Switzerland now hosts more than 12,000 Ukrainian refugees, but many of them living in asylum centers say they do not feel safe. A number of these refugees revealed to the Blick news outlet the difficult living conditions in the Chevrilles asylum center and the racist violence they are enduring along with bureaucratic headaches.
“We don’t feel safe in this place. It is impossible to leave your belongings in the room. Thefts are common. We’ve been here for a month but only got a translator yesterday. No school solution for the children was presented to the parents, who are themselves traumatized. We were sometimes victims of racist violence from other refugees, in front of security guards who remained unmoved,” one Ukrainian refugee told the Swiss newspaper.
Anna says she is afraid and ashamed, as are the other three women — Vika, Tania, and Lubov — who were interviewed. All arrived within the first refugee wave, two to five days after the start of the invasion. From the beginning, they insist they are more than grateful for being offered asylum.
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The most severe issue, however, has to do with the racist violence and even death threats described by Anna, Vika, Tania, and Lubov.
“Unfortunately, some present communities, like the Algerians, support Russia in its invasion. They are few. But we’ve been threatened and insulted before. Yesterday, I passed by a man who gave me a throat-cutting gesture, who then shouted, ‘Fuck you,’ in front of the security guard, who merely shrugged his shoulders. I did not expect that,” said Lubov.
The three other women report very similar incidents.
Vika and Anna recalled an incident with a large family from Macedonia, who have been in this center for too long already, displaying harmful behavior.
“The father is in his thirties, and he has no teeth… The children are savage. We heard a lot of things. But we saw one of the boys running around naked, with traces of semen being left on the walls of one of the bathrooms that they occupy,” the two women described.
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Faced with the testimonies of the four women, an employee of the center, who is only identified as “Pierre,” tried to avoid the subject, according to the reporter, but finally admitted that the Macedonian family has been his number one problem for some time now.
The Swiss State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) only replied that “these centers are intended for emergency reception and registration only. It is difficult for everyone because it is a collective accommodation. In the case of a problem, people can contact the management, and there are people trained specifically to manage conflicts.”
Many sordid details arose from the testimonies of the refugees. Already in 2021, there were reports on the dysfunctions of the federal asylum centers. In the case of Chevrilles, it should also be noted that it is a private international company ORS that manages the center on behalf of the state.
Ukrainian refugees benefit from the special “S” protection status from March 12, which allows the persons concerned to obtain rapid protection in Switzerland without going through an ordinary asylum procedure.
The issue is that the Ukrainians who arrived before this date are treated in the same way as all other asylum seekers. A lot of confusion results from this, mainly on the bureaucratic level.
“It’s been a month since they requisitioned my passport without explaining to me why or when I will be able to recover it,” confessed Anna, who arrived in Switzerland before the beginning of March.
The reason is purely bureaucratic, SEM spokeswoman Anne Césard told Blick. The requisition of the passport at the time of the decision-making, in an ordinary asylum procedure, would be commonplace. But that was not supposed to happen to the Ukrainians.
Among the other issues the women noted was no translator available for over a month, although some of them do speak English. They also noted the extreme cramping, with many of them sleeping on the floor due to overcrowding. Since many of the lockers have no keys, thefts are rampant.