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MPs call on Switzerland to accept asylum seekers rescued in Med

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MPs call on Switzerland to accept asylum seekers rescued in Med
Asylum seekers on an inflatable dinghy elonging to the 'Ocean Viking' rescue ship, operated by French NGOs SOS Mediterranee and Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) in April. Photo: AFP
09:53 CEST+02:00
A cross-party group of Swiss politicians is calling for Switzerland to open its doors to asylum seekers who have been rescued while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

The parliamentary motion is co-signed by six MPs who represent all of Switzerland’s major parties except the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP).

In the motion (here in German) filed on Tuesday, the MPs call on Switzerland to adopt one of two options.

The first of these would see Switzerland accept two percent of all people rescued by NGO boats on the Mediterranean, or some 200 to 300 people in 2019, based on estimates from the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

READ ALSO: Here is why Switzerland is temporarily closing two asylum centres

Meanwhile, under the terms of the second option, Switzerland would receive several hundred refugees from coastal countries such as Italy, Malta and Spain to relieve the pressure on refugee reception centres in those countries.

With the motion, the politicians want to draw attention to the urgent need for action to address the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean area.

According to the UNHCR, over 600 people have drowned trying to cross to Europe since the start of the year.

The adoption of the motion by the parliament would see Switzerland join what German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has called “a coalition of the willing” – a group of countries prepared to work together to create a quota system for distributing refugees rescued on the Mediterranean without having to wait for approval for the entire EU bloc.

The motion’s backers say there are several key reasons Switzerland should take part in the scheme. They highlight the fact that Switzerland is the depository state for the Geneva Conventions while it is also the home of the UNHCR headquarters, as well as having a long humanitarian tradition.

The MPs also note Libya – the departure point of many refugees crossing to Europe – is currently in a state of war and that no one should be returned there.

Finally, they note that Switzerland, by contributing funding to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), is also indirectly funding the Libyan coastguard. This agency places refugees rescued on the Mediterranean in camps where human rights abuses are widespread.

In comments to the TagesAnzeiger newspaper, one of the MPs behind the motion, Kurt Fluri with the centre-right FDP, conceded the options proposed were “just a drop in the bucket” given that it only helped people who had already managed to leave Libya.

He also admitted the motion had little chance of success and that many people in his own party would vote against it.

But fellow signatory Rosmarie Quadranti of the Conservative Democratic Party of Switzerland (BDP) said the motion would help draw attention to the critical issues involved.

“We can’t wait until the Dublin system is reformed,” she said, referring to the EU system which regulates which countries are responsible for handling asylum claims.

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