must be incredible, and the extent of this humanitarian catastrophe is difficult to imagine. The refugee movements in connection with the war in Syria are among the largest since the Second World War. First and foremost, they pose great humanitarian challenges for the countries that border Syria. What the refugees have in common is that they live under difficult conditions and are in regions that are difficult to access. These people need international protection and support, but they live in the harshest conditions and slide into poverty. While around 1.9 million refugees were still registered in Turkey in September 2015, the number rose to 2.5 million at the end of 2015, according to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). Only about ten percent of them are cared for in state camps. In Jordan, the UNHCR estimates the number of refugees, the Jordanian government even reckons with a total of 1.4 million. Here, too, only a minority live in state camps. 85 percent of the refugees have settled outside the camps. The small state of Lebanon, in which 4.2 million people originally lived, has taken in over a million refugees. As a result, the government was forced not to register any further refugees with the UNHCR. Officially there are no refugee camps in Lebanon. Until mid-September 2015 there were more than UNHCR registered refugees from Syria in Iraq. This is mainly in the autonomous region of Kurdistan. In addition, Iraq has at least 1.2 million internally displaced people who have fled the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia. After all, the number of registered Syrian refugees in Egypt is over. More are staying in other North African countries such as Libya and Tunisia. ESCAPE IN FIGURES 12 million The number of people in need in Syria is beyond the imagination. 5.6 million of them are children. 7.8 million Syrians have sought refuge in a new place within their country. Many of them live in tents or half-destroyed buildings. Over 4 million The neighboring countries Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey have taken in over 4 million refugees.Thanks to the directive, people were able to enter the country with easier visas from 2013 to 2015. Within three years, the Federal Council wants to take in a further 3,000 vulnerable people from Syria. Visa advisory service Syria. Report page 3

4 THE WAR IN SYRIA Red Cross volunteers receive refugees on the island of Lesbos who have dared to cross from Turkey to Greece in a rubber boat. Dangerous roads to Western Europe In 2015, Western Europe was confronted with the disturbing fate of people who drowned on the way across the Mediterranean to Italy or Greece. The European reception structures are overburdened, the EU states are divided and struggle with the urgently needed solidarity-based distribution of the reception of refugees. The Schengen system is under enormous pressure and criticism. Border crossings are being closed and many people are left to their fate. By the end of 2015, Switzerland had taken in around 500 Syrian refugees from the first quota of the UNHCR's resettlement program decided by the Federal Council in 2013. The temporary visa facilitations made it possible to issue around 4,700 visas for Syrian nationals. Of these, 4,200 people had entered Switzerland by the middle of September last year. In March 2015, the Federal Council decided to accept a further 3,000 vulnerable people from Syria in a second quota within three years. "Syria II" is explicitly aimed at spouses and minor children of people who have already been temporarily admitted to Switzerland. Acceptance of refugees in Switzerland On September 18, 2015, the Federal Council decided that Switzerland would participate in the first European relocation program for people who were already registered in a Dublin country and who had applied for asylum. This in the sense of relieving those Dublin countries that are busy with high numbers of applications at the EU's external border. The first European redistribution program envisages the redistribution of people in need of protection. As part of the contingent of 3,000, several hundred people in need of protection are to receive humanitarian visas for Switzerland. This action, so-called Visa Advisory Service Syria. Report page 4

5 OBJECTIVES & EFFECT Visas for special vulnerability OBJECTIVE Clients and other interested parties are informed about various options for international protection and are supported in applying for a visa for Switzerland. Humanitarian visas Humanitarian visas are the main work of the SRC Visa Syria advisory service, we processed inquiries regarding humanitarian visas for 1694 people. 148 were approved after contacting the SRC. According to statistics from the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), it approved a total of 240 humanitarian visas for people from Syria in 2015. This indicates that the SRC's advisory work has a major influence on whether applications are ultimately approved. The SRC is aware of 415 humanitarian visas that have been rejected. However, we are not informed about the outcome of all visa procedures. It would also be possible that a visa application was rejected in the first instance, but still approved at the level of objection or appeal. Furthermore, the advisory service has supported 363 objections in the case of denials of humanitarian visa applications, mainly with advice and proofreading of the letters. Complaints were submitted to the Federal Administrative Court for 24 people via referral to legal advice centers and lawyers. Family reunification In 2015, the advisory service processed 97 inquiries relating to Syria II. Syria II means visas for close family members of people from Syria who live in Switzerland with an F permit. This affected 74 people abroad. 39 visas under Syria II were granted, 6 were refused and in 29 cases the SRC is not aware of the result or the procedure was not yet completed at the end of 2015. For comparison: The SEM has approved a total of 129 people under Syria II. Thanks to a relative in Switzerland, you received visas and were able to escape the war in Syria. But the father of the family, an army general, did not make it. He was killed in bombing before leaving the country. The advisory service processed 474 requests under the instructions of the Federal Council from September 2013. 228 visas were approved after our consultation and the issuance of the cost guarantee. The SRC supported an objection under the directive for 44 people. At least 25 people / organizations in a mediating role (e.g. legal advice centers, social services, church organizations and Red Cross cantonal associations) have taken advantage of advice on Syrian refugees with families in Switzerland and abroad. Visa advisory service Syria. Report page 5

