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Swiss army opens doors to asylum seekers

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12:41 CET+01:00

The Swiss military is making more than 5,000 beds available on a temporary basis to handle an overflow of asylum seekers in Switzerland.

Defence Minister Ueli Maurer said on Monday that the accommodation would be made available as quickly as possible.

Discussions have been under way since April 2011 between the federal immigration department and the department of defence, civil protection and sport over ways to expand facilities for asylum seekers.

Switzerland has faced an increase in the number of people seeking asylum in the mountain country, particularly since the Arab spring revolutions.

The military beds are housed in more than 20 surplus barracks around the country, including those in mountain regions.

However, these rudimentary facilities must be modernized to conform with the latest fire protection and other building standards, the defence department said in a news release.

The department acknowledged that the renovations would in some cases be limited.

Many Swiss military barracks in mountain areas do not conform with civil standards.

For example, one alpine facility in the Jaun Pass in the canton of Bern, offers beds for 150 people but has only a single exit door.

The building will be limited to use by 50 people, the government said.

Cantonal laws also restrict the use of such facilities to six months.

The Swiss defence department has at its disposal more than 100 sites with quarters above and below ground, offering a total capacity of around 35,000 beds.

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