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Asylum seekers protest at Swiss train station

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View of Solothurn, capital city of the canton of the same name. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
19:03 CEST+02:00
Ten asylum seekers are camping outside the Solothurn railway station to protest against their living conditions in subterranean military shelters, Swiss police said on Monday.

The protest comes amid a fierce row over the treatment of asylum seekers after a small town moved to ban them from  some public facilities including swimming pools and gyms.

The protesters — all of them men and most of them from Syria — have been at the Solothurn train station since Friday to protest their living conditions, cantonal police spokeswoman Thalia Schweizer told AFP.

The men, who have been placed in subterranean military shelters in the nearby village of Kestenholz, claim the housing is "unworthy of a human being," with no daylight and insufficient ventilation, the ATS news agency reported, citing an information flier handed out by the protesters.

Kestenholz, a village of 1,700 people, had been scheduled to house the asylum seekers in refurbished containers, but at the end of June, its municipal assembly voted against dishing out the 190,000 francs ($205,000) it would cost to revamp the containers and opted instead to house them in existing shelters.

Head of social affairs in the canton of Solothurn, Claudia Haenzi, meanwhile said the shelters were "built for people — they have normal standards . . . these are good flats with all you need."

She said her office was in discussions with the asylum seekers and expected to find a solution by Tuesday.

The protest comes after federal migration authorities said a small town called Bremgarten, with 6,500 residents, had been permitted to deny residents of a new asylum centre access to certain public spaces.

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga was forced to take a stand on Fridayinsisting that in Switzerland, "fundamental rights are not negotiable."

She categorically rejecting that asylum seekers would be barred from the public pool, for instance.

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