Swiss reject vast majority of Afghan visa applications

Foreign affairs

Women in Afghanistan
 Mothers with babies who suffer from malnutrition wait to receive help and a check-up at a clinic run by the UN food agency in Kabul on Thursday, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in summer 2021, the number of applications for humanitarian visas in Switzerland has increased massively. Only a small fraction are approved, however.This content was published on January 29, 2023 – 16:06January 29, 2023 – 16:06

In the whole of 2020 Bern registered 41 applications from Afghans; in 2022, by the end of November alone, there had already been 1,683, the SonntagsBlick reportsExternal link. Switzerland’s reaction remained the same: blocking the vast majority of applications. Last year the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) approved only 98 applications.

“And this despite the fact that the human rights situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate with each passing day,” the paper wrote.

It said the fact that a close connection to Switzerland is considered a prerequisite – having a family here, for example – means that the chances of many people seeking help are close to zero.

The government grants humanitarian visas only to people who are in “immediate, serious and concrete danger to life and limb” in their country of origin.


MoreSwiss foreign ministry weighs up future of Afghan aidThis content was published on Jan 8, 2023The ban on Afghan women working in NGOs has forced a re-think of how and whether to send aid to the struggling country.

‘Extremely restrictive’

“The current practice is extremely restrictive,” Eliane Engeler of Swiss Refugee Aid told SonntagsBlick. The criteria for a visa are practically impossible to fulfil, she said. In addition, those affected can only submit their application in person at a Swiss representation – which no longer exist in Afghanistan.

Engeler says the consequences are obvious. “Those affected must either endure life-threatening and precarious conditions or embark on life-threatening escape routes.”

For this reason, Swiss Refugee Aid is demanding that the criteria for humanitarian visas be expanded. In particular, the so-called connection to Switzerland must be abolished. “A change in practice is urgently needed,” Engeler said.

Swiss priority

Is the Swiss government abandoning Afghans persecuted by the new rulers? “We decide neither generously nor strictly – instead, the SEM applies the relevant legal provisions,” SEM spokesman Samuel Wyss said.

Wyss points out that the Swiss government’s priority is to provide aid on the ground. In addition, Switzerland has taken in 392 Afghan refugees under the resettlement programme since the Taliban came to power, he says. Germany, France and Italy, however, are much more involved.


More‘The boat is full’: 75 years laterThis content was published on Sep 26, 2017Archive documents from September 1942 show how the government’s policy of turning away Jews at the Swiss border was controversial at the time.


1 reply

  1. unfortunate. You cannot complain about human rights violations and at the same time refuse all visa applications based on human rights violations…

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