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UKRAINE

Switzerland expects 50,000 Ukrainian refugees by June

Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter predicted between 35,000 and 50,000 refugees from Ukraine would arrive in Switzerland before June, in a press conference on Wednesday.

Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter attends a press conference on March 16, 2020 in Bern. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter attends a press conference on March 16, 2020 in Bern. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Even though some asylum centres in Switzerland are already overcrowded, thousands of more Ukrainian refugees are expected to arrive before summer.

Speaking before the National Council, Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said that, according to latest estimates from the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), between 35,000 and 50,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine may arrive before June. 

Previously, the SEM had assumed a cumulative total of 60,000 by the end of the conflict. 

To date, over 5,200  – mostly women and children — are already in Switzerland, having received protection status S, a special visa system which Switzerland activated for the first time.

Switzerland’s special visa program: What Ukrainians need to know

This means these refugees can stay one year in Switzerland without having to go through the asylum procedure, and are allowed to work and study.

The government will also pay for their language courses, Keller-Sutter said.

From Thursday, appointments for registration at various centres can be done online, which should prevent long queues in front of the six federal asylum centres.

As of Tuesday evening,  SEM has already registered over 5,200 Ukrainian refugees, bringing the capacity of these centres to their maximum. The most impacted so far is the Zurich facility.

Tuesday at midday, SEM announced that the Zurich centre could no longer register more refugees, as it is overwhelmed by the number of requests for S permits.

Other Swiss asylum facilities are in located Boudry (NE), Basel, Bern, Chiasso  (TI) and Altstätten (SG).

What is an S permit?

The S permit is an identity document authorising a temporary residence in Switzerland.

The S Permit will be activated from Friday, the 12th March 2022 for not only Ukrainian nationals but also to certain citizens of other countries who have had to flee from Ukraine.

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Some of the conditions for the granting of the permit will be:

  1. The person had a valid residence permit or at least a temporary residence in Ukraine before the 24th February 2022
  2. He/she cannot return in a secure and long term manner to their country of origin
  3. They have not obtained a protection from any other country of the European Union.

To avoid long processes, the Swiss federal government has decided that:

The S permit holders do not need to wait for three months before seeking an authorisation to work in Switzerland. They can also have an independent professional activity.

The S Permit will allow them to travel in and out of Switzerland without a “visa retour”.

More information about applying for an S permit in Switzerland is available here

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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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