Switzerland's foreign policy on migration: coherence for development

Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga in Sri Lanka.
Switzerland's migration partnership with Sri Lanka aims to strengthen human rights and creates prospects for young local generations by providing vocational skills development. ©FDJP

Migration is a complex phenomenon, which is why an effective foreign policy on migration deploys a range of different tools. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is part of the interdepartmental structure for international cooperation on migration and uses its experience to help meet Switzerland's foreign policy objectives on migration. It takes part in implementing migration partnerships through programmes it has developed with the involved countries. The SDC is committed to better migration management which builds on the economic, social and cultural opportunities arising from migration, and alleviates the associated suffering.

The SDC's focus

Managing migration effectively requires a variety of actors to work together in order to meet the diverse challenges involved. That is why Switzerland has for many years taken a whole-of-government approach in its migration policy (interdepartmental structure for international cooperation on migration or ICM structure).

The SDC's role in the ICM structure is to focus in particular on the link between migration and development, and on the SDC's operational experience.

Interdepartmental structure for international cooperation on migration

The interdepartmental structure for international cooperation on migration (ICM structure), which was created by the Federal Council in February 2011, brings together key units from the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) and the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP). The structure ensures that activities related to Switzerland's foreign policy on migration are coordinated both at the strategic and operational level.

Interdepartmental structure for international cooperation on migration, SEM

Ensuring a common approach

The SDC works to ensure that its field experience and the international dialogue on migration are reflected in Switzerland's national debate on migration. It also supports reinforcing the coherence between migration policy and development policy, a principle which it implements in its own programmes.

Migration partnerships

In addition, the SDC contributes to the implementation of migration partnerships by developing programmes in Switzerland's partner countries. Such programmes have existed for more than ten years in Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Nigeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo.

Migration partnerships help strengthen the coherence and effectiveness of Switzerland's foreign policy on migration. They also facilitate constructive approaches to the challenges of migration, as well as how to exploit the opportunities it affords.

Background

Global migration has changed considerably in recent years. In fact, it has been diversified and globalised by increased mobility and access to information and the media. Although the underlying causes of migration – poverty, war, human rights violations, economic crises and climate change – remain basically unchanged, the scale and global implications of migration have made it more complex. This situation gives Switzerland new opportunities but also presents it with new challenges.

In response, Switzerland's foreign policy on migration is based on three basic principles:

  • A global approach to migration:
    migration is a global phenomenon that creates both risks and opportunities.
  • A partnership approach:
    the risks and opportunities generated by migration apply to the countries of origin, transit and destination.
  • A whole-of-government approach:
    in the area of migration, coherent action between the different departments of the Federal Administration is required.

Against this backdrop, Swiss development cooperation has done much to help address global migration. In the short term, Switzerland's development cooperation activities can contribute to mitigate the causes of forced displacement. In the medium term, its efforts in this area contribute to an increasingly regular and safe migration, as well as to improving the integration of forcibly displaced people in host countries in their region of origin. In the long term, Swiss development cooperation can contribute to the causes of irregular migration in a sustainable way, providing local people with prospects in their own countries and fighting the root causes of displacement through prevention work and strengthening governance in partner countries.

Implementation in Africa

The Horn of Africa is one of the world's regions with the highest levels of displacement. Switzerland has been working to protect refugees in the region for more than 20 years. It set up a strategic partnership with the only regional organisation in the Horn of Africa, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). IGAD covers eight countries with a combined population of more than 280 million people.

Switzerland's support is both financial and technical (via a seconded expert) as well as political, and enables the eight countries in the region to improve their national and regional management of migration. It strengthens the countries' response to displacement caused by climate change-related disasters and facilitates mobility for migrants in the region by giving them employment prospects in the region. A protected migrant with a job can make a positive contribution to the development of their family, community, host country and country of origin.  

This strategic partnership is the first initiative co-financed by the three main actors in the Federal Administration working in the area of migration – the SDC, the FDFA's Human Security Division (HSD) and the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). It allows Switzerland to conduct a dialogue on migration with the eight countries in the Horn of Africa, which also takes into account Switzerland's foreign and domestic policy interests.

Current projects

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Migration for social well-being and economic development in Sri Lanka

Family members excitedly examine their travel documents

01.03.2016 - 29.02.2020

Every year, large numbers of Sri Lankans leave their country to work abroad for a few years, usually in the Gulf States. They thereby further Sri Lanka's economic development but at the same time risk having their basic human rights, and their labour rights in particular, violated. That is why the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is working for the establishment of a framework that ensures decent working conditions for migrant workers in the region.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Sri Lanka
Migration
Labour migration
Migration generally (development aspects and partnerships)

01.03.2016 - 29.02.2020


CHF 6'850'000



Ashshash: for men and women who have escaped trafficking

01.10.2022 - 28.02.2029

20,000 people (of whom 70% women) who have experienced trafficking will be economically and socially rehabilitated. Public and private institutions will provide employment or in-kind support for entrepreneurship to men and women who have escaped trafficking. The Government will better address the prevention of trafficking, protection of victims, prosecution of traffickers in the revision and enacting of policies, and create partnerships, for bringing about systemic changes.


