Humanitarian visas for Afghan women who have fled their country

At the initiative of Mr Alfonso Gomez, Mayor of the City of Geneva, a call has been issued to Ms Elisabeth Baume-Schneider and the entire Federal Council to grant humanitarian visas to all Afghan women who have fled their country. Public figures in Geneva, including Ruth Dreifuss and Micheline Calmy-Rey, former Presidents of the Confederation, and all the members of the Executive Council have already signed the petition.

With the return to power of the Taliban in Kabul in 2021 and the increasing repression of the mullahs with regard to women, several thousand Afghan women have fled to neighbouring countries. They are not, however, safe there and are desperately attempting to obtain humanitarian visas.

Only Sweden and Denmark systematically grant asylum to Afghan women and girls due to the dangers they face pursuant to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, signed in Geneva in 1951.

Switzerland can and must take similar action and grant humanitarian visas on the basis of clear and transparent criteria. Over the past two years, 2,183 requests have been submitted by Afghan citizens, with 135 having been accepted (76 for female applicants and 59 for male applicants). This represents an acceptance rate of just over 6%.

A petition to the Federal Council 

The petition, initiated by Alfonso Gomez, Mayor of the City of Geneva, follows a number of unsuccessful attempts (submission of texts in Bern, letters sent to the Executive Council, etc.) to change the stance adopted by the Federal Council. The latter in particular refuses to grant visas to women who were employed by NGOs financed by the Canton or the City of Geneva, but not directly by the Swiss Confederation.

This is the case of Malalai H., whose dramatic situation has been reported by several media. She spent almost 20 years working for Swiss NGOs promoting and protecting human rights, with head offices located in Zug and Geneva. She put her own life in danger to save other and is now in urgent need of protection.

More generally speaking, the aim of the petition is to make the Federal Council aware of the destiny of the numerous women who have fled Afghanistan. Taking refuge in neighbouring countries, sometimes with children and living in abject poverty, they are exposed to the worst forms of trafficking.

Support from local personalities

Building on the article published in Le Monde on 21 April, this petition is currently supported by local personalities, including:

  • Ms Ruth Dreifuss and Ms Micheline Calmy-Rey, former Presidents of the Confederation,
  • all the members of the Executive Council of the City of Geneva,
  • elected representatives from Geneva in Bern,
  • members of the Grand Council,
  • members of the City’s Municipal Council,
  • representatives of NGOs, associations and the civil society,
  • Maryam Yunus-Ebner, Executive Councillor in Onex and a former Afghan political refugee, and Leyla Ahmari, candidate for the National Council and a former Iranian refugee.

“With a terrible drama playing out in Afghanistan, Switzerland must prove itself worthy of its humanitarian tradition and increase its involvement. The Confederation must also grant greater latitude to the cantons, cities and municipalities wishing to welcome refugees. Furthermore, the City of Geneva is part of the Alliance of cities and municipalities committed to strengthening this mechanism,” states Alfonso Gomez.

A petition open to all

To offer everyone the chance to support Afghan women and demand that the Federal Council take action, the petition is open for all to sign on the platform: 

It will also be sent to the members of the Swiss cities and cantons, the members of the Federal Assembly and personalities active in the fields of asylum, migration, culture and human rights in general.

Article modifié le 31.08.2023 à 10:06