Switzerland’s federal justice minister Simonetta Sommaruga
Switzerland has accepted 19 North African refugees from Malta, Berne's Justice Minister Simonetta Sommeruga told Swiss radio today.
Although the refugees arrived in Switzerland in April, their presence has not been made public until today.
Switzerland's acceptance of the refugees is part of a European Union program known as 'Eurema', whose goal is to distribute North African refugees from Malta among European countries.
Switzerland agreed to take a share of the refugees in need even though it is not part of the European Union "out of solidarity with Malta", according to the Swiss Federal Migration Office.
The refugees were originally from Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan and were specifically selected to go to Switzerland.
Eleven of them had relatives in Switzerland and were brought to live near them. One was settled in Liechtenstein, while the rest were distributed in various Swiss cantons.
Switzerland assumed all of the travel costs for the refugees, who entered the country not as asylum seekers but with refugee status under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
However, the UN agency has emphasised that because these refugees entered Switzerland as part of the Eurema initiative, their relocation was not part of the formal UNHCR resettlement programme.