Switzerland to Take 1,500 Migrants, Boost Aid to Syria


Switzerland said Friday that it would take in 1,500 refugees and migrants over the next two years while strengthening support for Syria peace talks, which Bern called the "priority" for resolving Europe's humanitarian crisis. 

A Federal Council statement said Switzerland would only accept those "who have already been registered in Italy or Greece," the two countries which have received the overwhelming majority of people who have washed up on Europe's shores this year. 

But the federation has not created additional space for migrants, the statement made clear, as these 1,500 people will be deducted from the 3,000 people that Switzerland agreed to accept in March. 

This initial figure of 1,500 people makes up Switzerland's contribution to the 40,000 asylum-seekers that European interior ministers have agreed to resettle immediately. 

Bern said it would wait while continental leaders haggled over plans to resettle a further 120,000 people, with a second Swiss relocation program possible once details of the latest EU proposal become clear. 

"It is important, both in the short term and long term, to conduct a united relocation of protected people in Europe," the statement said. 

Meanwhile, an additional 70 million Swiss francs ($73 million, 64 million euros) would be allocated to address the crises in Syria, Iraq and the Horn of Africa, Bern said.  

Some of these new funds would be given to the UN and Red Cross agencies working on the frontlines of the migrant crisis.

But, a significant portion would be spent "to support, organizationally and financially, the peace process" aimed at ending the four-year Syrian conflict. 

"The priority remains to find a political solution for Syria, which is the only way to defuse this humanitarian crisis," the statement said. 

Nearly 40 percent of the 473,887 migrants to reach Europe this year via the Mediterranean are Syrians, according to figures released Friday by the International Organization for Migration.

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