A recent study by the Swiss state secretariat for migrants estimates that there are 76,000 illegal immigrants (known as sans-papiers) living in Switzerland, of whom 43 per cent come from South and Central America.
Other sources estimate that there are as many as between 50,000 and 300,000 illegal migrants living in Switzerland. Most of them live and work in the urban centres, and 70 per cent of them are women, primarily working as domestic workers to support their families in their country of origin and to cover their own survival needs in Switzerland.
The fear of being reported to the authorities and deported forces them to live in hiding and it is very difficult to obtain information about this population, as well as to provide them with information. Psychological pressure, culture shock, a lack of job security and a widespread feeling of vulnerability make these people very fragile, both in terms of their health and their social position.
Entraide Protestante Suisse (also known as Swiss Church Aid or EPER) works to raise awareness of and connect these immigrants to existing services. It aims to provide better access to healthcare and improve living conditions. It also provides information, counselling and guidance. Specific services include conferences and debates, confidential interviews and community actions such as artistic, cultural or training projects to enhance migrants’ skills. All of its activities are offered free of charge.
To find out more about the work of Entraide Protestante Suisse, visit its website (https://www.heks.ch/en/).