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UKRAINE

Ravioli and guns: What ‘war’ supplies the Swiss are buying right now

While there is no imminent threat of the war in Ukraine spilling into western Europe, many Swiss consumers are getting ready for just that eventuality. This is what they are stocking up on.

Ravioli and guns: What 'war' supplies the Swiss are buying right now
When the times will get tough, the Swiss will go fishing. Photo: Pixabay

The Swiss like to prepare and be ready for all kinds of disasters, even the most unlikely ones.

One anecdotal example is a (real) person who insisted on keeping a bicycle in his cellar during the Cold War years, in case Russia would invade Switzerland and he would have to flee quickly — although he never specified where he would go or how he would out-pedal Russian tanks.

Everyone thought the guy was a bit eccentric, but now his worries seem less laughable.

Be it as it may, it is not part of the Swiss mentality to be unprepared for all eventualities, as the recent rush for various non-perishable items suggests.

This spirit of preparedness is represented by the ubiquity of bomb shelters, which have come back into ‘vogue’ when the war in Ukraine started.

READ MORE: Ukraine war drives sudden demand for bomb shelters in Switzerland

Many people are also stocking up on non-perishable emergency supplies, according to Watson news platform.

What are the Swiss consumers buying?

Fear of war has sparked the “emergency stocks boom” in Switzerland, Watson reports.

“The need for emergency stock products is definitely noticeable,” confirmed Stephan Kurmann, spokesperson for Digitec-Galaxus, an online retailer that is owned by Migros.

As was the case at the beginning of the Covid pandemic, there seems to be another “ravioli frenzy” at Digitec-Galaxus, with other canned goods being in demand as well, due to their durability, Kurmann said.

Canned foods are flying off the virtual shelves. Photo: Pixabay

For instance, sales of ready-to-eat canned meals like ravioli increased by 214 percent since the beginning of the war, followed by non-perishable staples such as sugar (+179 percent), mineral water (+133 percent), and long-life milk (+118 percent) .

Pet food sales on the site also increased by 80 percent.

READ MORE: Chocolate, painkillers and cheese: The emergency pack Switzerland wants you to have

But that’s not all — sales of non-food items also went up significantly.

As the Federal Office for Civil Protection recommends that all households have a battery-operated transistor radio (try to explain what this is to the younger generation), this gadget “had been ordered almost 600 times within a very short time”, Kurmann said.

Note to those under 40: this odd thing is a radio. Photo: Pixabay

Sales of water filters increased by 462 percent, night vision devices by 322 percent, camping stoves and lamps by 295 percent, and fishing equipment by 135 percent. (Kurmann didn’t explain the reason for higher demand for the latter item, so we can only surmise that the Swiss are getting ready to fish in the lakes for their supper when they get sick of eating ravioli).

Kurmann also noted a trend towards increased energy self-sufficiency with more purchases of solar panels, power generators, and flashlights.

Another war-related “shopping spree”: increased demand for gun licenses

One thing the Swiss know how to do is use a gun.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Understanding Switzerland’s obsession with guns

It is therefore not totally surprising that in some Swiss cities and cantons, requests for weapon licenses have increased by between 50 and 100 percent since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, public broadcaster SRF reported.

Cantons like Zurich and Aargau, for example, have registered “significantly more” applications.  

“Specifically, we are talking about an increase of around 50 percent compared to the same period last year”, according to Michael Wirz, police chief of Winterthur, a city in canton Zurich.

While around 80 applications were submitted by mid-April in 2021, the figure was 127 this year, he said.

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UKRAINE

‘Limited capacity’: How the Swiss right wants to shut out western Ukrainian refugees

With about 51,000 refugees from Ukraine currently in Switzerland, right-wing politicians argue in favour of introducing geographic vetting in regards to who can qualify for Status S, saying Switzerland has "limited capacity" for refugees.

'Limited capacity': How the Swiss right wants to shut out western Ukrainian refugees

After Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, the Federal Council activated, for the first time ever, the ‘S status’ authorising Ukrainians and Ukraine residents fleeing the war to live temporarily in Switzerland.

The special status is initially valid for a year, but can be extended. Anyone who is still in Switzerland after five years receives a B permit.

Included is also the right to work, as well as free health care and language courses. The refugees also have the right to free public transportation, but this perk will end on May 31st, with no word yet whether it will be renewed.

READ MORE: Switzerland’s special ‘S permit’ visa program: What Ukrainians need to know

Now, however, “the great solidarity with refugees from Ukraine is cracking”, according to SonntagsZeitung, which reports that rightwing politicians in Switzerland are “beginning to question our country’s culture of hospitality”.

The right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which has consistently opposed sanctions on Russia, is calling on the government to limit the S status  only to Ukrainians who come from the eastern part of the country, which is currently most impacted by Russia’s invasion.  

This movement is spearheaded by MP Martina Bircher, who argues that Switzerland is reaching its limits in terms of the number of refugees it can accommodate and support, and it should therefore grant S status only to those fleeing the most conflict-ridden regions of Ukraine, like the eastern part.

Other right-of-centre groups are in favour of this “regionalisation” as well. Andrea Caroni, president of the centre-right Liberal Party, supports the idea of granting the special status based on the geographical evolution of the Ukrainian conflict, saying Switzerland “ultimately has limited capacity” to absorb refugees from Ukraine. 

He said, however, that such a measure “must be coordinated at the European level.”

Not everyone, however, agrees with Bircher’s proposal.

According to Gerhard Pfister, president of the Centre Party, adopting geographical limitations “would create two classes of Ukrainians. This is not right”.

It is unclear how the SVP would seek to draw barriers to distinguish between the east and west of the country. 

As for the Conference of Cantonal Directors of Social Affairs, vice-president Marianne Lienhard said the organisaton will discuss the proposal at its next meeting at the end of May.

Cantons are directly affected by the influx of Ukrainians, as they will eventually bear the cost of supporting the refugees — the cost which is currently borne mostly at a federal level.

The “NZZ am Sonntag” calculated that in 2022, the costs of housing, health insurance, and general support will amount to between 1.25 and 2.25 billion francs. In 2023, these expenses could climb to 7.5 billion.

“Fake” refugees

In an article she wrote for the SVP website, Bircher also argued that some refugees pretending to be Ukrainian actually aren’t.

As an MP from Aargau, she claims that out of 12 people who received the S status in a small town in her canton, only seven were Ukrainian nationals. The other five came from Africa.

Among them are  “Kenyan and Lebanese men who claim to have lived in Ukraine or who actually lived there before the war, but who do not have a Ukrainian passport”.

The S permit scheme does not only provide protection for Ukrainian citizens, but also citizens of other countries who live in Ukraine. 

While reserved predominantly for Ukrainians, the S status has also been occasionally granted to citizens of other countries. 

According to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), about 1,000 “other” refugees received this status as well, including 238 Russians, and  people from Germany, France, Italy, the United States, Canada and Australia.

In such cases, children have a different passport from their parents, but it is the parents’ nationality and place of residence that defines whether the status is granted.

So it could happen that the parents have Ukrainian passports, while their children are citizens of other nations.

READ MORE: Swiss MPs call for Russian money to be used to reconstruct Ukraine
 

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