Last update : February 2023

Switzerland is not a member of the EU but it is part of Dublin III. In addition, Switzerland hasn’t repealed its boarders. Because Switzerland is so small, almost the entire territory is considered as boarder regions.

Created by potrace 1.10, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2011

The rail traffic going through (in and out) Chiasso, Geneva, Basel, Kreuzlingen/Konstanz and Buchs/Feldkirch is frequently controlled, as well as the high ways and feeder roads. Train stations are also as much as possible avoided by undocumented persons. Click w2ch_basel_230221_en.pdf for more details on the Swiss-German border in Basel (updated Feb 21st 2023).

As you see, don’t expect to be particularly welcomed if you come from a country which is not part of the EU. Because with the new law on foreigners, that Switzerland has adopted in 2008, there is a so called “two circles” model: those coming from an EU or EFTA State benefit from numerous advantages and are able to move around without too much troubles. Except for the people from Bulgaria and Romania, for whom a transitional law with quotas is applied. Everybody else is under the regime of the new law on foreigners, which is very much similar to the actual German system. Who wants to work here need to find an employer who then has to attest that he couldn’t find anybody from Switzerland or EU/EFTA (“first circle”) to do the job. Family reunification is very strictly limited and getting married without a residency permit has become nearly impossible – in this case you should contact a person who has a big knowledge of laws.

If you submit an asylum application, you will stand under the law on asylum, which has been continually revised since its introduction in the eighties and got worse and worse. You should go to one of the national applying and procedure centres, which are located in Basel, Vallorbe, Altstetten, Chiasso or Kreuzlingen. You will be living there for the first period of your stay. You will be submitted to a strict regime and will be questioned for the first time. This first interview is most of the time of great importance for the following steps of your procedure: Get yourself well prepared! In this first phase, you might also be asked for additional clarifications (language tests, comparison of digital print, bone analysis, ecc).

Afterwards, you will be allocated to a canton (the name used here for regions), which will first place you in a so-called transit centre. For the first 3 months, or longer in some cantons, you will not be allowed to work. Then, you can do it just in the canton that you have been allocated to. You will benefit from a reduced social welfare and will be insured for medical fees. After some time, many cantons will allocate you to a commune or a city. The length of the asylum procedure can be very changeable. Your chances depend on your personal story and on the means that you have to prove it. At any time, you have the possibility to consult a juridical advice centre. For lawyers firms, you will have to pay yourself.

In 2004, Switzerland has strengthened the conditions and rights on the so called “ decisions to dismiss an application without entering into the substance of the case (DAWES )” for certain groups of asylum seekers. Those who came through a Dublin member country (with proofs such as digital prints, bus tickets, cards, passport entry) before reaching Switzerland to apply for asylum usually don’t even come to the end of the first phase and are automatically deported back in that other country. Warning: each neighbouring country around Switzerland is Dublin member! At the moment, officially there are no deportations to Greece. Inofficially, we know there were singular deportations in the near past, most of them when people were caught just at the border to a neighbouring country (Italy, Austria, Germany or France). For the procedure at the European court of justice, see: http://w2eu.info/en/countries/austria/dublin2)

Rejected asylum seekers and DAWES are subject to the emergency help regime, when they decide to take help from the state. This regime is regulated by the cantons, but usually includes a material assistance instead of money: accommodation and food in a centre (most of the time underground or very remote) and the minimum basic health care. Police controls and detentions to be deported become an overwhelming normality. You are not allowed to work, except for almost no money in the centre itself (housekeeping work) and are at the mercy of the centre’s staff and exposed largely to their good will.

People without a residency permit can be sent to jail for up to 18 months, under the law on foreigners (a so-called coercive measure) and up to 12 months, under the penal law (illegal stay). This distinction is crucial if you want to tackle the relevant legal dispositions. Switzerland has signed with just under 50 countries migration agreements, - partnerships, which are helping it to deport people against their will. It is also a member of the Frontex agency and is at times involved in the organisation of its special charter deportation flights.

Do not trust any authority, whether with or without - no matter what - status! If you really need, then check that you are accompanied by someone you trust. Before you get into any procedures, get informed about the authorities or important matters by advice centres, non governmental organisation or local persons that you can trust. With a little help, it is also possible for undocumented persons in Switzerland to contract a health or welfare insurance, to send your children to school and more.

Despite media propaganda, political campaigns and economic exploitation mechanisms, there are many people in Switzerland who will be very happy to welcome you and stand up for your rights. Offers are very diverse, but also highly segmented; the goals of different organisations vary widely. We wish you good luck and hope this web guide helps you to make your stay as pleasant as possible.