Friday, September 03, 2004

POLITICS: Blocher proposes setting up refugee camps abroad

Swiss Justice Minister Christoph Blocher has proposed setting up refugee camps abroad as a way of stemming the flow of asylum seekers into the country.

But the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has criticised the plans and warned that they will not solve the problem of illegal immigration.

Blocher’s proposals come as the Swiss parliament debates plans to tighten the country’s asylum laws. The justice minister, a member of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, suggests that refugee centres could be built in African countries and the Balkans.

Under Blocher’s plans, the UN would be charged with sharing out quotas of “genuine refugees” among European countries able to take responsibility for them.

Switzerland would no longer have to deal with large numbers of asylum applications, but would be responsible for 4,000 refugees per year.

Blocher added that the Swiss army and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) would take charge of the refugees in purpose-built camps set up in crisis regions.

But SDC spokesman Harry Sivec said the proposals should be taken in the context of a wider international debate on asylum.
“This suggestion needs to be discussed in the first instance at the international level, together with the UNHCR,” said Sivec.


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