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Swiss mull tough benefit cuts for asylum seekers

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10:32 CEST+02:00

The Swiss parliament will decide this week on whether to dramatically cut the amount of financial support received by asylum seekers.

The current emergency aid provisions enable asylum seekers who have had their applications rejected to receive on average between six and ten francs (between $6.25 and $10.41) a day as they await deportation. The amount to be received in each case is decided at the cantonal level.

A parliamentary debate began on Wednesday morning to discuss tough new measures that include applying the emergency measures to all asylum seekers, thereby preventing them from receiving more lucrative social welfare benefits.

For asylum seekers in Aargau, emergency aid amounts to 7.50 ($7.81) a day, while in Luzern, emergency cases are given Coop supermarket vouchers worth ten francs ($10.41) a day, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported.

In Aargau, the 7.50 is intended to cover food, clothing, hygiene items, transport tickets and phone calls. In Graubünden, each person’s entitlement is spent on food, which is delivered twice a week to a depot. Those failing to turn up lose their entitlement.

The introduction of the minimal emergency aid policy was an attempt to discourage people from coming and staying in Switzerland, although the Swiss Refugee Council said in 2010 that people would stay in Switzerland even if no assistance was offered.

Arguing in favour of changes that would reduce the attractiveness of Switzerland for asylum seekers, Heinz Brand of the Swiss People's Party voiced his support for benefit cuts and the idea that criminal refugees should be kept in special closed quarters.

Green Party National Councillor Balthasar Glättli disagreed with Brand, believing that the causes of crimes committed by the refugees should be looked at more closely. He believes that criminals should be put to work in the community so that they are tired at night and do not turn to alcohol.

Speaking on broadcaster SF's Arena show, Brand said the drop in income would be small, but significant enough to discourage asylum seekers.

However, taking the examples of cantons including Basel-City and Zurich, Tages-Anzeiger showed that the measures would in many cases halve the incomes of asylum seekers and lead to a severe dip in their quality of life.

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