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CHF18,000 per refugee What will new asylum seeker integration funds be spent on?

Ein Asylbewerber stoppt den Verkehr vor einem Fussgängerstreifen, den Schulkinder zum Überqueren der Strasse benützen.

In many regions asylum seekers work as volunteers, such as in Bösingen, canton Fribourg, where not enough locals are available for the school patrol service

(Keystone)

Cantons are set to receive CHF18,000 ($18,000) for every refugee or asylum seeker allowed to stay in Switzerland. The money should go towards their integration into the labour market. How will it be spent? swissinfo.ch asked the authorities of canton Bern. 

The Swiss government has agreed to triple its financial contributionexternal link to help speed up the integration of refugees into the labour market and to ultimately save on welfare spending.

It is estimated that about 11,000 people will benefit from the new schemes which will be phased in from spring 2019. The goals include everyone securing a basic knowledge of a national language within three years. Two-thirds of 16- to 25-year-olds should be in basic vocational training after five years, and half of the adults should be integrated into the labour market after seven years. 

+ The nuts and bolts of integration

How will canton Bern spend this new federal money to achieve the goals? It is not very clear right now. In Bern, various services deal with integration issues, including the Population and Migration Office, the Directorate of Public Health and Social Security, and the Directorate of Police and Military Affairs. 

Andrea Blaser, deputy secretary general of the Directorate of Police and Military Affairs, told swissinfo.ch: “In canton Bern, federal contributions go into one pot. They will not be used on a case-by-case basis according to a set arrangement.” 

To help look after asylum seekers, the Bern authorities work with six external agencies such as the Salvation Army and the Integration Competence Centre. 

These organisations receive funds to cover services such as accommodation and care. They are also responsible for organising and paying for training courses. These include basic integration courses to help newcomers adapt to Swiss life and the workplace, language courses, and schemes to help with reading, writing and computer skills.

Federal integration scheme

In 2015, the Federal Council (executive body) announced the launch of a refugee integration project – a one-year programme designed to prepare participants for a Swiss apprenticeship. Some 800 people are set to begin the scheme this summer. According to the government, the training programme costs CHF13,000 per individual. The NZZ newspaper reports that canton Bern will start in August with 70 people; however, traineeships are still being sought.

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Translated from German by Simon Bradley

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