The images that have been reaching us from Ukraine for months are unbearable. The war – an attack on a democratic country – triggers a fundamental debate in this country. About neutrality, but also about Switzerland’s humanitarian tradition (zentralplus reported).
The latter may be a consolation for some. What is happening in Ukraine is terrible. But we are doing what we can to alleviate the suffering. We take in refugees. We take care of them. The Confederation pays CHF 1,500 per person per month to the cantons. There are also CHF 3,000 so that people can learn German and gain a foothold here.
That sounds good.
1,500 francs for each refugee – but not everyone benefits
But what of this actually reaches the refugees? In Lucerne, support is provided through asylum social assistance. The social service of the Asylum and Refugee Agency (DAF) is responsible for this. It takes a lot of time for the corresponding applications to be processed.
According to information from the canton, it currently takes three to four weeks from the time of registration to the interview. If the refugees then have all the necessary documents with them, things can go quickly. Otherwise the process will be lengthy. “During the waiting period, people in need will receive bridging assistance,” writes the DAF on request.
Those who have enough money to support themselves are not entitled to financial support. This is the case, for example, as long as a person still has 4,000 francs or more in their account. But anyone who thinks that the 1,500 francs that the federal government is making available to the cantons per person will actually benefit them to this extent is mistaken.
Living with 11.20 francs per day
Anyone who is accommodated as an individual in one of the mass accommodations in the canton of Lucerne receives around 342 francs per month. This is intended to cover the costs of food and drinks, clothes, shoes, telephone and much more. If you live with a host family, you get about 421 francs.
Means: The refugees get half of what is paid out to Swiss welfare recipients. Residents in Lucerne are entitled to 1,006 francs per month to cover so-called basic needs. Ukrainian women have to make do with 11.20 or 13.80 francs per day. No wonder Caritas shops are overrun, where discounted food is offered (zentralplus reported).
Big cantonal differences – again
Families receive even less. Father, mother, child: If you live in private accommodation in this constellation, you have to make do with CHF 11.70 per person per day. That equates to around CHF 1,071 a month for food and clothing – CHF 357 per person.
Remarkable: In the canton of Zug there are almost 20 percent more. Namely 1,241 francs for a family of three. The cantonal differences are huge. In Basel-Stadt there are 1,571 francs per month, as the “Sonntagszeitung” recently reported.
And according to the article, this amount is still around 10 to 15 percent below the minimum subsistence level that, according to the Swiss Social Welfare Conference (Skos), enables a “decent existence” (zentralplus reported).
Everyone gets 1,500 francs? By far not
The apartment rent and heating and ancillary costs are also covered. How high these costs may be varies from municipality to municipality. In the city of Lucerne, the costs must not be higher than those listed here.
This means that a family of three may not spend more than CHF 1,400 net on rent. Finding such an apartment is not easy in the city (zentralplus reported).
Furthermore, the asylum social assistance pays for the premium of a CSS standard health insurance. How high this is is individual. However, the amount cannot exceed 394 francs. If, in individual cases, there are still costs for glasses, prostheses or school materials, these are also covered by the asylum social assistance.
This means that financially supporting the family of three in the sample calculation costs the canton of Lucerne an impossible 1,500 per person per month (basic needs: 350, rent including incidentals: 606, health insurance: maximum 394). Adds up 1,350 francs.
Is the Canton of Lucerne self-funding?
So is the canton of Lucerne making a profit with the federal flat rate of CHF 1,500? And that at the expense of the refugees from Ukraine?
Christoph Heim, editor of the “Tages-Anzeiger”, recently accused the cantons of exactly that in an opinion piece: “It can’t be that the cantons are so stingy with refugee care that they take a considerable part of the federal funds of CHF 1,500 per Ukraine refugee and month into their own pockets,” he wrote. Is he right?
It should not be forgotten that accommodation in mass accommodation costs the canton even less than in the sample calculation – and Lucerne primarily relies on this (zentralplus reported). Furthermore, the canton of Lucerne also receives money for Ukrainian refugees with protection status S, who are not entitled to asylum social assistance and therefore do not cost the canton anything.
Refugees in Lucerne live below the subsistence level
However, the accusation cannot be substantiated because the canton of Lucerne does not publish any figures on this. The Asylum and Refugee Agency (DAF) does not answer how much money he currently spends on average per month for a Ukrainian refugee – and how these costs are made up. “So far we have not collected any key figures in this regard,” it says on request. This is only possible at a later date, when all invoices are available.
One thing is clear: the authorities in Lucerne are doing a tremendous job to cope with the influx of refugees (zentralplus reported). Accommodation has to be organised, applications processed and refugees cared for. All this costs.
It is therefore unfair to accuse the canton of enriching itself from the suffering of Ukrainian women. Just as wrong is the idea that the refugees lack nothing and that they get 1,500 francs a month. It’s far less. Barely enough to live on.
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