Reader question: Are refugee centres in Zurich ‘full’?

Media reports have emerged of refugee centres in Zurich being ‘full’ as thousands arrive in Switzerland fleeing conflict in the Ukraine.

A refugees welcome sign in Germany. Photo: PATRICK SEEGER / DPA / AFP
A refugees welcome sign in Germany. Photo: PATRICK SEEGER / DPA / AFP

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent millions of people fleeing in search of safety. 

Switzerland, while not a neighbour of Ukraine, has indicated it expects to take in up to 50,000 refugees, although higher numbers have also been contemplated. 

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

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.

This however only applied for Tuesday. 

On Wednesday afternoon, Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes reported of long queues at the Federal Asylum Centre in Zurich, one of six set up across the country to administer Ukrainian refugee arrivals. 

Some in the queue said they had been to the centre several times but had been unable to register, with queues moving slowly “due to language barriers” and other issues. 

Is the centre in Zurich full – and what’s the situation in the rest of the country? 

Authorities said the centre was not full and that new arrivals would be processed as best as possible, although they acknowledged there had been long wait times. 

“The capacities for registering people who have fled Ukraine are constantly being increased. We are also in the process of examining alternative registration options,” spokesman Reto Kormann told 20 Minutes. 

Each centre usually takes in around 1,000 applicants per month, Kormann said, but are currently trying to process 800 people per day. 

READ MORE: What criteria must I meet to host refugees at my home in Switzerland?

Kormann however said that even where people have to wait, it would only be for a short period of time and that their S permits – the special visa scheme activated for the first time for those fleeing the Ukraine conflict – would be granted. 

“Everyone else can only register in a week or two, so there are no disadvantages for them,” Kormann said. 

“There are no quotas for protection status S. Anyone who seeks protection in Switzerland will receive it.”

The State Secretariat for Migration said on Twitter Ukrainians do not need to register on arrival. 

Under existing visa rules, Ukrainians arriving in Switzerland are allowed to stay 90 days without applying for a visa. 

More about the S permit, which allows those fleeing the Ukraine conflict to live, work or study in Switzerland for at least one year, is available at the following link. 

Online registration coming soon

In order to better account for the influx, Switzerland is currently in the process of setting up an online registration system. 

In addition to the centre in Zurich, other federal centres have been set up in Boudry (NE), Basel, Bern, Chiasso  (TI) and Altstätten (SG).

As at March 17th, 7,903 refugees from the war in Ukraine, mostly women and children, have been registered in Switzerland, 3,664 of whom have been privately housed. 

More information, including a range of FAQs, is laid out on the following Swiss government page. 

What are The Local’s Reader Questions? 

As part of our service to our readers and members, we often answer questions on life in Switzerland via email when people get in touch with us. 

When these have value to the greater Local Switzerland community, we put them together as an article, with ‘reader question’ in the headline. 

All readers of The Local Switzerland can ask a reader question, i.e. you do not need to be a member. If you do find our reporting valuable however, then please consider signing up

READ MORE: What are The Local Switzerland’s reader questions?

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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

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.