Despite attacks: thousands already returned to Ukraine

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Around 65,000 people seeking protection from Ukraine are currently living in Switzerland with what is known as the S status. While their numbers rose sharply at the beginning of the war, they have now been relatively stable for months. This is also due to the fact that the front lines hardly ever shift during the war.

There are now more and more refugees who want to return, despite the winter and ongoing attacks on civilian infrastructure.

Protection granted and revoked for Ukrainian refugees

Return: «Registrations practically every day»

Lea Meier advises refugees who want to return at the church contact point for refugee issues in Bern. Return counseling has a federal mandate. “We have applications almost every day,” says Meier, Ukraine has been gaining in importance since last summer.

Anyone who registers for return counseling will receive information, among other things, a ticket for the journey home and financial support of CHF 500 for adults and CHF 250 for children.
Ukrainian refugees at an information event in Murten (BE).

The offer is also in demand because the number of return trips is increasing. Since September – with one exception – the status S has been terminated well over a thousand times a month. This is usually because those affected are leaving Switzerland.

Grants of protection inventory

Switzerland is approaching the tipping point

Because at the same time the number of new S statuses has fallen, Switzerland is slowly approaching a tipping point. “If the Russian side does not make any further gains, one could assume that towards the summer more people will leave Switzerland than apply for protection,” explains a spokesman for the State Secretariat for Migration SEM.

 If the Russian side does not gain any more territory, one could assume that towards the summer more people will leave Switzerland than apply for protection.

Overall, status S has been revoked for 8,800 people since the beginning of the war. About a quarter of those affected made use of the return counseling service. “We inform you that you should deregister with the municipality,” says return counselor Meier. Practical questions such as canceling a mobile phone subscription would also be clarified.

However, by no means all those affected officially deregister when they leave Switzerland. Sometimes the communities only find out that the refugees have left when they no longer receive social assistance or the children no longer show up at school, according to the SEM.

 A young woman in my counseling service wanted to continue her education in the Ukraine.
 Author: Lea Meier Return Advisor

According to Meier, those who are already traveling back often go to areas that are relatively far away from the front. And whoever is leaving now has good reasons. “A young woman in my consulting department wanted to continue her education in Ukraine.” A mother with two children also received advice. In addition to homesickness, an impending job loss in Ukraine also led to the decision to return.

Andrei Lushnicky, president of the Ukrainian association in Switzerland and honorary consul of his country, agrees. Most of them wanted to go back at some point, but those who are already leaving often see only two bad options: stay or return.

Timing «not ideal»

“There is also frustration among some who are here. You feel far away from home,” says Lushnicky. In addition, only about 15 percent of refugees from Ukraine found work in Switzerland. “It may be that these people want their old lives back.”

However, the timing for this is “not ideal,” says Lushnicky. Winter has only just begun. The unreliable supply of water, electricity and heating, plus the Russian attacks: All of this is currently making it very difficult to return.

Source: SRF News