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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. 


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. 


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 and allies lay foundations for reconstruction at Swiss conference

Allies of Ukraine meeting in Switzerland were due Tuesday to adopt a declaration spelling out the principles and priorities of rebuilding the war-shattered country, estimated to cost at least $750 billion.

Ukraine and allies lay foundations for reconstruction at Swiss conference

Leaders from dozens of countries, international organisations and businesses have been meeting in the southern Swiss city of Lugano under tight security since Monday, discussing the best path forward for reconstruction, even as Russia’s war continues to rage in Ukraine.

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Speaking on the first day of the Ukraine Recovery Conference, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and a long line of government ministers described the massive destruction caused by Russia’s February 24 invasion.

“Reconstruction of Ukraine is not a local task of a single nation,” Zelensky said via video message. “It is a common task of the whole democratic world,” he said.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said the recovery “is already estimated at $750 billion”. “The key source of recovery should be the confiscated assets of Russia and Russian oligarchs,” he said.

“The Russian authorities unleashed this bloody war. They caused this massive destruction, and they should be held accountable for it”.

READ MORE: Switzerland extends sanctions against Russia over Ukraine invasion

The conference, which had been planned before the invasion, had originally been slated to discuss reforms in Ukraine before being repurposed to focus on recovery.

Shmyhal laid out the government’s phased reconstruction plan, focused first on the immediate needs of those affected by the war, followed by the financing of thousands of longer-term reconstruction projects aimed at making Ukraine European, green and digital.

Those priorities are expected to be reflected in a final Lugano Declaration setting out the general principles defining a framework for rebuilding Ukraine, which should be adopted when the conference wraps up around midday Tuesday.

As billions of dollars in aid flow into Ukraine, lingering concerns about widespread corruption in the country mean far-reaching reforms will also be seen as a condition for any recovery plan decided.

The former Soviet state has long been ranked among the world’s most corrupt countries by Transparency International.

In Europe, only Russia and Azerbaijan ranked worse.

The Ukrainians have proposed that allied countries “adopt” specific regions of Ukraine, and lead the recovery there to render it more efficient. Britain has proposed taking on the Kyiv region, while a diplomatic source said France would concentrate on the heavily-hit Chernihiv region.

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In all, around 1,000 people are attending the conference, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who let out an enthusiastic “Slava Ukraini” (glory to Ukraine) after insisting on the importance of rebuilding a Ukraine better than before the war.