6 OBJECTIVES & EFFECT OBJECTIVE The Visa Syria advisory service is in regular contact with the relevant authorities and institutions and continues the confidential dialogue. In cases that the counseling service considered particularly vulnerable because several criteria came together (e.g. age, illness, single parent, unaccompanied minors, persecution based on ethnicity, religion, political or social activities, etc.), the counseling service contacted them directly the SEM for a preliminary assessment of a humanitarian visa application. This is possible thanks to the confidential dialogue we have with the SEM. The SEM now has a great understanding of the work of our advisory service. With 76% high success. This was done in 35 cases for 114 people in 2015. Humanitarian visas were granted for 64 people, the preliminary assessment was negative for 20 people. Inquiries regarding 30 people have been resolved otherwise because the people entered the country by land, received a visa for another country or did not contact us anymore. If the inquiries for people who were otherwise resolved are not included, the approval rate for preliminary investigations is 76 percent, which can be classified as very high. The Syria Advisory Service works closely with IOM, the International Organization for Migration, in Syria's neighboring countries and in Egypt to organize entry for Syrian family members into Switzerland. The Syria Advisory Service is also working on intensifying contact with the UNHCR, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on site in order to be able to efficiently forward refugees to the relevant agencies and to be able to communicate their work and procedures to those affected in an understandable manner. In this area, we were able to establish direct contact with the specialist advisor for Syria at the UNHCR office for Switzerland and Liechtenstein in 2015 and obtain specific information directly on individual cases. Contact with Swiss representations, especially in Lebanon and Turkey, was maintained in 2015. Through constant dialogue, we were able to intervene and mediate in the event of difficulties with making appointments on the representation or misunderstandings about the type of application made. If necessary, we also work closely with individual aid, the tracing service and the SRC's outpatient clinic for victims of torture and war. This, among other things, where triage is indicated. Inquiries regarding 1,534 people, relatives or acquaintances Humanitarian visas for Syria approved by SEM 240 Approved 39 Inquiries for nuclear families of people with F permit 74 Approved 228 Flights financed 282 clients 499 Approved after contact with SRK 148 Approved after preliminary assessment by SEM 64 Achieved in total 2060 people Requests for visas as part of the instructions from September Advisory Service Visa Syria. Report page 6

7 OBJECTIVES & EFFECT OBJECTIVE Clients in particularly vulnerable situations receive financial support on request: Financing of entry to Switzerland in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), financial support for particularly important complaints before the Federal Administrative Court, financial support for health problems on site (abroad) via the IOM. Flight costs In 2015, the SRK financed 282 flights in the amount of Swiss francs for entry into Switzerland. A little more than half of the people were women. Almost half of the people were minors or people over 63. There were therefore an above-average number of particularly vulnerable people. Compared to 2014 with 1,716 flights and costs of Swiss francs, the number of flights has fallen sharply. There are several reasons for this. On the one hand, the instruction to facilitate the issuing of visitor visas for family members of people from Syria in Switzerland had already been lifted in November 2013. As part of this directive, over 5000 visas had been issued and, on request, the SRK had assumed the flight costs for people who had received a visa but were unable to finance the entry themselves. In 2015, the SRC only had contact with 228 people who came under the 2013 directive. Since, on the other hand, the criteria for issuing a humanitarian visa for Switzerland are much stricter than for a visa under the 2013 directive, the number of people who are granted such a visa is much lower. The third factor that contributed to the decline in the number of flights financed by the SRC in 2015 was the fact that the SEM explicitly informed so-called Syria II in the directive of March 2015 regarding Syria about the possibility of assuming flight costs in the event of poverty. In addition, from October 2015, at the request of the SRC, the SEM assumed flight costs for people who had received a humanitarian visa, even if those affected were poor. This was the case for 38 people. Guarantee declarations In 2015, the SRC paid out amounts for guarantee declarations for 21 people in the amount of CHF (compared to 145 cases for 70 people in the amount of CHF in the previous year). Here, too, the numbers have decreased significantly compared to 2014. One of the reasons for this is that fewer people entered. Health care costs On-site support was clarified for 64 people who were in a particularly precarious health situation. This mainly in contact with the ICRC and the UNHCR. In individual cases, the addresses of doctors / hospitals could be given. GOAL The department and department heads receive competent support in advocacy and public relations work from the Syria Advisory Service. In autumn 2015, the advisory service published in the publication “Activities of the Swiss Red Cross to support people of Syrian origin who apply for a visa for Switzerland Evaluation, analysis and recommendations for the SRC and Swiss authorities”, the experiences from the beginning of 2013 to the end of the report has been published in German and French and was successfully launched in September 2015 with a presentation to an interested specialist audience. At the beginning of 2015, the SRC also launched political initiatives in the Swiss parliament for the protection of Syrian refugees and people at risk in Syria. Visa advisory service Syria. Report on page 7

8 OUTLOOK CONCLUSION AND OUTLOOK For 2016, the number of inquiries is expected to remain roughly the same. However, it clearly shows that the effort per request has risen sharply compared to the time of the directive (2013). Humanitarian visas require in-depth advice and, depending on the case, close support during the visa process. And are therefore significantly more time-consuming than inquiries within the scope of the directive, which primarily required administrative and financial support. In 2015, this led to significantly lower direct payments than in the year 2016. In 2016, the trend towards lower direct payments with a simultaneous higher expenditure of human resources is likely to continue, since practically no inquiries are now possible within the scope of the instruction. In addition, the support required for humanitarian visas is even greater, as the approval process tends to be stricter rather than relaxed. Due to the experience gained and the valuable contacts with various institutions and authorities, the SRC is given as the first address when it comes to questions about the procedure for humanitarian visas from Syria.Referrals of inquiries from legal advice centers and other institutions indicate that the need cannot be met by any other body. As early as 2015, this led to a growing demand from people from other countries: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Afghanistan. These inquiries can mean a disproportionately higher effort, since in each case the procedures (e.g. contacts with the Swiss representation) must first be redefined. Visa advisory service Syria. Report page 8