A report in the SonntagsZeitung this weekend suggested that in some areas of Switzerland up to 90 percent of migrants allocated to reception centres to await the processing of their asylum application flee the centre shortly after arriving.
Responding to the paper, the Federal Migration Office (SEM) did not confirm exact numbers but acknowledged that in the last three months between 20 and 40 percent of asylum seekers have left the system in this way, their whereabouts now unknown.
Confirming the information to news agency ATS, SEM spokeswoman Chloe Kohlprath said phenomenon was not new, and that many migrants took advantage of the system by saying they wished to claim asylum in Switzerland and then disappearing before their request could be formally registered.
Under European rules, refugees are only allowed to enter Switzerland if they say they want to claim asylum here. All those who do are allocated to a SEM reception centre to be registered.
Anyone who does not state their intention to claim asylum in Switzerland is refused entry and must return to the first European country they entered.
The Swiss have been under fire over the summer for turning back thousands of migrants at the border with Italy at Chiasso. Its strict adherence to the rules is an attempt to stop it becoming a ‘transit' country for migrants who wish to pass through Switzerland on their way Germany in order to apply for asylum there.
According to the SEM, most of those who disappear from Swiss reception centres are thought to be heading for Germany, reported ATS.
As a result, there's nothing to suggest that there are more illegals living in Switzerland, it said.
But Christoph Neuhaus, head of the justice department in the canton of Bern, told the SonntagsZeitung that the increase in ‘disappearing' migrants over the summer was “highly problematic”.
“We cannot be sure that they really migrate further and register elsewhere as asylum seekers,” he said.
Albert Rösti, president of the Swiss People's Party (SVP) called for the border to be shut down altogether, saying the situation was “a massive security risk”.