African immigrants to Switzerland

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African immigrants to Switzerland include Swiss residents, both Swiss citizens and foreign nationals, who have migrated to Switzerland from Africa. The number has quintupled over the period of 1980 to 2007, with an average growth rate of 6% per annum (doubling time 12 years). According to official Swiss population statistics, 73,553 foreigners with African nationality lived in Switzerland as of 2009 (0.9% of total population, or 4.3% of resident foreigners — this data excludes immigrants with African ancestry coming from other parts of the world: Dominican Republic, Brazil, United States, Cuba etc.).[1] Since the census records nationality, not ethnic origin, there is no official estimate of the number of naturalized Swiss citizens from Africa.


Of the 73,553 African nationals recorded in 2007, 78% were considered permanent residents in Switzerland (including recognized refugees, accounting for about 8%), while the remaining 22% were asylum seekers.[2]

Permanent residents with African nationalities, organized by region of origin:

year 1980 1990 2000 2009
North Africa 6,205 10,905 15,469 20,415
East Africa 1,597 3,137 7,111 12,636
Central Africa 860 3,044 7,409 11,976
West Africa 1,390 2,601 6,488 10,842
Southern Africa 487 604 1,141 1,835
total 10,539 20,291 37,618 57,704

The largest group of residents of North African origin are from Morocco.[3] The above-average increase of residents from Central Africa is due to immigration from Angola, Cameroon and Congo (Brazzaville). Unofficial estimates exist for a number of African nations. For example, an estimated 1,500 people of Cape Verdean descent lived in Switzerland as of 1995.[4]

Zentrum für Migrationskirchen (literally: Centre for migration churches) comprises eight Protestant churches from four continents, situated in the former church hall of the Evangelical Reformed Church of the Canton of Zürich in Zürich-Wipkingen, being a unique centre in Switzerland for the so-called migration churches, among them one community from Nigeria and one church from the Republic of Congo.[5][6]

Asylum seekers[edit]

A third of Africans residing in Switzerland are asylum seekers. An additional unknown number have stayed in Switzerland as sans papiers after they were refused asylum.

There was a steep surge of asylum requests from Eritrea and Nigerians in 2009. In April 2010, the director of the Federal Office for Migration (BFM), Alard du Bois-Reymond, issued a statement on the large number of unfounded requests for asylum by nationals of Nigeria in particular. Du Bois-Reymond said that 99.5% of asylum seekers of Nigerian origin were criminals abusing the asylum system, entering Switzerland with the intention of pursuing petty crime and drug dealing.[7] The Nigerian ambassador to Switzerland, Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi, objected to du Boi-Reymond's statement as an undue generalization.[8]

The question of repatriation is regularly raised in Swiss politics in the context of immigrant criminality, e.g. in the case of a crime wave that was led mainly by Algerians in Geneva's Pâquis district, or in the case of Nigerian organized crime on a nationwide scale. Switzerland has several repatriation agreements with African states, with Algeria since 2006, which has however been stalled due to a refusal to ratify additional protocols on the part of Algeria.

Switzerland has signed a technical agreement on re-admittance in the case of repatriation of rejected asylum seekers with four African countries, Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea and Sierra Leone.[9] There is also a repatriation agreement with Nigeria, but this was suspended by Nigeria following the death of a Nigerian citizen during forced repatriation in March 2010.[10]

Notable people[edit]

Notable Swiss people of African origin are found mostly in sports, especially football, e.g. José Gonçalves, Gelson Fernandes, Gilberto Reis, Oumar Kondé, Bruce Lalombongo, Enes Fermino, Badile Lubamba, Hervé Makuka, Mobulu M'Futi, Ugor Nganga, Blaise Nkufo, Cédric Tsimba, Johan Djourou, Owusu Benson, Richmond Rak, Kim Jaggy. The first Swiss ever to play in the NBA, Thabo Sefolosha, is the Swiss-born son of a black South African immigrant and Roger Federer, son of South African (Afrikaner) mother and Swiss father. In the music Negatif, Dezmond Dez, M.A.M, Dynamike, Mark Sway, Fabienne Louve,

Ricardo Lumengo, originally of Angola, is notable as the second black politician to be elected to the Swiss National Council (Swiss federal election, 2007).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ausländerinnen und Ausländer in der Schweiz - Bericht 2008 (German) Archived 2013-08-02 at the Wayback Machine. (1196 KiB), Swiss Federal Statistical Office, page 72. Wohnbevölkerung nach Geschlecht und detaillierter Staatsangehörigkeit Archived 2012-10-16 at the Wayback Machine., Federal Statistical Office Archived 2011-06-12 at the Wayback Machine..
  2. ^ A total of 30% had residence status N (asylum seeker) or F (refugee) as of 2007. Federal Office of Statistics, p. 14.
  3. ^ "Federal Office of Statistics". Archived from the original on 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
  4. ^ 1995 Cape Verdean Diaspora Population Estimates Archived 2009-08-29 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Michael Meier (2014-12-23). "Sie wollen uns den Glauben zurückbringen" (in German). Tages-Anzeiger. Retrieved 2014-12-25.
  6. ^ Matthias Scharrer (2014-11-14). "Dinah Hess: "Alle haben ihre Eigenarten –aber alles gehört zusammen"" (in German). Limmattaler Zeitung. Retrieved 2014-12-25.
  7. ^ Task-Force gegen Asylmissbrauch 11 April 2010.
  8. ^ Nigerianischer Botschafter verlangt Aussprache mit Schweizer Bundesamtschef 29 April 2010; [1] NZZ 29 April 2010.
  9. ^ Refugee repatriation debate rears its head 4 March 2010.
  10. ^ Nigeria setzt Ausschaffung faktisch ausser Kraft 16 April 2010.

External links[edit]