The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Justice Minister Jans wants to take a pragmatic approach to the asylum system

Reducing the backlog of pending asylum applications, bringing more refugees into the job market, combating domestic violence and wage discrimination: after almost 100 days in office, the new SP Federal Councillor Beat Jans has presented his political priorities. He advocates cooperation and takes a pragmatic approach.

The new Minister of Justice wants to base his work on the guiding principle "Together it's better". Switzerland thrives on the willingness of political forces to work together, Jans told the media in Bern on Tuesday. "Only this willingness has brought us security and freedom."

"That's too much"

The Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) is a department with its finger on the pulse, said Jans. "Many threads come together here, many topics shape the everyday lives of people in our country." In his tour d'horizon of his upcoming work, Jans sees himself as "Minister of Migration, Minister of Police and Minister of Justice".

He wants to tackle the mountain of pending asylum applications. "When I took office on January 1, we had over 15,000 pending applications," he said. "That's too many." After the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) hired an additional 200 people last year to process applications, a further 60 people are to be employed on a temporary basis this year.

Jans was convinced that this investment was worthwhile. The asylum seekers would know more quickly where they stood and could integrate better. This saves social costs.

In response to a journalist's question, he cited the reduction of positions at the SEM at times when there were fewer asylum applications as a mistake. When the number of applications rose again, there was a lack of staff to deal with them. The number of pending applications increased accordingly.

Faster procedure coming

Jans also hopes that the 24-hour asylum procedure will provide relief. The aim is for people with little prospect of asylum to submit fewer asylum applications in Switzerland. In Zurich, where a pilot project has been running since November 2023, the number of applications from people from Maghreb countries has fallen by 70 percent. The 24-hour procedure is to be introduced nationwide in the coming weeks.

Asylum accommodation is likely to be heavily occupied in 2024 - for the third year in a row. The "low" scenario assumes around 22,000 new applications, the medium scenario around 30,000 and the "high" scenario up to around 40,000 applications - not including asylum seekers from Ukraine. It can be assumed that most applications will be submitted in the second half of the year.

"We are staying tuned"

Repatriation agreements with countries of origin are also important to Jans. In the case of Eritrea, this is difficult because the East African country refuses to sign agreements. "We'll keep at it," said Jans. The Council of States has tabled a motion calling for Eritreans to be deported to a third country. The National Council has so far rejected this.

The integration of refugees into the job market and thus the use of untapped potential is also on Jans' agenda. In May, he intends to propose measures to the Federal Council and focus on cooperation with the private sector. Of Ukrainians with protection status S, 22% currently have a job in Switzerland - the target is 40%.

Adapt Victim Assistance Act

Jans is also focusing on the safety of women in Switzerland. In 2022, the police registered 19,000 cases of domestic violence, more than traffic accidents. Victims must have easy access to help. This amendment to the Victim Assistance Act requested by Parliament is to be submitted for consultation this year.

The new Minister of Justice also has his eye on women's wages. The fact that women still earn significantly less than men "is and remains a scandal and violates the constitution", he said.

For Jans, the legally prescribed equal pay analyses are not the end of the matter. In a year's time, an interim report will be drawn up to assess whether the current regulations are sufficient or whether they need to be tightened up.

Beat Jans, 59, from Basel, is the successor to Alain Berset and has been Minister of Justice since January 1. According to a survey published in March by Tamedia and "20 Minuten", he is currently the most popular member of the Federal Council.

©Keystone/SDA

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