- 12 Feb 2024 9:50 am CET
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The city of Bern has become the first Swiss municipality to declare itself a "safe haven" for people rescued from distress at sea. The city government is committed to new and strengthened programs for the legal reception of refugees, according to the statement.
The city announced on Monday that it is calling for more powers for cities and municipalities. The current division of competencies in the Swiss asylum and refugee system severely limits the possibilities for municipal involvement.
The city of Bern is prepared to take in more people than before. It is providing the necessary resources for the humane care and social participation of the new arrivals and is committed to ensuring that they have secure prospects of staying.
At the end of January, the municipal council (executive) adopted the "Safe Harbour" declaration in accordance with the criteria of the Seebrücke organization. According to the organization, more than 320 cities and municipalities have declared themselves a "Safe Haven" so far.
In sea rescue, a safe haven is a place where a sea rescue operation can be safely completed, as the city of Bern points out. Based on this, the "Seebrücke" organization launched the idea of creating safe havens throughout Europe in the figurative sense.
Bern sees "more than symbolic politics"
This is "more than just symbolic politics", councillor and head of social affairs Franziska Teuscher (Greens) is quoted as saying in the press release. The municipal council is concerned about the great need and the untenable conditions in refugee centers in the Mediterranean and about the high number of people who lose their lives crossing the Mediterranean every year.
A humane and active asylum and refugee policy is a major concern for both the municipal council and the city council, the statement continued. Questions relating to asylum and refugee policy shaped the political debate in the city of Bern. For example, a 2020 postulate in the city parliament triggered a declaration on the "Safe Haven".