How Many Sans Papiers Are There in Switzerland

I have written a blog post for the NCCR on the move on how many sans-papiers there are in Switzerland (in German). The blog post draws on a study I was involved in two years ago, where we estimated the number of sans-papiers in Switzerland. The main message: of course we don’t know how many there are, so our best estimate also comes with uncertainty. Strangely enough, when this study is cited in politics, I can always see a single precise figure — a figure we always greatly de-emphasized in the report.

New Report on Sans-Papiers in Switzerland

Just a few days ago, a new report on sans-papiers in Switzerland to which I contributed was published. You can read typical news coverage here (in English), but contrary to the “10 facts about Switzerland’s illegal immigrants“, the report tries hard to present a nuanced picture. I’m particularly happy that the press release (to which we did not contribute) includes a bandwidth alongside the “best” estimate. It’s been a struggle at times to convince co-authors and others involved that aggregating expert estimations will never yield a precise number and particularly that we should communicate this uncertainty. Perhaps one day this kind of numbers will be reported using graphical representation.

More disappointing is that the press release compares the current “best” estimate with that a decade ago: with the provision of free movement of persons between Switzerland and countries of the EU a significant group of sans-papiers have become (potentially) legal residents: the comparison is not meaningful.

The report also provides a nuanced portrait of the sans-papier population; their number is just one aspect…

Morlok, Michael, Harald Meier, Andrea Oswald, Denise Efionayi-Mäder, Didier Ruedin, Dina Bader, and Philippe Wanner. 2016. “Sans-Papiers in der Schweiz 2015.” Bern: Staatssekretariats für Migration (SEM). Report available in German and French.