Over two thirds of the 100 residents at the Büren an der Aare centre have signed up for In Limbo, a voluntary scheme offering training in certain practical skills, such as repairing bicycles, doing laundry, growing vegetables or learning about beekeeping.
Volunteers may work on projects at the asylum centre itself – for example, cooking for residents, running a kiosk or doing the laundry – or in external businesses, such as a carpentry, garden centre or builder’s yard.
The aim of the scheme is to give asylum seekers something useful to do while they await a decision on their asylum application, help them learn the local language and equip them with skills they could then use to find a job in Switzerland, if they are granted the right to stay, or to earn a living back in their home country if they return.
Those that take part in the programme will be given a certificate attesting to their new skills, which they can later use to help them find a job.
Participants also receive a small daily stipend for their work.
On a visit to the centre on Monday, justice minister Simonetta Sommaruga hailed the scheme as “very interesting and important”.
“Integration is a good thing both for the asylum seekers and for our country," she told news agency ATS.
"If they stay here... if they straight away start to learn our language and our way of life, afterwards it will be quicker for them to integrate in the world of work”.