Tens of thousands of refugees live on the Aegean Islands in appalling conditions in closed and sealed-off camps. They lack a basic hygienic infrastructure, which is why the coronavirus pandemic presents a devastating threat to life and limb for them. «In this difficult situation, from a Christian perspective, the Easter message gives hope and confidence: death does not have the final say. On the contrary, Easter gives a new dynamic to life», said Felix Gmür, President of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference SBC. In this spirit, the churches are helping at the local level through collections and their aid organizations.
An act of humanity is not a Swiss solo effort in refugee policy
The fact that Europe has not yet found a unified answer to the refugee disaster does not relieve Swiss politicians of their responsibility. The Schengen and Dublin Agreements stipulate shared responsibility for the situation of refugees and local populations on the ground. Evacuation – of at least a small number of people with a connection to Switzerland – is therefore an urgent necessity. «An act of humanity by Switzerland does not mean going it alone in Europe’s refugee policy», underscored Gottfried Locher, President of the Protestant Church in Switzerland PCS. «Switzerland can be a role model in Europe this Easter – as regards to humanity and attitude.»
Switzerland should accept unaccompanied underage asylum seekers with a connection to Switzerland
The three regional churches call on the Federal Council and politicians to quickly bring the unaccompanied underage asylum seekers (UUAs) on Lesbos and from other places of refuge to their families in Switzerland. So far, only around 20 unaccompanied minors with relatives in Switzerland have been identified. However, the true number of so-called UUAs is much higher. Here Swiss officials need to undertake greater efforts with local authorities to identify those authorized to enter the country. «We call on the Federal Council to send a clear signal of hope in the next few days and to accept these vulnerable and endangered young refugees in Greek camps as asylum seekers in Switzerland», said the three regional churches.
Churches and private persons are ready to make their contribution
In many places in Switzerland, in cities and towns, parishes, church and non-church aid organizations can receive and look after these people. The Swiss people have demonstrated this time and again in many initiatives and aid projects in the past. The churches are ready for this. They are waiting for a hopeful «yes» from the Federal Council to a generous gesture for the benefit of the weakest. «Life – and not death – should have the final say, because the Easter message of hope applies to everyone», concluded Harald Rein, Bishop of the Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland.