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Options for reforming preliminary admission of migrants

In Switzerland, preliminarily admitted individuals should in principle leave the country. Their departure may however not be enforced for a range of reasons. Although preliminary admission does not attribute a residence status in a legal sense, more than 20.000 persons are to remain in that condition until the moment the reasons impeding their return are no longer applicable. During this time, however, individuals are not supposed to integrate economically, socially and politically, thus have to rely on public support. Despite their dependence on social benefits, persons subject to preliminary admission are expected to rely upon such benefits as little as possible – regardless of the fact that, in principle, constitutional guarantees safeguard their access to subsistence. Access to benefits in turn, is strongly connected with language acquisition and economic participation, which are enhanced via integration measures. Against this background, thousands of persons are kept in between these two opposing objectives. In the past few years, the number of preliminary admissions has even outgrown the number of those granted asylum protection. The majority of individuals remain in that legal limbo situation for more than seven years, until eventually a right to remain may be granted by the respective canton of residence.

The present study aims to elaborate options to reform the legal institution of preliminary admission in Switzerland. In particular, it looks into ways to secure compliance with international protection standards without losing sight of the possibility of return, while simultaneously taking into account the ongoing integration processes entailed by long-term stay and, deeply connected with that, pressing questions on residential security. Based on the assessment of legal frameworks addressing that issue in comparable European states, the study not only explores the question of residence status acquisition and criteria relevant to its accession, but also addresses the legal position of persons, admitted via the current framework of preliminary admission in Switzerland.

The study explores the situation of persons:
• Who are in need of protection according to international conventions, but were neither granted asylum nor temporary protection;
• Who cannot be incited to leave the country on humanitarian grounds but at the same time cannot obtain a residence permit;
• Whose return decision cannot be enforced for technical reasons which lie outside of the area of influence of the person concerned;
• Whose return decision cannot be enforced for reasons lying outside the area of influence of the person concerned;
• Whose return decision is already in force and whose respite for departure was postponed on multiple occasions over a longer time-span, but who were neither granted preliminary admission nor a residence status, consequently leaving them in a vulnerable position.

Duration: 2012
Swiss Federal Office for Migration
Countries: CH (focus), AT, DE, FR, NL, SE, UK
Contact: Albert Kraler


Gottfried Zürcher, Albert Kraler, Alexandra König (2012): Handlungsoptionen zur Reform der vorläufigen Aufnahme, im Auftrag des Bundesamtes für Migration. ICMPD, November.