General Entry - Emerging Talent Awards
Project info

In July 2013 I began a long-term project documenting the daily lives of asylum seekers in asylum centres in the canton of Geneva.

The aim of this project is to give an insight into the lives of these asylum seekers. I hope that the project will also give them a voice.

Asylum seekers exist on the threshold of normal life while their refugee claim is being decided. The asylum procedure can take anything between several months to a few years to be resolved. Although they are safe, they have limited freedom and their futures are uncertain. Dealing with the inactivity and the tedium of waiting can also take its toll. Living conditions are adequate but cramped and with little privacy. Most of the residents also struggle with a language barrier. Many suffer from long-term psychological and physical damage caused by the violence and persecution that they endured in their countries of origin.

Lengthy asylum procedures prolong uncertainty for asylum-seekers and are costly for the state, yet rushed decisions could put people in need of protection at risk. The challenge of a good asylum system is to balance speed with quality.

Despite the controversy surrounding recently tightened asylum restrictions in Switzerland, the country has a long tradition of generosity towards asylum seekers. Switzerland’s proportion of refugees per head of population is twice the European average. At the end of 2012 there were at least 50,000 people with official refugee status, as well as 22,000 registered asylum seekers in Switzerland, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The two centres are familiarisation and socialisation centres. The residents stay on average 6 months in the centres. They are given French lessons and help with learning how to set up and maintain their lodgings and they are taught about life in Switzerland. They are given a budget with which to purchase their food and other basic needs. They are provided with healthcare and the children of school