Hundreds of Ukrainians lined up for food distributions in central Zurich on Saturday as wealthy Switzerland struggles to cope with the arrival of around 40,000 refugees since Russia invaded Ukraine end of February.
Refugees in official housing receive financial assistance from the state, although this is often not enough to live in a country with some of the highest costs of living in the world. Those staying with private host families – around half of arrivals, authorities say – fall completely through the cracks of the welfare system. Charities in Switzerland say many Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion turned to them for food, clothing and medical care, as evidenced by the long queue outside a charity food bank from Zurich on Saturday.
Among the people lined up outside an Essen fuer Alle (food for all) food distribution center along the train tracks were Kristina and her 7-year-old daughter who arrived from Kyiv on March 3 to stay with a family friend Ukrainian in Zurich. “We come here to get food because we need it,” said Kristina, 42, who did not give her last name. “Our volunteer (host) can’t give food every time. She’s tired and she doesn’t have too much money either.”
Ariane Stocklin of the incontro Christian aid project told Reuters hers is a common story. “Some refugees are staying with families who can no longer afford their food. Others are in asylum centers, where there is not enough food. We are seeing high demand,” Stocklin said.
Even before the Ukrainian crisis, the social benefits paid to refugees were not enough to live in certain regions of Switzerland. Voters in Zurich decided in 2017 to cut welfare benefits for refugees to around 500 Swiss francs ($522) a month, 30% below standard welfare levels.
Heike Isselhorst, spokesperson for Zurich’s social services department, said those in the authorities’ accommodation had basic needs covered. However, there was no procedure to help refugees staying with host families, she said.
Gaby Szoelloesy, who coordinates cantonal social services, this week apologized to foster families who feel neglected. “But it’s just very, very difficult if we don’t even know the host family’s commitment because it hasn’t gone through official channels,” she told a conference. Press.
Although the government has taken the unusual step of allowing Ukrainian refugees to apply for temporary residence and work permits, this does little to meet the current needs of struggling refugees staying with host families. A Ukrainian refugee named Anna, 38, arrived in the Zurich suburb of Winterthur at the end of February with her two young children and her mother. They live in a friend’s parents’ apartment.
“We slept in a refugee center when we arrived, but it was not a good place for the children, no privacy, no good food. They even searched us every time we came back from school. outdoors,” she said. ($1 = 0.9571 Swiss francs)
(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)