Entraide Protestante Suisse
Fear of being deported forces as many as
illegal immigrants in Switzerland into hiding, making them a vulnerable population.
A recent study1 by the Swiss state secretariat for migrants estimates that there are 76,000 illegal immigrants (known as sans-papiers) living in Switzerland, of whom 43 per cent come from South and Central America.
Other sources2 estimate that there are as many as between 90,000 and 300,000 illegal immigrants living in Switzerland. Most live and work in the urban centres, and 70 per cent are women, primarily working in domestic service to support their families in their countries of origin and to cover their own survival needs in Switzerland.
The fear of being reported to the authorities and deported forces them to live in hiding. It is difficult to obtain information about this group of people or to provide them with information. Many factors make them fragile, both in terms of their health and their social position. These include a lack of job security, low wages, psychological pressure, culture shock and general feelings of vulnerability.
In Switzerland illegal immigrants nonetheless have rights. These include the right to health insurance and the right for their children to attend school. They also have the legal right to be defended by a lawyer if they are being exploited by their employer.
Entraide Protestante Suisse (EPER) is an organisation that, through its project Permanences Volantes, works to raise awareness among immigrant communities of their rights as sans papiers and to connect them to existing services.
“Before I never did sport,” she said. “Now I run regularly with my friends at Permanences Volantes. I am so happy to have been able to access this support
- Do-qui from Mongolia now living in Geneva
Do-qui from Mongolia has lived in Geneva for 11 years with her two children. She works in domestic service full-time for a family. For her, the services offered by EPER were a lifeline. As well as providing support when she had more than CHF 1,000 stolen by a rogue landlord, it has allowed her to meet other people and take part in fun and interesting cultural and leisure activities.
Illegal immigrants still have rights. Activities organised by the Entraide Protestante Suisse include cultural, sport and leisure events. Above, the team trains and competes in “Fête de l’Escalade”, an annual fun-run that takes place in Geneva's Old Town every December.
© Permanences Volantes
Source: Oak Foundation Annual Report
Year of publication: 2016