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MOVING TO SWITZERLAND

200,000 in 2022: Immigration fuelling Swiss population surge

Around 200,000 immigrants will move to Switzerland in 2022, pushing the total population close to nine million.

A young Ukrainian refugee boards a plane headed to Zurich from Krakow. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
A young Ukrainian refugee boards a plane headed to Zurich from Krakow. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In January 2022, Switzerland’s population stood at 8.74 million people, according to the Federal Statistical Office.

However, by the beginning of July, 100,000 more people were registered in Switzerland, government data shows.   

This upward trend toward the 9-million mark got a major jolt after February 24th, when Russia invaded Ukraine, causing a massive westward exodus of Ukrainians fleeing the war.

While Ukrainian refugees constitute the bulk — 60,000 people — of this growth spurt, 32,700 immigrants from other countries also came to Switzerland in this period, along with 6,800 asylum seekers. By the end of the year, 200,000 are expected. 

The 200,000 immigrants is pushing Switzerland’s population close to the nine million mark. While this has not yet been reached, it could potentially be cracked before the end of the year. 

Who exactly are these foreign nationals?

The majority of immigrants currently in Switzerland — as opposed to refugees and asylum seekers — live here permanently or medium /long-term, on either the B or C permit.

They are predominantly citizens of EU / EFTA nations, mainly from Italy, Germany, Portugal and France.

READ MORE: Eight revealing statistics about Switzerland’s foreign residents

While third-nation citizens don’t constitute a large immigrant group because their residence and employment in Switzerland is subject to a quota system, Switzerland also has a sizeable population from Kosovo, as well as from the UK — about 40,000 people for the latter.

As far as asylum seekers are concerned, the additional 6,800 who came to Switzerland this year are, as is the case of nearly 15,000 already here, mostly from Afghanistan, Turkey, Eritrea, Algeria, and Syria.

The Swiss government expects that 80,000 more Ukrainians will come to Switzerland this year.

Taking into account net migration — that is, the difference between immigration and emigration — 60,000 more people will swell the ranks of Switzerland’s population by the end of the year.

This doesn’t mean, however, that everyone presently here or expected to come, will remain in Switzerland long-term.

The government expects Ukrainians to return home once the war is over, though the date of the ceasefire or the number of refugees who will actually go back is hard to predict.

READ MORE: ‘Cruel’ Swiss government video suggests Ukrainians to leave Switzerland

In regards to asylum seekers, statistics indicate that 22 percent of applications are rejected, which means some applicants will not be living here long-term.

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ENERGY

Power outage: Swiss cantons set up plans for emergency services

There has been much talk lately about how electricity shortages would impact Switzerland’s essential infrastructure, including access to emergency services. This is how some cantons are preparing for this ‘worst-case’ scenario.

Power outage: Swiss cantons set up plans for emergency services

Though Switzerland buys most of its natural gas through various European distribution channels, almost half of the country’s supply — an estimated 47 percent — is of Russian origin. 

As gas is used to generate electricity, it is no wonder that Swiss authorities are worried about what would happen to essential services if the power goes out.

“We are not an island, so the war in Ukraine and the global energy crisis also affect Switzerland. In this context, there is no certainty about what awaits us”, Energy Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said during a press conference in June.

She added that “the energy crisis could hit us hard. That’s why we are concerned about preparing for emergencies.”

READ MORE: ‘It could hit us hard’: Switzerland prepares for impending gas shortage

When the power goes out, telephone service for fixed lines does too. While mobile phones will continue to work for as long as their batteries are charged, they too will ‘die’ if electricity is cut for an extended period of time.

For instance, Swisscom’s current backup power supply “consists of one hour of autonomy on all networks”.

This means that emergency calls for ambulances, police, and fire services will no longer be possible after this timeframe.

Emergency plans

However, some cantons have made contingency plans to manage such crises by setting up the so-called “emergency meeting points” — specially designated areas where residents could drive or walk to if they needed help quickly.

According to Diego Ochsner, head of the Office for Military Affairs and Civil Protection in the canton of Solothurn, these meeting points “are equipped with a Polycom device and an emergency power supply”, allowing unfettered communication with emergency services.

Polycom is a secure radio network used by authorities in crisis situations.

Most of these points are set up in community halls, schools, and sports facilities. You can find your nearest emergency point here.

However, while meeting points exist in a number of cantons — including Bern, St. Gallen, Aargau, Nidwalden, Lucerne, Schaffhausen, Zurich, and Zug — they are lacking in other regions, especially in the French-speaking part of the country.

READ MORE: MAP: Which Swiss cities will be most impacted by a gas shortage this winter?

“From our point of view, the ideal would be for more cantons to set up these points and for the federal government to take charge”, Ochsner said. “Unfortunately, we are still a long way from that.”

The government has not gotten involved in establishing more meeting points because it considers this task to be a cantonal, rather than a federal matter.

What should you do if you live in cantons that don’t provide this service?

The best approach is to inform yourself as soon as possible about the logistics your community has in place for reaching emergency services in case of a power outage.

You can obtain this information from your local civil protection office, which is usually listed on the official website of your canton.

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