“I have time and space”: how to help refugees?

Nearly 9,000 refugees from Ukraine had already been registered by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) as of Friday. A total of 3 million people have already left the country, and the Federal Council estimates that up to 60,000 could come to Switzerland.

Faced with the influx of people fleeing the war, many people want to help by offering accommodation, donating their time or money. But associations and institutions warn: before getting involved, you need to be sure that you can maintain this commitment over time, as these people need stability.

offer hosting

Some refugees have acquaintances who can accommodate them. For others, reception centers have limited capacity. At national level, the Swiss Organization for Aid to Refugees (OSAR) coordinates the care of refugees in private homes, together with the cantons. Thus, it is possible to register as a host family using an online form. This form is the same as the one available on the website of the German-speaking organization Campax. It also allows offering accommodation in professional structures, such as a hotel, for example.

Read too: Vaud is looking for thousands of places to house Ukrainian refugees

However, before registering, you must make sure that you can provide at least a separate bedroom, or ideally a bedroom that can be locked, to ensure the refugees’ privacy, the OSAR insists. She also points out that you need to be ready to commit for at least a three-month period. Even if free hosting is not an obligation, however, it is advisable to notify your management if you are a tenant.

Once the accommodation offer is online, if one or more people have a matching profile, the hosts are contacted by a local partner organization for the connection. The OSAR warns that, given the number of offers, the processing of files may take time. So far, 61,062 beds have been provided by 26,795 host families, the organization says. Added to this are 23,505 hotel beds, according to Campax.

It is also possible to denounce or propose the provision of housing at the cantonal level. In Geneva, email addresses are available to offer an apartment (AMIG@hospicegeneral.ch) or hotel accommodation (Ukraine-hotel@hospicegeneral.ch). In the canton of Vaud, you must contact the Waldensian migrant reception establishment (HPlacement@evam.ch), in the Jura at the Jura Association for the Reception of Migrants (ukraine@ajam.ch) and, in Neuchâtel, the Migration Service (SMIG) analyzes the proposals through a hotline (by email, preferably, SMIG.Ukraine@ne.chor by phone 032 889 63 11).

In the canton of Fribourg, the association Osons l’accueil manages the application form, in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Affairs. In Valais, the cantonal authorities on Thursday launched an appeal to the population to find individual or collective accommodation infrastructure. A desk responsible for receiving proposals was created. He can be contacted at the address mutual aid2022valais@admin.vs.ch and by phone 027 606 48 74 or 079 765 70 95.

give your time

Another way to help host refugees is to volunteer. The essential point proposed is to obtain information before wanting to initiate an action, to avoid redundancies and dispersion of forces, which must, once again, be part of the long term.

“We recommend that people who want to help organize themselves at the local level, at the municipal level, group and coordinate volunteer offers”, specifies Eliane Engeler, spokesperson for OSAR. The organization recommends, among other things, the creation of an online communication platform that allows for exchanges between the people involved, the creation of a list of volunteers or even the organization of a meeting point, such as a café, for refugees and residents. .

Read too: Swiss asylum in fighting order

One of the main needs expressed today is the search for people capable of translating from Russian or Ukrainian to facilitate exchanges with refugees. This is the case, for example, of Campax, Caritas Switzerland in the canton of Fribourg or the Red Cross in Geneva.

The needs are many. The Red Cross thus lists activities such as accompanying medical appointments, sorting donations, administrative support, etc. In Geneva, it is also possible to make yourself known to Genève Bénévolat using a form that allows you to distribute forces according to different needs.

make a donation

For those who wish, it is also possible to donate a sum of money to these different initiatives. OSAR and Campax, for example, need donations to make their foster family system work. It is also possible to donate to organizations such as the Red Cross, Caritas or Chaîne du bonheur. As with volunteering, this list is far from exhaustive.

On the other hand, with regard to in-kind donations, some organizations such as Caritas or the Red Cross ask for abstention. Separating them and transporting them to Ukraine requires significant logistical resources and is expensive, which makes aid less effective. The DETI association, supported by the Ukrainian Embassy in Switzerland, continues to collect medical equipment for shipment to Ukraine. She especially indicates looking for tourniquets or pain relievers.

Read again: “All war refugees must be treated equally”

Basic necessities collections can be arranged for refugees arriving in Switzerland, but most organizations have closed their collection points for the time being. The solidarity impulse must continue over time, they say. Some, like the OSAR, also point out that problems of reception and mutual aid continue to arise for other refugees, mainly from Afghanistan.

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