Living in limbo: they are categorised as undocumented workers, illegal aliens, refugees gone underground, living and labouring in the "grey zone." These are human beings living on the edge of Swiss society, who number anywhere from between 50,000 and 300,000. Swiss News looks at illegal immigrants in Switzerland.

AuteurAnderson, Robert
Fonction Politics

The problems commonly assoicated with illegal immigration in Switzerland primarily concern crime, illicit work and abuses of asylum and foreign nationals laws.

A recent report compiled by Switzerland's Federal Office of Immigration, Integration and Emigration (IMES), the Federal Office for Refugees (BFF), the Federal Office of Police (fedpol), and the Border Guard Corps highlights the four most significant problem areas of illegal immigration:

* Crimes committed by foreign nationals constitute a direct threat to the security of Switzerland's native and foreign population. In 2003, 55.3% of the people against whom charges were brought were foreign nationals.

* Illicit work causes great losses in government revenue and contributes to unemployment. Estimates about the extent of illicit work are widely divergent.

* Abuses of asylum law lead to security problems and cause high costs. About 80% of asylum-seekers do not submit any travel documents or proof of identity. A large number of asylum-seekers make use of the services provided by traffickers in human beings.

* Problems are also caused by law enforcement on a national basis and by international cooperation. Existing legislation is applied differently by different cantons. International cooperation with some countries of origin is unsatisfactory with regard to the readmission of rejected asylum seekers. Access to international databases (Schengen Information System SIS and Eurodac asylum database) is not guaranteed.

Illegal Entry And Illegal Residence

There is currently no reliable data available on the number of illegal immigrants residing in Switzerland, their living conditions and nationality, or how long they have been in the country. Estimates range between 50,000 and 300,000 people. Many of these undocumented workers toil in structurally weak sectors such as agriculture, hotels and gastronomy, domestic households and even prostitution. Moreover, despite the existing unemployment, there is still a strong demand for low-wage workers. According to a study carried out by the University in Linz, there are at present roughly 90,000 undocumented foreigners in Switzerland--up 30% from ten years ago. Evidence shows that these people fall into the following categories:

* Individuals who independently enter the country illegally to seek illicit employment.

* Relatives or friends of undocumented aliens already residing in Switzerland, (so-called chain migration)

* People who enter the country on a...

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