The SDC is committed to quality education, also and especially in times of crisis
The corona pandemic is a multi-crisis that knows no national borders. However, the current epidemiological situation allows Switzerland to open its borders with the EU/EFTA states and the United Kingdom. At the same time, it providing urgently needed aid in developing countries that are particularly affected by health, economic and social consequences. Updates will be published regularly.
Especially young women and men face serious implications if schools are closed in times of crisis, thereby denying them access to education. © UN Photo / Marco Dormino
Action by the Federal Council, Departments and Federal Offices
23.06.2020 – 17.30
Call to Action and Global Monitoring Report on Education: SDC commits to quality education
The Covid-19 pandemic reinforces the challenge of a collective commitment to quality education everywhere and for all. As a major health crisis, it destabilizes education systems in many countries. Schools have closed down massively, leaving some 1.6 billion learners in difficult circumstances. In countries already in crisis before the virus arrived, the toll is even heavier. Crises, be they economic, political, social, health or natural, have a devastating effect on education systems. Millions of children, especially vulnerable ones, refugee and migrant children, are left without education because of school closures. This disruption is likely to have negative effects on their future prospects, health and protection. There is an rising risk of increased school drop-out, child labour, sexual violence – progress in education and UN program SDG4 made in recent years is at risk. Switzerland is committed to limiting the impact of crises on education. In this period of COVID-19, together with partner organisations, it has launched a call for action addressed to the international community and aimed at strengthening education in emergency situations. (Read more).
Switzerland has long been committed to the universal mandate of quality education for all. Already because it is a fundamental human right. But also because it is the fourth objective of Agenda 2030 that the UN has set for the international community, including Switzerland. Switzerland participates in the development of global conventions, initiatives, reports and processes through intensive multilateral cooperation. The Global Monitoring Report on Education, prepared by UNESCO with the support of Switzerland, is one of the indicators for monitoring global progress. The 2020 edition, released on Tuesday, reminds countries to focus on those who are being left behind and to make progress towards inclusion in education in order to achieve Goal 4. (Read more).
19.06.2020 – 18.00
FDFA ensures the continuity of Swiss foreign offices
In order for Switzerland to be able to protect its interests abroad and to be accessible to Swiss nationals living or staying abroad, it needs a functioning external network. In dealing with the COVID 19 crisis, it has been shown that such a network is worthwhile. For example, under the direction of the FDFA headquarters in Bern, the Swiss representations abroad have carried out the FDFA's recall operation. This made it possible to bring more than 7000 people back to Switzerland, including 4200 Swiss travellers who were stuck abroad because of the coronavirus pandemic, were returned to Switzerland.
An important factor in ensuring that the Swiss representations abroad remain capable of acting is the regular transfer of staff and ensuring their continued viability, particularly in contexts where health care and the security situation cannot be guaranteed due to COVID-19. The Swiss offices are therefore always staffed to fulfil their roles and provide services. In addition, the FDFA, as an employer, wishes to guarantee its duty of care.
Many Swiss representations in difficult contexts abroad cannot be reached by commercial means
However, the consequences of COVID-19 make it more difficult to carry out the transfers and other important personnel relocations. Although airlines are once again selling tickets, flights are still cancelled due to lack of demand and regulatory requirements.
Since the fleet of the Federal Air Transport Service (LTDB) has free capacity due to the COVID-19 situation, the FDFA is using this capacity to carry out important staff transfers which cannot be met by commercial means.
To ensure that any flights can be carried out efficiently and to keep costs low, LTDB aircraft make stopovers at various destinations wherever possible.
08.06.2020 – 17.00
The FDFA initiates and supports commercial return flights for Swiss travellers
Approximately 7000 travellers (including some 4200 Swiss travellers) that had been blocked abroad because of the coronavirus pandemic were brought back to Switzerland by the FDFA as part of its recall operation in March and April 2020. The last of 35 charter flights organized by the FDFA was a flight from Accra (Ghana) to Zurich with stops in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) on 29 April 2020. This major recall operation has now been completed. Since then, the FDFA has been providing support and consular protection within the scope of its possibilities to Swiss travellers who were unable to return and whose situation is difficult, as well as to Swiss nationals abroad.
This assistance also includes - despite continuing travel restrictions - the further search for return travel options. For instance, the Swiss representations abroad try to find free seats for Swiss nationals on the few special flights from other countries that are still taking place. Where the number of passengers stranded makes a commercial flight possible, the FDFA is in contact with the Swiss airlines Swiss and Edelweiss.
Such flights are operated by Swiss and Edelweiss, which are also responsible for booking and ticketing. The FDFA will identify and reserve the necessary contingent on the plane for Swiss passengers returning home and will provide assistance in the form of an extraordinary measure with a deficit guarantee if the total number of tickets sold does not fully cover the cost of a flight. The FDFA also provides assistance to airlines in obtaining the necessary landing and take-off permits (diplomatic clearance).
Airplane from Casablanca brings passengers to Switzerland
On June 8, 2020, an aircraft from Morocco arrived in Zurich as part of such a flight. On board were 102 Swiss passengers and 67 passengers from other countries. Further flights are not ruled out, should enough Swiss travellers wish to return to Switzerland at one destination so that Swiss or Edelweiss is able to operate a commercial flight. Swiss travellers willing to return and foreign tourists resident in Switzerland are given priority by the airlines for these flights.
05.06.2020 – 16 Uhr
Switzerland opens the border to all EU/EFTA states on the June 15
At the end of May 2020, the Federal Council decided that the Swiss border with Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland would be fully reopened on June 15, 2020. Due to the current epidemiological situation, the restrictions on entering Switzerland from the other EU/EFTA states and the United Kingdom can also be lifted on that date.
Between Switzerland, Austria and Germany, the travel restrictions were already eased on May 16, 2020. Entry into Switzerland from all other EU/EFTA states will only be permitted in special cases until June 15.
28.05.2020 – 16.00
Switzerland's borders with Germany, France and Austria are open again as of June 15, 2020
As of June 15, 2020, the borders between Switzerland and its neighbouring countries will be open again: At its meeting on the 27th of May 2020, the Federal Council decided that the freedom to travel and the free movement of people between Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland will be fully restored as of this date.
Italy declared the lifting of internal border checks with its neighbours with effect from 3 June. Switzerland has informed Italy that in its view it is too early to lift border controls with Italy on that date. The Federal Council intends to coordinate that step with Italy, as well as possible health checks at the border with Italy and other neighbouring countries to Italy in the coming weeks. In doing so, the Federal Council will involve the border cantons, in particular Ticino, in these measures.
The FDFA has updated the focus on corona in its travel information (link). In this update Swiss citizens are urged to follow the instructions and recommendations of the countries to which they travel abroad. Even though entry regulations have been either relaxed or lifted in many countries, measures can still be taken within the country to contain the spread of the new corona virus.
The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) provides information on health aspects. In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) provides reports on the countries affected by the virus.
28.05.2020 – 11.00
Switzerland supports UN funds to help developing countries with social and economic reconstruction
On 31 March 2020, UN Secretary-General António Guterres launched the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF). The fund is a financial instrument of the UN development system to help the world's poorest population groups in low-income developing countries. It supports the medium-term efforts of these countries in their social and economic reconstruction.
The fund is set up for a period of two years and is expected to require a budget of USD 2 billion. Switzerland supports the Fund with a contribution of CHF 8 million. Switzerland will also play an active role in the Fund's governing body. With this contribution, Switzerland is expressing its solidarity with people in developing countries who were especially hit hard by COVID-19.
As an instrument of the UN development system, the Fund complements the Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) and the WHO Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan. These cover the immediate humanitarian and sanitation needs.
23.05.2020 – 13.00
Swiss students are returning to Switzerland - thanks to their own initiative and the support of the Swiss Embassy in Bucharest
On Saturday, 23 May 2020, several students from Switzerland and France were able to return to their home countries. This despite the fact that it is currently difficult to leave Romania by direct flight due to the global COVID pandemic. The return flight was organised by the students themselves. The Swiss Embassy in Bucharest supported this initiative and was able to rely on its long-standing cooperation with the local authorities.
The return flight was launched by an association of French-speaking medical students from the universities of Cluj and Iasi. Together with a travel agency, they were able to organise a special flight for students from Switzerland and France to leave the country. However, due to the local COVID emergency ordinance, flights to Romania require written support from the destination country in addition to the usual flight permit.
The Swiss Embassy was therefore in close contact with the students and supported them in developing their private initiative for a return flight. The Swiss Embassy in Bucharest also coordinated the special permit with the Romanian crisis management team.
In light of the fact that the special flight could not have been fully occupied by the francophone students, other Swiss nationals were offered the opportunity to leave the country as well.
Due to the good cooperation of all persons involved and the local authorities, the plane with 125 people on board, including 10 Swiss nationals, was finally able to leave Romania for Basel. The support of the Swiss Embassy in Bucharest has no cost consequences for Switzerland. The special flight was privately financed.
13.05.2020 – 11.00
Switzerland responds to humanitarian needs and supports the development of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines
At its meeting of 13 May 2020, the Federal Council approved the allocation of CHF 175 million for the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds will be used for humanitarian aid, the development and production of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, and efforts aimed at ensuring equitable access to these medical solutions worldwide. The CHF 175 million is part of a CHF 400 million package approved by the Federal Council two weeks ago.
On 29 April 2020, the Federal Council approved CHF 400 million in support of international efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds are intended to support people in poverty and need, especially in developing countries. Switzerland accordingly decided to provide the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with a CHF 200 million interest-free loan and to contribute CHF 25 million to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) rapid credit facility. At its meeting of 13 May 2020, the Federal Council decided on the use of the remaining CHF 175 million.
Focus on humanitarian aid, innovation and health
Of this CHF 175 million, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has already allocated CHF 52 million, including contributions to the UN and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement as well as bilateral aid consisting of relief supplies and other assistance in humanitarian crisis regions. Switzerland has also provided the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations with CHF 10 million for research into a vaccine against the COVID-19 virus.
At its meeting earlier today, the Federal Council also decided to support additional initiatives:
- CHF 60 million has been earmarked for the development and supply of COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. Half of these funds will go Gavi, a Geneva-based alliance specialising in vaccine supply in developing countries. The other half will go to the Wellcome Trust and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, which promote access to COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics in developing countries.
- CHF 50.5 million will be used to meet the growing need for humanitarian aid worldwide – both in response to emergency appeals by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the UN and for bilateral aid.
- Switzerland is also providing CHF 2.5 million to the World Health Organization's efforts to coordinate the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is in Switzerland's interests to ensure a strong international response to this pandemic, which knows no borders. This Federal Council decision also responds to a motion put forward by the National Council Foreign Affairs Committee calling for a CHF 100 million increase in humanitarian aid credits for 2020.
As a result of the current situation, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) will be able to save about CHF 20 million by the end of the year. This money will be spent on humanitarian aid provided as part of efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Developing countries particularly at risk
COVID-19 is not only affecting people's health, but also economic and social life. It is hitting developing countries especially hard: many of them do not have a functioning healthcare system, and their populations do not have savings, regulated working conditions or a stable social security system to protect them against the loss of their livelihoods. Loss of livelihood leads to an increased risk of unrest, forced displacement and irregular migration. It is therefore very much in Switzerland's interests to provide rapid and unbureaucratic assistance to people in poverty and need. As the host state of a large number of international organisations based in Geneva, Switzerland is well equipped to make a major contribution to international efforts to mitigate the impact of this global pandemic.
11.05.2020 – 14.00
Return from Uzbekistan thanks to the cooperation of foreign embassies - and social media
Last week, the embassy in Tashkent received feedback from a Swiss citizen who had been evacuated and has now returned home. The process of getting home had been particularly complicated for him.
The Swiss citizen belonged to a small group of Europeans from various countries who were stranded in Uzbekistan and who last week had the opportunity to leave via neighbouring Tajikistan. Delegates from the European Union Representation in Tashkent compiled a list of those wishing to leave, a European embassy in Dushanbe ensured contact with the Tajik authorities, another embassy in Tashkent organised the transport to the Uzbek-Tajik border, where the group was finally met by a minibus from the Tajik Foreign Ministry and taken directly to Dushanbe airport. This was despite the fact that the border was in principle closed to travellers and despite the strict quarantine regulations that are applied in the few exceptions that are still possible.
Social Media Group with the Deputy Prime Minister
"These evacuations would not be possible without intensive cooperation between all those involved," says Ambassador Olivier Chave. "Neither would they be possible without the use of social media." For example, there is a group on Telegram with the Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Abukhakhimov and the ambassadors based in Tashkent. "This telegram group has become one of the most important communication platforms during the crisis," says Olivier Chave.
Switzerland supported Norwegian citizen
The importance of cooperation and social media had already been demonstrated during the evacuation of over one hundred European travellers at the end of March. These included eight Swiss nationals, one Frenchwoman and three Uzbek nationals permanently resident in Switzerland.
Since the flight was organized by Uzbekistan Airways, all passengers had to be registered with a note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, not all countries of origin of the stranded passengers have a representation in Tashkent, therefore it had to be agreed first which county would take care of which of the stranded passengers (in this context, Switzerland “adopted” a Norwegian).
At the same time, the European embassies kept each other informed about the planned departure date, which was postponed several times. In the meantime, it was also important to reassure stranded fellow countrymen that the embassy was still in close contact with the authorities and would do everything possible to enable them to leave the country as soon as possible.
Finally, the Consulate General in Munich also played an important role, where the aircraft finally landed. The arriving passengers had to be looked after and their onward journey to Switzerland had to be organised.
It was all the greater relief for those involved when everyone was finally back home.
07.05.2020 – 14.00
Swiss Embassy in Moscow allows Russian children with rare form of eye cancer to travel to treatment in Lausanne
Five children were able to travel with their mothers from Russia to Switzerland on 6 May 2020 to be treated for eye cancer in Lausanne. Tomorrow another five children will land in Geneva and travel on to the specialised clinic in Lausanne. The clinic is the only clinic where this rare form of eye cancer can be treated without harming the vision.
The Swiss embassy in Moscow made the trip to Lausanne possible. Despite the travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was able to arrange the flights to Geneva. Staff of the FDFA in Geneva and the DDPS ensured the onward journey from Geneva to Lausanne. A private sponsor paid for the travel costs.
At the beginning of April, the Swiss Embassy had already supported a Russian boy suffering from this rare form of eye cancer with his trip to Lausanne. There he could then be treated in the special clinic. Until the resumption of commercial flights, the Swiss Embassy in Moscow wants to enable further trips to Lausanne by Russian children affected by the eye disease, for example in June and July 2020. Private sponsors have already agreed to bear the costs of these trips.
06.05.2020 – 14.00
On Wednesday, 6 May 2020, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis addressed the National Council on the motion of the National Council’s Foreign Policy Committee (GPS-NR) "Supplementary credit for humanitarian aid" (20.3131). The motion is aimed at increasing the credits for humanitarian aid for the year 2020 by a total of CHF 100 million. The Federal Council had requested that the motion be accepted.
The head of the FDFA referred to the Federal Council's decision of Wednesday 29 April to support international actions with CHF 400 million. This support is made up of three parts: an interest-free loan of a maximum of CHF 200 million to the ICRC, a contribution of CHF 25 million to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust, and further contributions of a maximum of CHF 175 million to various internationally active organisations. With this decision, the Federal Council has responded to the motion submitted by the GPS-NR. The motion was adopted by the Grand Chamber by 114 votes to 72 with four abstentions.
"The virus knows no borders – neither do its consequences," said Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis during the National Council debate. Switzerland is showing solidarity in the global crisis and is living solidarity beyond its borders.
COVID-19: better protection for women and girls
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, some countries have seen an increase in the risk of domestic violence due to the lockdown and limited access to support services. Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis has therefore signed a joint statement with 58 other countries calling to strengthen the protection of women and girls during the COVID-19 crisis.
The joint statement calls for international responses to protect women's health and physical safety, but also to ensure women's active participation at all levels of decision-making in relation to the pandemic. It calls on all stakeholders, including the private sector, to come together to provide emergency assistance to the most vulnerable countries and to give full effect to the global commitment to universal access to healthcare.
Switzerland engages at all levels to ensure that the various initiatives and programmes launched in response to the COVID-19 crisis include a gender perspective. Around the world and in its partner countries, Switzerland already works with the UN, governments and NGOs to improve mother-child health and sexual and reproductive health and rights. One example of this is the humanitarian aid programme in Myanmar which has partnered with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to include in its humanitarian response an integrated approach to gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, mental health and psychosocial support. Switzerland also supports UNFPA offices and partners on the ground to find suitable responses to new challenges in the programmes addressing gender-based violence.
Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis stresses the need to find joint solutions to the current health challenges. "It is important to ensure women's health and personal safety at the international level and to provide a global response to COVID-19."
01.05.2020 – 11.00
Successful return flight from Istanbul also a special moment for employees of Swiss representations in Turkey
"It was an exhausting time, but one which the staff of our Embassy in Ankara and the Consulate General in Istanbul will remember as a great success," says Julien Thöni, Consul General of Switzerland in Istanbul, looking back on 23 April: On this day, over 300 people were brought back to Switzerland on two commercial flights from Turkey.
Since the spread of the corona virus, the Swiss Consulate General in Istanbul and the Embassy in Ankara have been in constant contact with citizens who are stranded in Turkey and would like to return to Switzerland. Over time, the list of those willing to return grew so large that a return flight
could be considered. The KMZ in Bern gave the Consulate General the order to carry out such a flight. "In cooperation with the Turkish authorities, who were faced with the same situation of Turkish citizens in Switzerland, we managed to get Turkish Airlines to arrange two commercial flights," Julien Thöni looks back. These flights took place on Thursday afternoon, April 23, from Istanbul to Zurich.
Thanks to a support letter to the airport
The Consulate General took over the coordination of the operation and ensured contact with the authorities via the embassy in Ankara. The Consulate General in Istanbul informed all persons wishing to return. This was also necessary because the Turkish authorities imposed a curfew at short notice due to a national holiday for the set return flight day. This led to a great deal of hectic activity, which was handled over the weekend thanks to smooth organization at the Consulate General and deployment over the weekend. All passengers were issued with a letter of support with which they could then travel to the airport. In addition, all passengers were also reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to allow them to travel in Turkey. This worked out well for the relief of all.
At the airport itself, a team from the Consulate General received and supported passengers during boarding and passport control, as visas and residence permits had expired. Thanks to unbureaucratic assistance and good consultation with the Secretariat for Migration and the cantonal migration authorities as well as the Zurich airport police, the team at the airport was able to solve all problems on the spot and ensure that passengers could leave Turkey and enter Switzerland.
The fact that more than 300 people were brought back to Switzerland on 23 April made everyone involved happy and proud, as they were able to assist Swiss citizens in times of need.
30.04.2020 – 09.00
Switzerland to provide CHF 400 million in support of international action to combat the coronavirus
Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. The pandemic is compounding an already precarious situation in countries beset by poverty, armed conflict or natural disasters. To mitigate the consequences of the pandemic, the Federal Council has decided to provide the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with a CHF 200 million interest-free loan and to contribute CHF 25 million to an IMF rapid credit facility to help countries address the pandemic. A further CHF 175 million is to be allocated to help strengthen internationally active organisations and international cooperation to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. With these funds, Switzerland is showing solidarity during the global crisis.
The Covid-19 pandemic is having a profound impact on everyone's lives. Lockdown restrictions on business activity are threatening livelihoods in developing countries in particular. When the world's poorest lose their jobs or are prevented from going to work, they cannot feed their families. Most have no job security or the benefit of a robust social safety net to protect them in a crisis such as this one. The risk of social unrest is growing and millions more will lose their livelihoods and have no alternative but to leave their home and country. It is in Switzerland's interests to address the causes of forced displacement.
Contributions to internationally active organisations to combat the pandemic
The Federal Council is responding to urgent appeals for financial support from the UN, the WHO, the ICRC, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the G20 and other organisations to help them maintain their ability to address the pandemic. The major internationally active organisations need funds to take additional measures to slow down the spread of the virus and to mitigate the economic and social consequences of the pandemic.
The Federal Council has agreed to contribute CHF 400 million to international efforts, particularly in developing countries. As a first step, it wants Switzerland to grant the ICRC an interest-free loan of up to CHF 200 million, repayable within seven years. In addition, it has proposed to contribute CHF 25 million to the IMF's Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust. Parliament will take a decision on both loan and contribution in the summer session. In May, the Federal Council will decide on additional contributions of up to CHF 175 million for various internationally active organisations.
This Federal Council's decision also responds to a motion put forward by the National Council Foreign Affairs Committee calling for a CHF 100 million increase in humanitarian aid credits for 2020.
Swift and effective international cooperation response
Switzerland has responded quickly and effectively to the crisis through its development cooperation programmes. The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) has made targeted adjustments to its programmes, particularly those being implemented by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), to address the pandemic. The Federal Department of Economics, Education and Research has, for its part, adapted programmes currently being undertaken by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs. Over CHF 100 million in additional funding has been allocated from the current budget. These funds will be used to strengthen the work of organisations such as the UN (including the WHO), the ICRC and the IFRC as well as humanitarian and pandemic-related SDC projects. Swiss Humanitarian Aid has already delivered relief supplies at the request of affected countries. Switzerland is also supporting the efforts currently being undertaken by the World Bank Group and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
29.04.2020 – 20.40
#flyinghome: The flight from Ouagadougou landed in Zurich with 46 Swiss on board
The flight from Ouagadougou landed on Wednesday evening in Zurich with 46 passengers from Switzerland and 46 passengers from other countries (including 24 Swiss residents) on board. The flight, operated by Helvetic, stopped in Accra (Ghana) and Abidjan (Ivory Coast) to pick up passengers before arriving in the capital of Burkina Faso. This is the 10th flight from the African continent organised by Switzerland and should be the last repatriation flight organised by the FDFA.
29.04.2020 – 12.00
Philippines: From the islands via capital to Switzerland
The territory of the Philippines comprises over 7500 islands. Many of them are attractive travel destinations - and Swiss people enjoy spending their holidays on many of them. This is not an easy task for the Swiss Embassy in Manila when it comes to bringing Swiss travellers back to Switzerland as part of the FDFA's repatriation campaign, as internal air traffic in the Philippines is completely paralysed.
The Swiss embassy therefore organised flights to the capital at the end of last week working closely with other European embassies. Around 40 Swiss nationals (and other foreign tourists) arrived in Manila in this way from Siargao, Sipalay, Dumaguete, Palawan, Cebu and Boracay. From there they could then board the planes heading for Europe.
On 30 March 2020, the Embassy had already organised a flight from the island of Cebu via Manila to Switzerland, bringing 208 Swiss travellers and over 100 passengers from other countries to Zurich.
29.04.2020 – 11.00
Olympic Games and World Expo Dubai postponed – Switzerland will be there in 2021
Due to the coronavirus epidemic, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the competent authorities of Japan have decided to postpone the holding of the games for one year.
At its meeting on 29 April 2020, the Federal Council confirmed its intention to use the two major events to promote Switzerland one year later, in 2021, and underlined the economic importance of the two platforms for the recovery of international markets.
It also approved the additional costs associated with the postponements and instructed Presence Switzerland in the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) to continue the preparatory work for the House of Switzerland at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and the Swiss Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai within a new budget framework.
28.04.2020 – 12.00
Last flight of the FDFA's repatriation action foreseen to date lands on Wednesday
34 flights from Latin America, Africa, Asia, Oceania and within Europe have so far been organized by the FDFA as part of its repatriation action. On 29 April the last aircraft in this second phase of the repatriation strategy is expected to land in Zurich: It will return blocked travellers from Accra (Ghana), Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) to Switzerland.
The second phase focused on the repatriation of Swiss citizens stranded abroad who could no longer fly back themselves because their flights were cancelled due to the coronavirus and closed borders. No further return flights are currently planned after the one tomorrow from West Africa.
During phase three, when return flights are no longer possible, the FDFA is providing all possible and appropriate consular assistance to Swiss citizens and travellers abroad.
26.04.2020 – 07.05
#flyinghome: Third and last return flight from India landed in Zurich
Early Sunday morning an aircraft with 91 blocked Swiss nationals and 122 persons from other countries (44 of them resident in Switzerland) landed in Zurich. The Swiss plane took off from Kolkata in eastern India on Saturday, made a stopover in Kochi in the southwest of the country and reached its destination in Switzerland on Sunday.
This was one of the last flights in the second phase of the FDFA's large-scale repatriation operation. The Department is now focusing on the third and final phase of its strategy: the FDFA offers support and consular protection to travellers who cannot return and whose situation is difficult, as well as to Swiss nationals abroad, within the scope of its possibilities.
24.04.2020 – 10.30
The FDFA brings home almost 7,000 Swiss nationals stranded abroad
A flight from India scheduled for tomorrow and one from Africa next week will conclude the largest repatriation operation ever mounted by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA). The main focus is now on providing support for Swiss citizens who, for a variety of reasons, have been unable or unwilling to return to Switzerland.
A month ago the FDFA launched an unprecedented repatriation operation in cooperation with Swiss, Edelweiss und Helvetic. The first flight departed Zurich on March 22 for San José (Costa Rica). Since then, the FDFA's Crisis Management Centre (KMZ) has organised 35 flights from all parts of the world. Thirty-three flights to Switzerland have been completed successfully, allowing 6950 persons stranded abroad, including 3974 Swiss citizens, to return home. The remaining 2976 passengers are citizens of foreign countries, two third European ones. About one third of these foreigners reside in Switzerland. At the same time, over 1500 Swiss nationals have returned home on flights organised by other countries.
#flyinghome: The largest repatriation campain in Swiss history
A further special flight from India is scheduled to depart from Kolkata, with a stopover in Kochi, for Zurich, where it will land on Sunday morning. A final return flight from Africa is planned for Wednesday to bring home Swiss nationals from Accra (Ghana), Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso).
The repatriation flights would have been impossible without the professionalism and hard work of the FDFA's network of representations. The efforts of Swiss embassy and consulate staff, working in close cooperation with local authorities, proved decisive in obtaining the necessary flight permits, means of transportation and clearances to enable Swiss nationals scattered around the world, in some cases in remote areas, to reach the airports from which the flights departed.
Passengers pay their own way home
The Swiss government has already covered the total cost of approximately CHF 10 million for the repatriation flights. Repatriated individuals will be expected to contribute to the operation by paying the equivalent of the market rate for a standard fare.
Passengers pay their own way home
Up to 1,500km (short flights)
1,500–3,500km (medium-distance flights)
Over 3,500km (Long-distance flights)
Long-haul flights exceeding 12,000km
This cost-sharing contribution will cover about 80% of the entire operation. The FDFA will contribute to the remaining 20%. The contribution to the cost of repatriation is in line with the market price of an equivalent flight.
Like other European states that have organised repatriation flights, the FDFA will invoice passengers a flat rate calculated on the basis of the distance travelled. Passengers will contribute CHF 400 for short flights (up to 1,500km), CHF 600 for medium-distance flights (1,500–3,500km) and CHF 1,100 for long-distance flights (over 3,500km) towards the cost of the operation. Passengers on long-haul flights exceeding 12,000km will pay CHF 1,700.
This cost-sharing contribution will cover about 80% of the entire operation. The FDFA will contribute to the remaining 20%.
Stepped up consular assistance
Despite the scale of the repatriation operation, it will not be possible to bring home all Swiss nationals stranded abroad. Reports from Swiss embassies around the world indicate that several hundred Swiss citizens who wish to return to Switzerland but are unable to do so. Swiss embassies and consulates are ready to offer consular assistance to them and to other Swiss citizens residing abroad who are currently in urgent need of help. The FDFA will review each request for assistance on a case-by-case basis. Acting through its representations abroad, the FDFA will provide assistance to Swiss citizens in need and where necessary grant appropriate emergency loans to Swiss nationals who are unable to provide for themselves or obtain financial assistance from the local authorities.
Like many other countries, Switzerland has temporarily stopped issuing visas. As social distancing restrictions are eased to open up the economy and allow the return of tourists to Switzerland, it will be important to start processing and issuing visas again. The FDFA is working closely with the State Secretariat for Migration and other stakeholders to allow the resumption of business, educational and tourist travel worldwide as appropriate and as soon as possible. This is of vital importance for the Swiss economy, for research and for International Geneva.
FDFA Helpline receives unprecedented number of requests for assistance
In the few weeks since the COVID-19 crisis began last month, the FDFA Helpline has received an unprecedented number of requests for assistance, with over 10,000 phone calls and some 18,000 emails. During peak periods, up to 850 telephone calls and 1,000 emails have been received each day. In normal times, the Helpline – which provides assistance and information to Swiss citizens abroad around the clock, seven days a week – handles around 50,000 requests for help per year.
The three phases of the repatriation operation
- As provided for by the Swiss Abroad Act, during the first weeks of the pandemic, the FDFA called on Swiss citizens to assume personal responsibility and make arrangements with travel agencies and commercial airlines to return to Switzerland.
- During the second phase, the FDFA organised charter flights to bring Swiss citizens back to Switzerland who were unable to organise their journey home independently because of grounded airline fleets and closed borders worldwide.
- During phase three, when return flights are no longer possible, the FDFA is providing all possible and appropriate consular assistance to Swiss citizens and travelers abroad.
24.04.2020 – 16.00
At a federal press conference, Hans-Peter Lenz, head of the FDFA's Crisis Management Centre KMZ, provided additional information on passenger cost sharing for return flights: "All passengers must pay." Both the Swiss and nationals of other countries who returned to Switzerland in an aircraft chartered by the FDFA have agreed to this with their signature before the return flight to Switzerland. Conversely, "the 1500 Swiss nationals who have travelled with third countries will also receive an invoice from abroad."
23.04.2020 – 17.20
#flyinghome: Second flight from Algeria arrived in Zurich
As part of the FDFA's repatriation operation, an aircraft from Alger (Algeria) has landed in Switzerland for the second time. The first such flight Alger – Geneva had been carried out by Swiss on 29 March. The second aircraft chartered by the FDFA from the Algerian capital landed in Zurich on Thursday in the later afternoon and was carrying 34 Swiss nationals and 75 nationals of other countries (including 73 Swiss residents and 2 residents of other countries). After two flights from Casablanca (Morocco) and one flight each from Dakar (Senegal), Tunis (Tunisia), Yaoundé/Douala (Cameroon), Cape Town (South Africa) and Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), the FDFA has now organized a total of nine return flights for stranded persons from the African continent.
21.04.2020 – 14.00
Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis calls for coordinated easing of COVID-19 restrictions
Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, met by videoconference earlier today, 21 April, with his counterparts from the other German-speaking countries. He called on neighbouring countries and the EU to proceed in a coordinated manner to ease COVID-19 restrictions as quickly as possible. He also thanked his counterparts for the excellent cooperation which made the repatriation flights to bring Swiss and foreign citizens home possible.
The COVID-19 crisis was the main topic of the talks between Mr Cassis and the foreign ministers of Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg. State Secretary and head of the Directorate for European Affairs Roberto Balzaretti also took part in the videoconference.
Close cooperation to manage the crisis
Mr Cassis emphasised that a crisis of this magnitude affecting all of Europe can only be tackled together. In recent weeks, he noted, Switzerland has taken in patients from French hospitals and sent personal protective equipment to Italy. Switzerland has also benefited from its close integration in EU crisis management efforts and regular bilateral consultations with EU states. This cooperation has proven to be a key asset in managing the crisis. "COVID-19 is at present still a health crisis. But the pandemic is already triggering an economic and financial crisis, and the necessary measures being taken to stem it will lead to a social crisis," said Cassis. "That's why now is the time to think about the best way out of the crisis and the steps we need to take in the coming weeks". Non-pharmaceutical interventions (social distancing) to stem the spread of the pandemic ought to be eased in a coordinated manner as soon as possible in order to ensure a phased return to normality and at the same time stave off a new wave of infections.
Repatriation of European citizens
Mr Cassis also spoke about Switzerland's role in the repatriation flights to bring home Swiss citizens and other Europeans. Over 30 repatriation flights have been carried out since the crisis began. In addition to Swiss nationals, Switzerland has organised the repatriation of 1,870 EU citizens, including 458 Germans, 151 Austrians and 16 Luxembourgers. Some 655 Swiss citizens have been able to return home on flights organised by Germany, Austria and Luxembourg. Mr Cassis expressed his thanks for the excellent cooperation, direct communication and "solidarity in practice" that made these flights possible.
The German-speaking countries were working closely together and regularly exchanging information long before the COVID-19 crisis, and continue to do so in areas unrelated to the pandemic. Mr Cassis and his counterparts also discussed the difficult situation of migrants and refugees in the Greek-Turkish border region, stressed the importance of multilateral cooperation and the role of the UN in times of crisis, and conferred about Germany's upcoming EU Council presidency against the backdrop of the pandemic, as well as digital forms of communication that will be required. The foreign ministers agreed that Swiss-EU bilateral relations should be closely coordinated during the German presidency.
The first annual meeting of foreign ministers from German-speaking countries took place in 2006. The aim of the meetings is to preserve and strengthen the excellent relations between Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg. This is necessary – as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown – to ensure seamless cooperation even in times of crisis. Mr Cassis also invited his counterparts to meet in Switzerland next year.
19.04.2020 – 15.30
#flyinghome: Flight from Quito and Buenos Aires landed in Zurich with 169 Swiss nationals on board
The flight, which departed Quito (Ecuador) on Saturday morning (local time) and headed for the Argentinean capital, landed in Zurich on Sunday. The aircraft brought back 169 Swiss nationals and 141 nationals of other countries (49 of them resident in Switzerland, 92 resident in other European countries) to Switzerland. The flight was made possible thanks to cooperation between the Crisis Management Centre (KMZ) of the FDFA, the Swiss embassies in Quito and Buenos Aires and the airline Edelweiss. This is the ninth and last flight from Latin America organised by Switzerland.
17.04.2020 - 17.30
"The crisis shows impressively the value of our network of representations"
In close cooperation with the Swiss representations, the FDFA headquarters in Bern has organised more than 30 return flights across the globe over the past few weeks. In an interview, Johannes Matyassy, Director of the Consular Directorate (CD) of the FDFA, looks back on the representations' involvement in the largest repatriation action for Swiss travellers stranded abroad due to the corona pandemic.
The role of the representations will remain important in the third and final phase of the FDFA's repatriation strategy: the work of the Swiss representations will continue to be important: the aim is to look after people who are threatened to remain temporarily blocked somewhere in the world and cannot return until further notice. The FDFA's Helpline is also answering more and more questions on this subject, says Johannes Matyassy. "We are also receiving increasing numbers of questions and requests for support from Swiss abroad".
16.04.2020 - 19.35
#flyinghome: Flight from Kyiv and Podgorica landed in Zurich
The flight from Podgorica (Montenegro) landed on Thursday evening in Zurich. The aircraft brought back 34 Swiss nationals and 70 nationals of other countries (33 of them resident in Switzerland, 37 resident in other countries) to Switzerland. The flight, which originally departed from Kyiv (Ukraine), was made possible thanks to the cooperation between the Crisis Management Centre (KMZ) of the FDFA, the Swiss embassies in Kyiv and Belgrade and the Consulate General in Podgorica, as well as the airline Swiss. This is the fifth repatriation flight in Europe organised by the FDFA.
16.04.2020 – 18.30
Switzerland helps Greece in the fight against the coronavirus
In order to support the Greek authorities in their fight against the further spread of the coronavirus, Swiss Humanitarian Aid has delivered various materials to Greece. Over a tonne of hygiene material (disposable gloves, surface disinfectants, handkerchiefs, hand soap) was handed over to the Special Secretariat for Reception Centres in Greece at the Ministry of Migration. In addition, the Sotiria Clinic in Athens, the local reference hospital for COVID-19, was supported with 900 protective masks.
Humanitarian Aid, which is based at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) within the FDFA, checked all deliveries with the FOPH, the Federal Office of Economic Affairs and SECO to ensure compatibility with measures to combat the COVID-19 crisis and with the availability of goods in Switzerland.
Humanitarian Aid also contributed CHF 300,000 to the Greek Red Cross to improve living and hygiene conditions in reception centres for asylum seekers. The aim is to prevent the spread of the virus in these structures.
15.04.2020 – 18.30
30 FDFA repatriation flights so far – three more confirmed
The FDFA has organised 30 repatriation flights so far: eight each from Africa, Asia and Latin America, four from Europe and two from Oceania. Some 3,700 Swiss travellers have been repatriated to Switzerland on these charter flights. The flights also had on board over 2,600 people of other nationalities, many of whom also live in Switzerland. An additional 1,400 Swiss travellers have been able to take advantage of special flights organised by other countries to return to Switzerland or elsewhere in Europe.
Kyiv/Podgorica, Quito/Buenos Aires, Kolkata/Kochi
Additional FDFA repatriation flights are planned. A flight from Kyiv (Ukraine) via Podgorica (Montenegro) is scheduled to arrive on 16 April and a flight from Quito (Ecuador) via Buenos Aires (Argentina) is scheduled to arrive in Zurich on 19 April. In addition, a plane is scheduled to land in Zurich at the end of next week, bringing back to Switzerland travellers who have been held up in the Indian states of West Bengal and Kerala for weeks.
Next phase of the FDFA's repatriation strategy
Repatriation flights are becoming less frequent, however. The FDFA is aware of a few hundred Swiss citizens who remain abroad and would like to return home. The FDFA is not able to send planes to every location. In many cases it is therefore trying to arrange seats on special flights organised by other countries. In addition, the Swiss representations are supporting Swiss citizens who decide to stay on at their destination or whose return cannot be organised by the FDFA, wherever they are in the world. This is the third phase of the FDFA's repatriation strategy.
15.04.2020 – 18.00
The United Nations in Geneva made 115,000 surgical masks available to the cantonal health services. This donation is a sign of solidarity with the local population, who welcome on the shores of Lake Geneva international civil servants and their families for a total of 43,000 people. The donation was made through the FDFA.
14.04.2020 – 17.40
#flyinghome: Eighth flight arrived from Africa
On Tuesday evening, an Edelweiss machine from Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo) landed in Zurich as part of the FDFA repatriation action. After Dakar, Yaoundé and Cape Town, this is the fourth return flight from sub-Saharan Africa. The aircraft brought back 65 Swiss nationals and 107 nationals of other countries (40 of them resident in Switzerland, 67 resident in other European countries) to Switzerland. The FDFA has so far organized a total of eight return flights from the African continent.
14.04.2020 – 14.00
Optimisation of flights by partner countries and FDFA return flights
"The FDFA's repatriation action is now focusing on strengthening cooperation with neighbouring countries," said Hans-Peter Lenz, head of the FDFA's Crisis Management Centre, during a press conference.
Phase 2 – in progress: optimisation of partner country flights and new FDFA repatriation flights
"Our goal is to ensure that flights operated by partner countries are full. The situation is under constant assessment," said Lenz.
To date – with the arrival of the flight from Lima on Tuesday morning – the FDFA has organised 29 repatriation flights, enabling 6,300 people to return home. Among them are about 3,700 Swiss nationals and more than 2,600 foreign nationals, mainly European, some of whom reside in Switzerland.
"In return, around 1,400 Swiss nationals have been repatriated by partner countries, mainly European," Lenz explained.
In parallel to stepping up its action with partner countries, the FDFA is organising additional repatriation flights. "Two flights are landing today in Switzerland, arriving from Lima and Kinshasa. A flight from Kyiv via Podgorica, Montenegro, is in the planning stages. Next week two flights are scheduled from Asia and Latin America."
Phase 3: consular assistance for citizens still stranded
"According to figures provided by Swiss embassies, there are still several hundred people stranded abroad," said Lenz. "But it isn't possible for Switzerland to repatriate everyone."
"In phase 3, Swiss embassies and missions will provide these people with consular assistance." There are some encouraging signs in the air: "The COVID-19 situation is developing positively in some parts of the world and commercial flights may resume soon."
Kinshasa: humanitarian aid combined with repatriation
A repatriation flight from the Democratic Republic of the Congo landed in Zurich on Tuesday. The flight, which enabled 200 Swiss and European travellers to return home, is a perfect illustration of a successful dual action based on solidarity but also the complexity of organising such a trip.
"Our embassy team on the ground did an excellent job. It was a colossal challenge to get our Swiss compatriots – who were stranded in a country in lockdown – to the airport on time. Our ambassador said on the plane this morning that he had never had to obtain so many special permits in such a short space of time, and that this was done thanks to the cooperation of the local authorities."
The day before, the outbound flight from Zurich to Kinshasa was used to transport humanitarian aid supplies donated by Switzerland, as part of its international cooperation, and also had on board staff of international organisations coming to assist the DRC in its response to the coronavirus crisis (see above).
"This example illustrates the major challenges that the FDFA constantly faces in a repatriation operation," said Lenz.
14.04.2020 – 12.00
FDFA repatriation flight from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Tuesday morning, 14. April 2020, 9.15 a.m., Airport Ndjili / Kinshasa, partly cloudy at 27 degrees - Departure of the Edelweiss "Chäserrugg towards Zurich, which brings Swiss travellers back to their home country. The flight to Kinshasa was used the day before to transport humanitarian supplies and staff of humanitarian organisations supporting the country in the COVID 19 crisis.
On Tuesday morning, an Edelweiss aircraft took off from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to Zurich as part of the FDFA's repatriation action. On board are 105 Swiss nationals and persons with a residence permit in Switzerland. The flight also takes 67 travellers from mainly European countries who will travel on from Zurich to their home countries. Switzerland's cooperation with European countries is based on international solidarity, which is especially important in times of crisis. At the same time, these countries also helped Swiss travellers around the world to return home.
The flight from Zurich to Kinshasa the day before was used to bring humanitarian supplies to Kinshasa from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Fondation Hirondelle, and Medair. These supplies were provided from the own stocks of these Swiss-based humanitarian organisations and are needed to support the country in the COVID-19 crisis (including the protection of medical staff).
Material for disinfection and production of drinking water
For its part, the SDC's Humanitarian Aid also supplied 36 so-called WATA devices worth CHF 16,000 from its own stock. These devices can produce chlorine solution in a simple process. Diluted, this solution is used to chlorinate drinking water or as a disinfectant in health centres. The WATA devices will be used by Switzerland's partners (Médecins sans Frontières MSF, Medair, GIZ - German Association for International Cooperation) in health centres in the east of the country (North and South Kivu). The outward flight was also used by staff of MSF and UNICEF, which is stepping up its humanitarian operations and presence on the ground.
14.04.2020 – 10.40
#flyinghome: Third flight from Lima brings homecomers to Switzerland
The third flight from Lima to Zurich took place on Tuesday morning. On board were 110 Swiss nationals and 120 nationals of other countries. This was the FDFA's third return flight as part of its return strategy: at the end of March and beginning of April, two aircraft organized by the FDFA had returned a total of around 600 passengers to Switzerland. Today's flight from Lima was the FDFA's eighth return flight from Latin America.
11.04.2020 – 19.55
#flyinghome: Edelweiss aircraft from Casablanca lands in Zurich
An Edelweiss plane from Casablanca landed in Zurich on Saturday evening. On board were 80 Swiss travellers and 43 passengers from other countries (21 of them resident in Switzerland, 22 resident in other European countries). The FDFA had already organized a return flight from Casablanca on 24 March 2020; eleven other - commercial - flights from Morocco were made possible by diplomatic intervention. As part of the FDFA's return flight, today's flight from Casablanca was the fourth special flight from North Africa and the seventh special flight from Africa in total.
11.04.2020 – 13.30
Ellie's thanks are appreciated by the FDFA
Ellie was one of the 301 Swiss passengers who landed in Zurich on April 9 shortly after midnight on a Swiss plane from New Zealand. The young lady is happy to be back home (and in her beautiful garden) in a visible and legible way. And the FDFA is pleased about her thanks - and of course also about the fact that the organisation of the return flight from Auckland also worked out well for the other 300 Swiss nationals!
11.04.2020 – 10.00
Successful return flight from Central America - thanks to scheduled preparations by Swiss representations
At noon on Friday, April 10, the Airbus A340-300 of the airline Edelweiss, chartered by the DFA, landed in Zurich. The day before it took off from Guatemala City at 13.25 (local time) and, after a stopover in the Costa Rican capital San José, had begun its flight across the Atlantic. This return flight was preceded by complex preparations by the Swiss representations on site, so that all travellers could board the plane in time. The Swiss Embassies in Guatemala and Costa Rica, together with the
Embassy in Bogotà, the Cooperation Office in Tegucigalpa (Honduras) and the Consulate General in Panama City, organised air and land transfers. Thus 50 persons flew from Colombia to San José, 19 travellers arrived there from Panama in a chartered bus. After a domestic flight chartered by the FDFA 50 passengers flew from Tegucigalpa to Guatemala City. All arrivals went as planned, so that all 291 passengers were on the Edelweiss plane in time for the flight to Europe.
11.04.2020 – 09.00
Unbureaucratic Swiss aid in Moldova
Switzerland supports various projects in the Republic of Moldova as well as government measures to deal with the coronavirus crisis. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), through the United Nations Development Programme and the Swiss Tropical Institute, has carried out two actions for CHF 50,000 and CHF 200,000 respectively, spontaneously and without bureaucracy. Furthermore, an additional credit of EUR 0.5 million was granted to support the government in the COVID crisis. Among other things, the SDC's contribution was used to purchase protective clothing and disinfectants for 68 medical institutions and 211 family physicians' practices. Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in Moldova, Switzerland has supported people in the fight against COVID-19, says Caroline Tissot, Head of the SDC Cooperation Office in Chisinau. The rapid aid provided to projects is an example of the joint fight against the further spread of the virus.
In nine other countries of the Swiss cooperation with Eastern Europe, Switzerland has already provided urgently needed support in the amount of CHF 3.1 million through similar emergency measures.
10.04.2020 – 12.35
#flyinghome: 291 passengers from Guatemala and Costa Rica brought home
The seventh aircraft from Latin America in the FDFA's repatriation action landed in Zurich at midday on Friday. It brought back 143 Swiss travellers and 148 nationals of other states from Guatemala City (Guatemala) and San José (Costa Rica). The next return flight from Latin America is scheduled for next week. This will be the third time that an aircraft will return travellers from Lima (Peru) to Switzerland.
10.04.2020 – 06.45
#flyinghome: Second flight from India brings 227 travellers back to Switzerland
On Friday morning a flight from Mumbai reached Zurich. On board were 96 Swiss nationals and 131 nationals of other countries who were able to return to Switzerland thanks to the FDFA. This was the second flight from India. The plane had also stopped in Delhi on its way to Switzerland.
09.04.2020 – 21.35
#flyinghome: Edelweiss plane from Cape Town lands in Zurich
An Edelweiss aircraft that took off from Cape Town (South Africa) at noon on Thursday landed in Zurich later in the evening. After Dakar and Yaoundé, this is the third return flight from sub-Saharan Africa as part of the FDFA's recall operation. On the flight from Cape Town, 196 Swiss nationals and 92 nationals of other countries returned to Switzerland. So far the FDFA has organized a total of seven return flights from the African continent.
09.04.2020 – 20.00
#flyinghome: Second aircraft arriving in Zurich from the Canary Islands
Thursday, 20.00, Zurich Airport: The second flight from the Canary Islands has landed. 83 Swiss travellers and 22 other nationals were carried from Tenerife and Lanzarote on the Helvetic aircraft chartered by the FDFA. A first flight had already taken passengers from Las Palmas and Fuerteventura to Switzerland yesterday.
09.04.2020 – 17.30
SDC supporting global fight against COVID-19 pandemic
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is contributing financially and with relief supplies to help overcome the global COVID-19 pandemic. To this end, it is adapting existing programmes by redirecting CHF 56 million of funding. The SDC has also transferred CHF 18 million to international organisations. It continues to deliver relief supplies to affected countries, including protective suits which were dispatched to Italy on 8 April 2020.
In the current crisis, Switzerland is committed to cross-border solidarity and aims to strengthen cooperation with other affected countries and international organisations. This was announced by Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis last week.
First delivery of relief supplies to Italy
The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) dispatched relief supplies to Italy for the first time yesterday. 10,000 protective suits worth CHF 100,000 have been handed over to the Italian Civil Protection Department on 9 April 2020. Other relief supplies delivered so far have gone to China, Nepal and Serbia. Further assistance is in the process of being implemented (Greece) or planned (second delivery for Italy). All deliveries are examined by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), the Federal Office of Information Technology, Systems and Telecommunication (FOITT) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), to ensure availability of supplies and compliance with the measures taken to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in Switzerland.
CHF 18 million for international organisations
The SDC is following the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic in close cooperation with Swiss representations and partner organisations at home and abroad. Under existing budgets totalling CHF 18 million it is providing targeted support to organisations working to combat COVID-19 and its effects internationally, supporting health systems in affected countries and providing humanitarian aid. This includes contributions to UN organisations (WHO), the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (including the International Committee of the Red Cross), the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Adjustments to SDC programmes amounting to CHF 56 million
The SDC is adapting its programmes to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. To back it up in its efforts, it has a network of partnerships in its partner countries and can rely on close cooperation with Swiss and international NGOs. Adjustments are planned for the SDC's global programmes and also at country level, for example in Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Bolivia, Honduras, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Moldova and Kosovo. Over the next three months, around CHF 56 million will be reallocated in this way.
The focus is on improving the income and livelihoods of people in need, boosting basic healthcare and food security, and supporting refugees and displaced persons. The four-year framework credits of international cooperation support these adjustments.
International solidarity more crucial than ever
"The COVID-19 crisis is above all a public health crisis. But it is already clear that it will have far-reaching economic, financial and social consequences," notes Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis. In order to provide support as quickly as possible, under the UN's global humanitarian response plan around USD 2 billion is therefore to be made available to combat the pandemic. With the above-mentioned contributions, Switzerland is participating in this multilateral response. It is in Switzerland's interest to support other countries in coping with the COVID-19 crisis and thus contain the further spread of the pandemic, with the grave consequences that would entail. If the pandemic spreads as rapidly in developing countries – especially in Africa – as it did in Europe and North America, the consequences will only be able to be mitigated with international support. Switzerland's humanitarian tradition is therefore of particular relevance in the current situation.
09.04.2020 – 00.20
#flyinghome: Swiss brings passengers home from New Zealand for the first time
Shortly after midnight on Thursday, Swiss landed in Zurich with 301 Swiss nationals and 24 nationals of other countries on board. For the first time, the airline had flown to Auckland (New Zealand) in order to bring back stranded people who wanted to return home as part of the FDFA's repatriation operation. This flight was the second return flight from Oceania: Last Sunday, an Edelweiss aircraft had already returned travellers from Sydney to Switzerland.
08.04.2020 – 20.00
FDFA repatriation action: First return flight from the Canary Islands
For the first time, the FDFA has organized a return flight from the Canary Islands as part of its repatriation action: On Wednesday evening, an aircraft landed in Zurich which took passengers from Las Palmas and Fuerteventura back to Switzerland. 81 Swiss travellers and 21 passengers from other European countries used this flight. It was the first one that the FDFA has undertaken with the airline Helvetic.
On Thursday another Helvetic plane will bring blocked travellers from the Canary Islands back to Switzerland - then from Tenerife and Lanzarote.
08.04.2020 – 10.30 Uhr
Zahlreiche Rückflüge in der zweiten Wochenhälfte – Frequenz der Flüge wird schrittweise reduziert
21 Rückflüge hat das EDA bereits durchgeführt, um blockierte Schweizer Reisende in die Schweiz zurückzubringen. Rund 2600 Schweizerinnen und Schweizer konnten dadurch in die Schweiz zurückkehren, ausserdem viele Staatsangehörige anderer Länder, die in der Schweiz oder im Ausland wohnen. Zugleich konnten rund 1200 Schweizer Reisenden bei Sonderflügen mitreisen, die von anderen Staaten organisiert wurden.
In der zweiten Wochenhälfte führt das EDA weitere Flüge durch. Zwei Flugzeuge der Fluggesellschaft Helvetic bringen Touristinnen und Touristen von den Kanarischen Inseln zurück: Am Mittwoch eines aus Las Palmas und Fuerteventura, am Donnerstag dann aus Teneriffa und Lanzarote. Neben Europa führt das EDA diese Woche auch Charterflüge aus Südamerika, Afrika, Asien und Ozeanien durch: aus Auckland (Neuseeland) und Mumbai/Delhi (Indien) gemeinsam mit Swiss, aus Guatemala City (Guatemala)/San José (Costa Rica) sowie Kapstadt (Südafrika) mit Edelweiss. Auch in der kommenden Woche sind noch Rückholflüge geplant (Lima, Kinshasa).
Allerdings wird das EDA die Frequenz der Flüge schrittweise reduzieren. Hans-Peter Lenz, der Chef des Krisenmanagement-Zentrums (KMZ), das im EDA die Rückholflüge koordiniert, kündigte gestern das baldige Ende der Rückholaktion an. Deshalb forderte er blockierte Reisende auf, die verbleibenden vom EDA organisierten Flüge jetzt wirklich in Anspruch zu nehmen. Denn irgendwann wird das EDA keine Rückflüge mehr anbieten.
07.04.2020 – 19.30 Uhr
Telefongespräch zwischen Bundesrat Cassis und Chinas Aussenminister Wang Yi
Bundesrat Ignazio Cassis hat am Dienstag mit seinem chinesischen Amtskollegen Wang Yi telefoniert. Nun steht der Schweiz schneller und zuverlässig Material im Kampf gegen das Coronavirus zur Verfügung. Aussenminister Wang Yi sagte im Verlauf des rund 50-minütigen Gesprächs, dass für die Cargo-Flüge der Schweiz pragmatische Lösungen gesucht und die Durchführung der Flüge dadurch erleichtert werden.
Beide Gesprächspartner waren sich einig, dass für die Bekämpfung der Epidemie Solidarität und gemeinsames Handeln zwischen den Staaten notwendig seien.
Enge bilaterale Beziehungen
Auch wenn sich das Gespräch vor allem um COVID-19 drehte, stand der telefonische Kontakt auch im Zeichen der engen bilateralen Beziehungen zwischen der Schweiz und China. 2018 weilte Bundesrat Cassis in Peking zu einem Arbeitsbesuch, im Oktober 2019 trafen sich Bundesrat Cassis und Aussenminister Wang Yi in Bern. Im Jahr 2020 feiern die Schweiz und China das 70-jährige Bestehen ihrer diplomatischen Beziehungen. Die Schweiz anerkannte die Volksrepublik China am 17. Januar 1950 als einer der ersten westlichen Staaten.
Im heutigen Telefongespräch übermittelte Aussenminister Wang Yi seine Wünsche an den Kanton Tessin und zeigte sich erfreut darüber, dass die Schenkung von medizinischem Schutzmaterial geklappt hat. Der chinesische Aussenminister erwähnte auch, dass die Schweizerische Botschaft in Peking anlässlich des Qingming-Totengedenkfestes, welches dieses Jahr im Zeichen der Corona-Krise stand, von sich aus die Fahne auf Halbmast gestellt habe. Dieses Zeichen der Freundschaft wisse er sehr zu schätzen, sagte Aussenminister Wang Yi.
07.04.2020 – 14.00
Head of KMZ Hans-Peter Lenz announces upcoming end of the repatriation action
Hans Peter Lenz, head of the FDFA's Crisis Management Centre KMZ, presented the latest developments in the FDFA's large-scale repatriation action at a press conference of the Swiss Confederation.
The FDFA is gradually reducing the frequency of flights after three weeks. The destinations with the most blocked Swiss travellers are covered and a large number of stranded Swiss tourists have now been able to return home either independently or with direct or indirect support from the FDFA.
Less requests – less return flights
"I hereby announce the upcoming end of the repatriation action. At the same time, I urge any blocked travelers to make real use of the remaining flights organised by the FDFA now." The head of the KMZ underlined this urgency because the FDFA assumes that there are still several thousand Swiss travellers abroad. There are currently still around 10,000 trips registered on the Travel Admin App. " As our representations on site only receive few applications from people willing to return, we assume that these people have either not deleted their data after their return or that they want to stay abroad for various reasons," said Hans Peter Lenz.
Status of the return flights
To date, the FDFA has organised 21 repatriation flights under the lead of the KMZ. Some 4600 people, about 2600 Swiss nationals and about 2000 foreign nationals, mainly from Europe, some of whom also live in Switzerland, have been repatriated. On the other hand, about 1100 Swiss citizens travelled on return flights organised by Swiss partner countries, mainly from Europe. At present, eight more flights are planned or are currently being carried out:
- Canary Islands
- Guatemala City - San José
- Mumbai - Delhi
- Cape Town
Cooperation with partner countries and outlook
The head of the KMZ also spoke of Switzerland's solidarity with its partner countries in the context of the repatriation operation: "For certain destinations, cooperation with European partners is still essential. This is particularly the case in Africa, where Swiss nationals are often widely spread. Example: Cape Verde or Namibia, where Swiss flights cannot be organised because of the small number of Swiss nationals affected". This cooperation will be even more important when the FDFA's repatriation action comes to an end. "In a final phase, the FDFA will focus on partnerships with neighbouring countries and the EU in recall operations in order to optimize flight utilization and efficiency," said Hans Peter Lenz.
07.04.2020 – 11.30
Thanks to Swiss support: little boy can undergo cancer treatment in Lausanne
Thanks to the support of the Swiss Embassy in Moscow, a small Russian boy can receive treatment for his eye disease in Lausanne. The three-year-old boy is suffering from a rare form of eye cancer that can only be operated on in a specialist clinic in Lausanne. The Swiss Embassy in Moscow lobbied to ensure that not only Swiss travellers, but also the boy and his parents could find a seat on a plane heading for Switzerland despite travel restrictions due to the coronavirus.
Thanks to the cooperation with the French Embassy, seven Swiss nationals, as well as the little boy and his parents, were able to fly to Paris on an Air France plane at the weekend.
The further journey to Switzerland, which was particularly delicate for the little boy because of his attacked immune system, was also organised. Of course, all travellers with destination Switzerland were brought back in the bus organised by the FDFA together with the DDPS.
05.04.2020 – 23.20
#flyinghome: Swiss nationals repatriated from Bangkok
This is the second time that the FDFA has chartered a flight from the Thai capital. A Boeing operated by Swiss, which departed from Bangkok, landed in Zurich at 11.20 p.m. on Sunday after a stopover in Ventiane, Laos.
The FDFA has organised a total of six return flights from Asia. 3 from Thailand, 1 from Myanmar, 1 from the Philippines and 1 from Cambodia. This is the 21st flight organised as part of the FDFA's return strategy.
05.04.2020 – 20.55
The 20th flight of the FDFA's large-scale repatriation operation landed in Zurich on Sunday at 8.55 p.m.. The flight, operated by Edelweiss, made a stopover in Dubai on its way from Goa, India, before it continued its flight to Switzerland. On board were 81 passengers from Switzerland and 102 passengers from other European countries.
05.04.2020 – 17.00
The FDFA confirms that it has offered its help to Italy, as also stated by the Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio today via Twitter. The Confederation has proposed a ready aid plan to Italy, but before proceeding, it is waiting to hear from Rome about its actual needs, both in regard to the transfer of patients from Italy to Switzerland as well as the dispatch of medical equipment or medical personnel to the country.
05.04.2020 – 06.15
#flyinghome: Airplane from Sydney lands in Zurich
On Sunday morning a plane of the airline Edelweiss landed in Zurich. On board were 175 passengers from Switzerland and 18 passengers from other European countries. This was the nineteenth flight in a row as part of the FDFA's repatriation action. Some 2400 Swiss travellers have already been brought back.
04.04.2020 – 15.45
#flyinghome: Second return flight within Europe - airplane from Belgrade lands in Zurich
On Saturday afternoon a plane of the airline Swiss landed in Zurich. This was the second flight within Europe as part of the FDFA's repatriation operation. On March 12 the FDFA had already brought home 4 Swiss Nationals from Kyiv in Ukraine.
03.04.2020 – 16.20
#flyinghome: From Cambodia back to Switzerland: Airplane from Phnom Penh lands in Zurich with 182 passengers
On Friday afternoon a plane from Phnom Penh landed in Zurich. On board were 50 Swiss travellers and 132 passengers from other European countries. The flight departing from the capital of Cambodia was the fourth return flight from Asia organised by the FDFA as part of its return strategy.
03.04.2020 – 14.30
Fight against the coronavirus: 3 priorities for the FDFA
At a press conference held by the Federal Council, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA, explained the FDFA's measures in the fight against the coronavirus.
"COVID-19 does not only affect Switzerland," said Ignazio Cassis. "The rapid spread of the epidemic makes cooperation between states indispensable. We have intensified relations with all our neighbouring countries and with states further afield. This cooperation is necessary to make balanced decisions. It enabled the release of goods transport at the border and ensured transit for cross-border commuters. In addition, many travellers were able to benefit from the return flights to Switzerland", Ignazio Cassis emphasised at the press conference.
He said that the FDFA's work in this time of crisis is focused on three main areas: 1. assistance for Swiss abroad 2. defence of interests at the diplomatic level 3. contributions within the framework of international cooperation.
"Repatriation operations will continue"
The FDFA has taken numerous measures and the Swiss representations abroad are working hard to support Swiss citizens who are blocked or seeking assistance abroad. In addition to the travellers who are on the move, about 800’000 Swiss nationals live abroad.
Swiss diplomacy has already facilitated the return of 3700 people thanks to 16 special flights from all continents organised by the FDFA. These flights have brought back 2100 Swiss and 1600 foreign nationals. Thanks to contacts and mutual assistance, more than 800 Swiss nationals have been repatriated on flights organised by other states.
"I am impressed by all the thanks and letters we have received from citizens whom we have been able to help. The situation is difficult for everyone and requires a lot of flexibility and tolerance. The repatriation action is working well and will continue", the head of the FDFA continued. Five flights have been confirmed or are in preparation. (An overview of already completed and planned return flights #flyinghome)
Extraordinary situation: International cooperation also helps
In this global context of the COVID-19 crisis, international cooperation has also taken measures to help the most vulnerable and affected populations. "The appeals of the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) are important," said the Federal Council.
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has released a credit of CHF 18 million for UN agencies, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, and the local health systems of SDC partner countries.
Aid has already been delivered to China and Nepal. Federal Councillor Cassis also pointed out that before material is delivered abroad, it is checked whether sufficient material is also available in Switzerland. A further CHF 40 million was reallocated within Switzerland's framework credits for international cooperation.
03.04.2020 – 07.50
#flyinghome: Second return flight from Thailand - aircraft with 177 passengers from Phuket lands in Zurich
On Friday morning an Edelweiss plane, with 120 passengers from Switzerland and 57 passengers from other European countries on board, landed in Zurich. This was the second flight from Thailand as part of the FDFA's repatriation operation. A third flight is scheduled to take place on 5 April 2020, when a Swiss aircraft from Bangkok are due to land.
03.04.2020 – 06.05
#flyinghome: Flight from Quito landed in Zurich with 117 Swiss on board
The flight from Quito, the capital of Ecuador, with 117 passengers from Switzerland and 182 passengers from other European countries on board, landed in Zurich on Friday. This is the sixth flight from South America organised by the FDFA after two from Lima and one each from Bogotá, Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires. The flight was made possible thanks to cooperation between the FDFA crisis centre, the Swiss embassy in Quito and the airline Edelweiss.
02.04.2020 – 06.10
Gecharterte Edelweiss-Maschine mit blockierten Reisenden aus Myanmar landet in der Schweiz
Am frühen Donnerstagmorgen ist ein Edelweiss-Charterfllug aus Yangon (Myanmar) in Zürich gelandet. Das EDA hat bei diesem Flug im Sinne eines «Burden Sharings» neben 39 Schweizer Reisenden zahlreiche Staatsangehörige anderer europäischer Staaten in die Schweiz geflogen. Umgekehrt konnten in den letzten zwei Wochen auch Schweizer Reisende von Sonderflügen nach Europa profitieren, die von anderen Staaten durchgeführt wurden.
Effiziente Zusammenarbeit – bereits 725 Schweizer Reisende mit Sonderflügen anderer Staaten zurückgekehrt
Das EDA führt bei den von ihm organisierten Reisen prioritär blockierte Schweizer Reisende zurück. Die Rückholstrategie des EDA setzt aber zusätzlich auf eine enge Zusammenarbeit mit befreundeten Staaten und wird dadurch effizienter und solidarischer. Durch das gegenseitige Angebot von Plätzen auf Sonderflügen können möglichst viele verfügbare Rückkehrmöglichkeiten genutzt werden. Damit profitieren insbesondere blockierte Schweizerinnen und Schweizer in Destinationen wie z.B. den Kapverdischen Inseln oder Guatemala, die von der Schweiz aufgrund der kleinen Personenzahlen nicht angeflogen werden könnten. Angesichts der eingeschränkten Reisemöglichkeiten im Landesinnern ist es zudem einigen Passagieren oft nicht möglich, rechtzeitig zu den Flughäfen zu gelangen. Freie Plätze können dann weitervermittelt werden – im Interesse aller Staaten und ihrer Reisenden.
Gelebte Solidarität: Beispiel Nepal
Ein Beispiel dieser gelebten Solidarität war zum Beispiel die Zusammenarbeit bei der Rückkehr vieler Reisender aus Nepal, als die Schweiz den Inlandflug von Pokatha nach Kathmandu organisiert hatte, auf dem Reisende aus verschiedenen Staaten Platz fanden. Schweizer Reisende konnten danach auf zwei von Deutschland und Frankreich gecharterten Flugzeugen nach Europa fliegen. Insgesamt fanden Schweizer Reisende bislang bei rund 50 Sonderflügen anderer Staaten Platz und konnten von deren Destinationen dann in die Schweiz weiterreisen.
01.04.2020 – 20.40
#flyinghome: Flight from Yaounde landed in Zurich with 268 passengers on board
The flight from Yaounde, with 268 passengers from Switzerland and from other European countries, landed in Zurich. The flight made a stopover in Douala, Cameroon's economic capital, where it could take on several passengers. Collaboration between the FDFA crisis centre, the Swiss Embassy of Cameroon and the Edelweiss airline enabled this second flight from sub-Saharan Africa.
01.04.2020 – 15.05
#flyinghome: Airplane from Tunis brings Swiss travellers to Geneva and Zurich
After Casablanca (Morocco) and Alger (Algeria), a third return flight from North Africa organised by the FDFA has now been completed: A Swiss plane from the Tunisian capital Tunis landed in Geneva this afternoon with 91 travellers from Switzerland and 83 passengers from other European countries. Some of the passengers will not disembark until Zurich, where the plane will fly from Geneva.
#flyinghome in pictures
#flyinghome is the largest repatriation operation of Swiss nationals in the history of Switzerland. The FDFA is organising a large number of return flights following the coronavirus epidemic that hit the whole world in the first quarter of 2020.
01.04.2020 – 10.25
#flyinghome: Return flight from Lima - 266 Swiss travellers landed in Zurich
The second return flight from Lima, which the DFA organised as part of its return mission, has now been completed: On Wednesday morning, an Edelweiss airline plane landed in Zurich. On board were 266 Swiss travellers and 33 passengers from other European countries. Many of them had been brought to Lima in buses from various cities in northern, southern and eastern Peru. The Swiss Embassy had organised these bus convoys because the measures taken to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus have severely restricted travel opportunities within the country.
01.04.2020 – 10.15
«You made an incredible great job, super well organized, tranquilo!»
The FDFA's large-scale repatriation operation is in full swing. To date, over 1,500 blocked Swiss travellers from abroad have already been brought back home. Many of them are relieved and grateful, as can be seen in the social media.
For its part, the FDFA would like to express its gratitude for these contributions. They show that the efforts of the Swiss representations, the Helpline, the Crisis Management Centre, the Consular Directorate and the FDFA's partners in Switzerland and abroad are having an effect in the context of the repatriation operation.
Practical international solidarity
Due to travel restrictions within a country it is not always easy to reach the airports in time. This is described for example by heal_move on Instagram: "On the way to the meeting point (in Lima, editor's note) I could neither order a taxi nor stop one on the street because of the quarantine. Time was running and I was still waiting to be connected online (Uber), but nobody was reachable! I decided to walk and hitchhike! I am not going to miss this flight!!! I kept running, the streets were empty... Finally, luckily a car – the only car! The driver took me to the meeting point – ohmygod!!! On the way we picked up some more Swiss people". The story of heal_move had a happy end: On March 24th sh landed with an Edelweiss-Airbus in Zurich.
As in the case of heal_move, solidarity is also important on an international level, so that the FDFA’s retrieval action works. Switzerland takes travellers from other countries on its flights to Europe. Conversely, the FDFA checks whether there is room for Swiss nationals on flights operated by other countries. With success, as the examples from Nepal or Chile show. The gratitude for this lived solidarity is mutual!
More return flights
The FDFA is aware that a large number of Swiss nationals are still stranded in almost all parts of the world and thanks them for their patience. The Department is working hard to find return flights for these people too and to support them as far as possible. Further return flights are planned.