Building Regional and National capacities for improved Migration Governance in the IGAD Region

01.01.2022 - 31.08.2027

The Horn of Africa is of high interest for Switzerland in terms of migration policy. Swiss support to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and its Member States will contribute to improve their migration governance capacities so as to enable the organisation to effectively implement regional, continental and global regulatory standards for the protection of refugees and vulnerable migrants in the region.


Strengthening regional cooperation on migration in the Western Balkans

01.01.2020 - 31.12.2027

In light of diversifying migration patterns and challenges with increasing regional dimensions, the migration policy priorities of Western Balkan governments are changing and the relevance of regional dialogue, coordination and cooperation is growing. This proposal seeks to promote coherent and effective regional governance of migration in all its multifaceted dimensions contributing to greater social cohesion and regional integration in the Western Balkans.


The "Bosnia i Herzegovina"-Platform

01.01.2020 - 31.12.2025

The Bosnia i Herzegovina Platform (BiH) is an initiative of diaspora associations that are already involved in development activities. The platform will enhance cooperation and strengthen the diaspora associations’ role as development actors. SDC aims at promoting the potential of migrants for sustainable development mainly through improved framework conditions. The permanent platform as an effective and dynamic network will set the grounds for competent coordination services to diaspora organizations, to the country of destination and to the country of origin.


Enhance employability of migrants in Urban Cairo

01.07.2019 - 31.08.2022

Food-processing and the food service sector is ranked as Egypt’s second largest manufacturing industry This project supports the employability of vulnerable Egyptians and migrants, especially women, in the food sector.


Contributions to OCHA Field Operations in 2019

01.01.2019 - 31.12.2019

OCHA’s mission is to coordinate the global emergency response, to save lives and protect people in humanitarian crises. OCHA advocates for effective and principled humanitarian action by all, for all, in partnership with national and international actors in order to alleviate human suffering in sudden-onset disasters and protracted crises. It is responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent and timely response to emergencies. Therefore, SDC seeks to provide support to OCHA field and regional offices in relevant humanitarian contexts, in line with SDC geographic and thematic priorities.


Application of Migration Policy for Decent Work of Migrant Workers

01.01.2019 - 31.12.2021

Men and women who opt for migrating abroad for employment will benefit from better protection through pre-departure orientation, the application of international standard contracts and access to social security/welfare. The project will improve migration governance in Bangladesh by strengthening the rather weak policy and legislative framework and by building the capacity of the government to expand and improve services for migrant workers.


Return and Reintegration of Migrant Workers in Bangladesh

01.01.2019 - 30.06.2021

The project’s over-arching goal is to make reintegration economically and socially sustainable for returnee migrants, so that they do not feel obliged to re-migrate. The project will raise awareness of the obstacles returnee men and women migrants are facing. The collaboration with European partners will allow to influence the discourse on dignified and development-oriented migration and return in Bangladesh


Ethiopia, IOM - Durable Solutions

10.12.2018 - 09.12.2019

Ethiopia has about 2.1 million internally displaced people (IDPs) mainly due to conflict, drought and flood. Addressing the needs of IDPs has been limited to meeting their short-term humanitarian needs. Given the prolonged economic, social, and gender impacts of displacement on individuals, there is a critical need for longer-term solutions. Switzerland will contribute through IOM to address the long-term needs of the displaced and host communities in their search for self-sufficiency.


Egyptian Red Crescent: Providing primary health care services to migrants and Egyptians in Greater Cairo

01.12.2018 - 30.11.2020

Access to public primary health care for migrants and Egyptians is a serious challenge. By the means of two “Mobile Clinics”, the project will answer to immediate medical needs of migrants and Egyptians in Greater Cairo. Advocacy on protection and health issues among decision makers will contribute to filling the gaps in service delivery. Thanks to its experience and ongoing engagement in health and protection in Egypt, Switzerland is well placed to provide early recovery and self-resilience interventions.


Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD)

01.12.2018 - 31.08.2024

Migration is one of the 21st century’s defining features that significantly impacts economic and social development. It is thus crucial to ensure that the positive effects of migration on development are maximized, while the negative ones minimized. This is only possible if reliable evidence on migration and its interrelations with development is available. KNOMAD generates ground-breaking research and policy recommendations in the field of M&D. Switzerland has taken a lead in building-up KNOMAD as a pioneering knowledge initiative.

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