101 EAST: Exploited: Filipino Workers in Geneva

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101 EAST: Exploited: Filipino Workers in Geneva

Geneva has more millionaires per square kilometre than any other city in the world* (5). It’s no wonder that it has the largest population of illegal immigrants than any other Swiss city** (2).

Life as an illegal alien isn’t easy in Switzerland. It’s against the law to give housing to illegal immigrants, even for purely humanitarian reasons (1). The only places they can find a place to stay is in the city slums.

Landowners in the slums use this law to their advantage. Slumlords, as they’re known, charge extortionate prices*** (4) for the privilege of sharing a one-bedroom flat with nine other people. The worst of the slumlords use their power to elicit sex, threatening expulsion if refused (4). The fear of deportation prevents most illegals from reporting crimes to the police.

Not wanting zones of lawlessness in their city, the Genevan governing body introduced “Operation Papyrus”, which ran from February 2017 to December 2018 (4). If you had no criminal record or debts, were employed and financially independent, can speak French to a certified A2 level, and have lived in Geneva for ten years (or five if you have school-going aged kids) (3), then you were in luck. Operation Papyrus helped an estimated 3,000 people regularize, 30% of those who applied (3).

The fear of promoting illegal immigration has prevented Geneva’s governing body from doing more. Mass deportation is impractical because too many illegal immigrants are hired privately as domestic workers (1). In the meantime, the defenceless continue to be exploited and raped. 101 EAST explores the situation on the ground.

Friday at 11:30 AM on Aljazeera (ch 257) from Friday, 28 May

Also on Saturday, 29 May at 5:30 AM | Sunday, 30 May at 6:30 PM | Monday, 31 May at 7:30 AM

* Over 44-thousand millionaires per square kilometre live in Geneva, 104,300 in total.
** 27 illegal immigrants per 1,000 residents in Geneva, as opposed to 21-per-thousand in Basel and 19-per-thousand in Zurich.
*** 400 francs (over 6-thousand rand) a month per mattress.


(1) Aiding illegal immigrants remains a crime in Switzerland | 2020 | Maire Vuilleumier | SWI swissinfo.ch | https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/migration-policy_aiding-illegal-immigrants-remains-a-crime-in-switzerland/45607238 | accessed: 25 May 2021
(2) 10 facts about Switzerland’s illegal immigrants | 2016 | Le News | https://lenews.ch/2016/04/25/10-facts-about-switzerlands-illegal-immigrants/ | accessed: 25 May 2021
(3) A national breakthrough for undocumented immigrants | 2017 | Stéphane Herzog | Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) | https://www.swisscommunity.org/en/news-media/swiss-review/article/a-national-breakthrough-for-undocumented-immigrants | accessed: 24 May 2021
(4) Geneva: Operation Papyrus Regularised Thousands of Undocumented Workers | 2020 | Marianne Halle (Centre de Contact Suisses-Immigrés Genève (CCSI)) | Platform for International Cooperation on undocumented Migrants (PICUM) | https://picum.org/geneva-operation-papyrus-regularised-thousands-of-undocumented-workers/ | accessed: 24 May 2021
(5) Rich! Top 5 cities with the most millionaires per square kilometre | 2018 | Odwa Mjo | Times Live | https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/lifestyle/2018-11-21-rich-top-5-cities-with-the-most-millionaires-per-square-kilometre/#:~:text=GENEVA%2C%20SWITZERLAND,according%20to%20the% | accessed: 25 May 2021

Author: Jan Hendrik Harmse