Emergency Assistance

According to the Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation (Federal Constitution), asylum seekers who are rejected in a decision not to grant them asylum or in a decision to dismiss their application and who must leave Switzerland have a guaranteed right to obtain emergency aid until their departure.

Individuals given a legally valid removal decision and a set departure deadline are not entitled to social assistance. However, they do have the right to the emergency aid guaranteed under the Federal Constitution.

Art. 12 of the Federal Constitution reads as follows:

“Persons in need and unable to provide for themselves have the right to assistance and care, and to the financial means required for a decent standard of living.”

Emergency assistance – Assuring the minimum subsistence level

Emergency assistance covers food, hygiene, clothing and medical care. In most cases, vouchers or materials are given out directly but money is rarely paid out. The cantonal authorities are responsible for this matter. They determine the place where the individuals stay and assign them accommodation.

Life on the periphery

These accommodations are quite simple. Most of them are collective accommodations on the periphery of populated areas. If families live from emergency assistance, children are allowed to continue attending school. Children’s best interests must be kept in mind.


The cantonal authorities can opt to continue providing social assistance to help especially vulnerable individuals such as families with small children, pregnant women, unaccompanied minors, the sick and the elderly.

Cantonal differences

A person must file an application to the canton or the municipality to receive emergency assistance. The scope and type of emergency assistance can sometimes vary greatly from one canton to the next.

Obligation to depart remains intact

The granting of emergency assistance does not put a stop to the obligation to depart. The cantonal authorities can order coercive measures under the Foreign Nationals Act to enforce the obligation to depart.