Switzerland

Gimme Shelter

What is it like to be a refugee in a Swiss fallout shelter?

A legacy from the Cold War, public fallout shelters are scattered all over Switzerland. During last months, the number of political refugees in the country grew a lot, so dozens of those shelters, unused from many years, have been transformed in assistance infrastructures for them.

Many shelters are located in urban areas, others in little country villages, or in far away valleys. Some shelters host a few dozen refugees, others can welcome a few hundreds of them, and everyone of them must compulsorily leave the place in the morning to get back in the evening.

They can stay in the shelter for periods varying from a month to more than a year: the time needed to evaluate their asylum applications. Some refugees complain as in the shelters there are no windows, no fresh air and no privacy – sometimes those places are invaded by insects, too. But Swiss politicians always answer in the same way: “You’re right: nobody should live underground, like moles do. But that’s better than to sleep on the road”.

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