Posted on 06 February 2007 by Gaffer

Well, if nothing is working for you, you can always try the last resort: Declare yourself a refugee.

In a way, you’ve sort of missed the boat — sorry, a tasteless analogy– with refugee status. Well, perhaps what used to be a luxury liner is now only a small yacht. Applying for refugee status was once a means to remain in Switzerland for years –decades even– while your pro bono lawyers laboriously dragged the case through the appeals process of the Swiss judiciary. And all the while living a comfortable life on public assistance. Unfortunately those says are coming to a close and the Swiss have finally decided they don’t want to pay for this anymore; laws have recently passed substantially tightening how refugees applicants are treated. The ultimate goal –though Switzerland may still be a few light years away from it– is to make Switzerland as attractive an asylum destination as Bangladesh. Currently, however, it’s perhaps on the same level as Germany, and the Authors believe many more fat years lie ahead.

So, first, it helps if you’ve been persecuted. When you arrive, look downtrodden and visibly persecuted. Also, the Swiss Authorities have run out of patience with the refugee applicant who has mysteriously swallowed his identity papers or speaks with an obviously phony Liberian accent. If you have marks you can show (burns, scars, perhaps a lude tattoo), and a colorful tale of hardship or –even better– cruel and arbitrary imprisonment, you are on your way to being treated seriously as an applicant for refugee status. Remember that the Swiss authorities have heard a lot of stories in their time and their credulity has been sorely tested over the years.

The definition itself of the word refugee is fairly restrictive and intends to distinguish between people who are truly fleeing persecution and those who are simply attracted to the high Swiss standard of living — what the milieux of politics and international aid now refer to as ‘economic migrants.’ To be blunt, the plenitude of material well-being to be found in Switzerland, while understandably desirable, unfortunately does not constitute a basis for your request for asylum– even if you are coming from a country where the most prevalent real-estate development is the

proliferation of the cardboard box. You must prove that, in your country of origin or your last country of residence, you have experienced a serious threat or well-founded fear of being persecuted by reason of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

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