Social Aid Representation
Staff from the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) asks asylum seekers to explain the reason that they fled. The Asylum Act stipulates that these hearings be conducted in the presence of a representative from a recognised social aid organisation (Art. 30 AsylA).
The social aid organisations listed below are charged with this task.
- Swiss Labour Assistance (SAH-OSEO) (Basel and Ticino)
- VSJF (social arm of Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities SIG-FSCI)
- Swiss Interchurch Aid (HEKS-EPER) (Western Switzerland)
- CARITAS Switzerland
Independent and neutral perspective
The representatives from the social aid organisations are independent and observe the procedure from a neutral perspective. During the hearing on the grounds for asylum, they can have the SEM ask the asylum seekers about certain issues or pose the questions themselves, express objections and urge additional clarifications. This approach ensures that when asylum seekers explain all their reasons for fleeing, they can do so without fear and in an atmosphere that is as relaxed as possible.
Guaranteeing a fair procedure
Apart from the authorities, the representatives from the social aid organisations are the only individuals who regularly witness the asylum seekers during the questioning procedure. They do not act as legal representatives of the asylum seekers. They are there just to guarantee that the procedure is fair.
Representatives from the social aid organisations see to it that
- the asylum procedure is fair,
- the atmosphere during the interviews is good and allows asylum seekers to speak without fear, also about painful experiences, and
- communication occurs between the different cultures and between governmental officials and the individuals seeking protection.
The role of the Swiss Refugee Council
The Swiss Refugee Council (SRC) coordinates the work of the mandated social aid organisations as their umbrella organisation. We are responsible for initial and continuing training of the representatives from the social aid organisations and provide background information (in French) to assist these organisations.
Anyone wishing to work as a representative from a social aid organisation is asked to contact the coordination offices of the pertinent organisations.