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UKRAINE

UPDATE: How Switzerland is supporting refugees from Ukraine

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has sent an estimated two million people looking for safety - a number which rises by the day. Here is how Switzerland and its cantons are reacting.

A flag of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) flutters in the wind on the top of the humanitarian organization's headquarters in Geneva, on September 29, 2021. Image: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
A flag of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) flutters in the wind on the top of the humanitarian organization's headquarters in Geneva, on September 29, 2021. Image: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Numbers are increasing rapidly, with the United Nations on Tuesday estimating that more than two million people have fled the country, with countless more displaced internally. 

Switzerland has already sent four shipments of aid to Ukraine via Poland, including hospital beds, medical protective suits, disinfectants, bandages, sleeping bags, mattresses and blankets. 

A support package totally eight million francs has also been made available to various aid organisations. 

S-Permit

Switzerland on Friday announced it would activate the ’S-Permit’, which facilitates emergency protection. 

The S-Permit allows people to live and work in Switzerland for a year, with the possibility of extension. 

The S-Permit was created after conflicts in the former Yugoslavia but has not yet been activated. 

Ukrainians are otherwise permitted to stay for 90 days without a visa in Switzerland. 

More information about the permit is available here. 

There are also coordinated efforts at a cantonal level. Zurich on Tuesday set up a reception centre at a military barracks near the main train station. 

Refugees will be supplied with emergency aid, including clothes, tickets and cash. 

Travel

Just days after the initial invasion, Swiss transit networks announced anyone fleeing the conflict could travel free on long or short-distance trains. 

On March 9th, Switzerland announced anyone transporting refugees would not need to comply with the vignette rules

A number of other Swiss companies, including mobile phone networks, have announced a range of changes to help those fleeing conflict. 

Free transport and calls: How Swiss companies are helping Ukrainians

How many refugees from Ukraine can Switzerland take in?

With an estimated 6,500 Ukrainians living in Switzerland, there is also a considerable capacity for people to take in those fleeing the conflict informally. 

On a formal basis, as at Tuesday morning Switzerland had set up 5,000 places in asylum centres across the country. 

So far, 847 refugees have already been placed there.

In addition, more than 11,000 private individuals have volunteered to host refugees in their homes, amounting to an estimated 31,000 beds. 

Anyone wanting to take in Ukrainian refugees at home can put their name on the following list. 

The exact number of Ukrainians expected to come to Switzerland will be known in a few days, but the government has already indicated they will be eligible to obtain a right of residence without having to go through an ordinary asylum procedure.

“The Swiss Refugee Aid Organisation will coordinate these offers and place Ukrainians with private hosts or in cantonal structures, in close cooperation with the cantons”, State Secretartiat for Migration (SEM) said in a press release.

More information on how Switzerland is helping Ukrainian refugees is available at the following link. 

READ MORE: How Switzerland reacted to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and how you can help

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UKRAINE

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
 
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
 
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
 
 
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant
“Sentimentai”.

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.

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