In pictures: Poverty-stricken residents queue for food in Geneva

Despite being in one of the richest cities in one of the wealthiest countries on earth, the impact of the coronavirus has hit some residents of Geneva particularly hard.

In pictures: Poverty-stricken residents queue for food in Geneva
A man rests on a bench beside a queue of people waiting for free food in Geneva. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Each Saturday, thousands of people queue for free food which is handed out by a team of 300 volunteers. 

The food is provided by a coalition of charities and NGOs, including Medecins Sans Frontieres and Caravane de Solidarite. 

A representative from Caravane de Solidarite told AFP earlier in May that more and more people are showing up week after week. 

READ: Coronavirus crisis lays bare poverty in Geneva as thousands queue for food 

Nicknamed as the city’s ‘invisible poor’ by Swiss media, those queuing range from locally-born Swiss to documented and undocumented immigrants from a diverse variety of nations including Eritrea, Kurdistan, Morocco and the Philippines. 

According to volunteers, the numbers of those seeking assistance have grown every week. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

A queue of people waiting for food in Geneva. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

People queuing for food in Geneva. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP


A man and his dog wear masks while queuing for food in Geneva. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

According to on-site volunteers, many of those queuing were families. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Tens of thousands of bags of groceries have been given away since the program started. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In addition to food, other essentials such as hand sanitiser have been given out. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

A child plays next to the queue. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

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Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad