Africans in Switzerland Find a Common Voice

Stefania Summermatter, Swiss Info, March 14, 2012

Some fled from a country torn by war. Others were following the dream of a better future: a job, a home, a family.

At the end of 2011 there were 60,658 Africans resident in Switzerland, not counting dual citizens or asylum seekers without refugee status. Most of them are Eritreans (8,377), Moroccans (7,270), Tunisians (6,489), Congolese (4,707) and Cameroonians (4,068).

With the exception of South Sudan, which has been independent only since July 2011, all 54 states of the world’s second-most populous continent are represented. Together they represent about 3.5 per cent of the foreign resident population here.

“African immigration is a rather recent phenomenon in Switzerland which experienced a significant development in the past 20-30 years,” explained the sociologist Denise Efionayi, author of a study on the Sub-Saharan diaspora published by the Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies (SFM).

“This is a heterogeneous community, with extremely varied cultural, linguistic and religious affiliations. ‘African’ identity for these migrants is often defined negatively in response to a common migratory pattern and experiences of discrimination and marginality.”

In the eyes of many Swiss, these migrants are simply Africans. It matters little where they come from; whether they are Christian or Muslim, or speak French, English or Arabic.

It’s a prejudice which needs to be corrected, certainly, but one which the African diaspora is now trying to turn to its own advantage, playing down national barriers so as to speak with a single voice.

Earlier this month, several hundred Africans met in Bern to get to know each other, engage in dialogue, and share their hopes and frustrations.

The congress was organised by the African Diaspora Council Switzerland (ADCS) which intends to act as an umbrella for the hundreds of African associations, small businesses and places of worship now active around the country.

The aim is to improve the image of this community of migrants which is too often associated with problems like illegal immigration, drug dealing and violence.

Strength in numbers

“The initiative was started in 2010 after the death of a Nigerian asylum seeker during a forced repatriation.

The African community was in shock, but in spite of this only a small number of people took part in protests and awareness-raising actions that followed the event,” explained ADCS coordinator Celeste Ugochukwu.

“So we thought that, if Mohammed won’t go to the mountain… we needed to get going ourselves. And so we went around the different regions to get to know the groups and act as a bridge between them.”

The creation of an African diaspora council immediately aroused the  interest of the Federal Migration Office.

“For us it is fundamental to have a more institutional partner that can give voice to the needs of the migrants,” Eric Kaser from the Migration Office integration division told

Around 30 associations have joined the initiative and, apart from Egyptian representatives, they are run by, or cater to, migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Some concern themselves with facilitating the integration of Africans in Switzerland, others with promoting development in their home countries through exchanges of skills or sending money. There are politically motivated organisations and research centres for promoting peace.

A fundamental role in the integration of migrants is played by the religious groups, the food stores, hairdressers and restaurants, which also represent a significant focus on socialisation.

“Unlike the Spaniards and Portuguese, Africans were not able to count on the help of trade unions in creating a community where they could band together and defend their rights,” explained Efionayi.

“This is because of the great diversity of the community and an economic situation that is quite different from what it was in the post-war era.”

Overcoming prejudice

According to the SFM study, over 50 per cent of immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa are under the age of 40. It is therefore not surprising that the impulse for the creation of an African diaspora council came particularly from young people.

“Leaving aside our cultural differences, we are often confronted with the same problems: access to education or jobs, assimilation, loneliness and isolation,” said Joel Hakizimana, a 31-year-old originally from Burundi who is now secretary of the ADCS.

Prejudice is all too present in life and “even if at times people get tired of hearing about integration, sharing experiences and strategies lets us look to the future in a positive way”, he said.

Workplace discrimination is perhaps the most striking aspect of the experience of these young people. Between 2003 and 2007, two-thirds of African immigrants were working at semi-skilled or unskilled jobs, for the most part as manual labourers, or were working in retail, services and restaurants.

“Some of them have a university degree, but these are not recognised or have simply lost their worth after the months of inactivity taken up by the asylum procedure or unemployment, which among young Africans is over 20 per cent,” said Efionayi.

For the African diaspora, economic and social participation is the key to successful integration. The new organisation is a chance to show Swiss society the important role played by various regional associations.

It is an opportunity to reinforce a common African identity and create a political lobby able to overcome the many prejudices which exist.

“Integration is like doing the tango: it takes two,” participants in the diaspora meeting have been saying.

“We are ready to dance. Are you?”

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  • On the one hand, the trend is going in the wrong direction.

    On the other hand, there are only 60,658 Africans in all of Switzerland.  If only there were only 60,658 Africans in St. Louis City or Kansadishu City alone.

    • The_Bobster

      It’s still 60,658 too many.

      • KenelmDigby

        Switzerland only has around 7 million people, so 60 odd thousand is getting visibly significant.

  • White Death

    Asking an African to leave is like asking a tick to stop sucking blood. It’s like asking a flea to stop bothering dogs.

  • In a unified voice they say “Gimme dat”. Blacks pass through many nations where they would have to work to eat so that they can sit on the dole/welfare. Being on the dole/welfare is better than being in the top 1% of natives in black lands.  The smartest of african blacks(not saying much with avg IQ of 70) lie to get asylum instead of trying to make their lands better.

  • JohnEngelman

    The aim is to improve the image of this community of migrants which is too often associated with problems like illegal immigration, drug dealing and violence.      
    – Stefania Summermatter, Swiss Info, March 14, 2012      

     The best way for them to improve their image is to stop dealing drugs and robbing people.

    • nBmnp

      Stop dealing drugs and robbing people?… you are a dreamer, I guess we can already talk abou success when they stop their gratuidous, senseless violence like this example of an Anglolan in Switzerland:

      • What need to happen is that incidents like this need to make it into popular culture.
        The above incident is truly horrifying, it would make a nice TV-short.

        Right now, the TV is filled with nothing but numinous negroes.

  • KenelmDigby

    Switzerland was never a colonial power and owes black Africans absolutely nothing.
    It simply should refuse to accept them.
    The numbers might be around 1% of the population now, but they will certainly skyrocket very quickly.

    • NotYourTypicalBlack

       …welllllll, personally, I don’t think ANYONE owes ANYONE anything at all, their colonial power ancestry notwithstanding!

    • Mainlander

      Precisely, how many “refugees” are admitted into Japan? Tokyo is still 99.9% Japanese and no one calls them racist.

  • Dirk_Pitt

    I went to Geneva when I was young and my memory of the place was just like yours, clean,peacful etc etc.

    Last year I returned to Geneva to visit the motor show. Graffiti everywhere, rubish. 
     Walking around the city at night with my wife she was constantly approached by imigrants turkish I would wager a guess, if i was not at her side.
     If I was we just got jeers and gestures from them.

    Europe as we remember it is no more

  • Cliff Yablonski

    “Integration is like doing the tango: it takes two,” participants in the diaspora meeting have been saying.
    “We are ready to dance. Are you?”
    Africans do nothing but complain about whites and their racism, yet  are eager to be around them and intermingle every chance they get while running from their own countries where they have made things so bad for themselves .
    Why do we allow this to happen to ourselves? They have nothing to offer white cultures, but we allow The Big Lie to be spread that by having Africans in our midst we are being enriched.

    • Mainlander

      Well said. They also relentlessly follow the whites in North America to whatever exurb they flee to from the multicultural nightmare that most urban centers have become. 

  • jackellis

    All is certainly not lost in Switzerland.

    And Black Africans are less than 1 percent of the Swiss population. Having a few around let’s local Swiss Whites see the problem and work to contain it.

    Remember the Swiss People’s Party is the number one party in Switzerland.

  • Arbeideren

    Africans in my town, Oslo,  are plentiful and when not leeching on the welfare system, they are mostly involved in drug trade or prostitution.  Since leftists in government found it wise to abolish any meaningful police presence, the blacks do their business in the open with no fear of reprisals. Some day, soon I hope, all these creatures shall be put on a boat and shipped back to the jungle whence they came. They are such a massive liability for any civilized nation. I speak from experience, not prejudice mind you.

  • The Africans in Switzerland are wrong. They aren’t merely associated with drugs and violence. They are also associated with rape because they commit all of the rapes in Switzerland. Just like they do all of the rapes in Oslo.

    See, rape isn’t really rape in this 21st century multiculturalism. It helps to replace that hurtful, stigmatizing, pejorative and downright racist term with something like “forcible genital diversity” or “Reparation coitus.” 

  • Mainlander

    What are the current modern statistics for white refugees going to non-white countries? Why is it never mentioned that the only place that can be a “refuge” is a white majority country? Where does this end? When whites are a minority in every single country in Europe, North America, Australia, etc?

  • mikejones91


  • SLCain

    “Integration is like doing the tango: it takes two,” participants in the diaspora meeting have been saying.  “We are ready to dance. Are you?”

    A lot of white women are familiar with this typical black attitude that these invaders are expressing toward Switzerland: if you don’t want to dance with me, then you must be racist.   I’m sure a lot of those Africans are ready to do more than just dance.  They’re ready to rape, rob, and murder too.

    Here’s my advice to Switzerland.  Be racist.  Be very racist.  You’ll save yourself a world of trouble.