The Swiss cabinet agreed in principle on Friday to welcome an additional 3,000 Syrian refugees to Switzerland over the course of the next three years. It also approved CHF50 million ($50.83 million) in aid for 2015.
The first batch of 1,000 refugees are scheduled for this year and the cabinet will reassess the situation in Syria in autumn.
The Swiss plan for hosting Syrian refugees will follow two pathways. One will involve taking in 2,000 refugees as part of a sustainable resettlement programme that will take place over several years. This will be similar to a pilot project launched in 2013 in which Syrian refugees were granted asylum without having to go through the standard asylum process.
The other pathway involves granting 1,000 humanitarian visas for close relatives (spouses and minor children) of Syrians who have already been provisionally admitted into Switzerland.
Since the war began four years ago, Switzerland has taken in around 9,000 Syrian refugees. About half this number were able to come to Switzerland thanks to relaxed entry conditions. In autumn 2013, the government decided to take a contingent of 500 particularly vulnerable refugees over three years.
Over 200,000 refugees have applied for asylum in Europe since the conflict began in 2011.
The cabinet also approved an additional CHF20 million in humanitarian aid to Syria, bringing Switzerland’s contribution to CHF50 million for the war-torn country in 2015. In total, Switzerland has provided CHF128 million in aid since the conflict began.
Apart from providing emergency aid, the Swiss have also financed projects for Lebanese families who have taken in Syrian refugees. Money has also gone towards building schools in Lebanon and Jordan.
The non-governmental Swiss Refugee Agency called the move to accept more refugees “a strong signal of solidarity”, especially as the European Union was stalling on the issue.
The political parties also welcomed the decision, with the exception of the conservative right Swiss People’s Party, which called it “a chaotic asylum policy” and warned of “exploding costs”. The Green Party said that the decision was a “first step”.