The SDC provides support for refugees and internally displaced persons. It deploys experts to the field and provides NGOs and international humanitarian agencies with funding. It also works with local authorities.
A major part of the SDC's humanitarian aid programmes involves providing guidance and support for refugees and internally displaced persons.
Three quarters of all refugees are concentrated in developing countries, which do not have the means to support large numbers of them or offer them effective protection. Those arriving by sea – known as boat people – can neither continue their journey nor return home. Their illegal status exposes them to threats of physical violence, theft, rape and human trafficking.
Unlike refugees, internally displaced persons have not crossed any international border, but rather have been forced to flee within their own country. As a result, they find themselves under the responsibility of the government and local authorities concerned, which are not always able or willing to exercise their responsibilities in this regard. In such cases the international community provides them with protection in the form of direct aid, or by creating an appropriate legal framework.
The SDC's immediate response to migratory movements triggered by a crisis takes the form of emergency assistance and reconstruction. But the complex, global phenomenon of migration requires many other kinds of response.
Deployment of experts
Humanitarian aid can come in a number of forms, including the deployment of experts to protect victims of armed conflict, support for local authorities and even the distribution of cash to host families taking in refugees, so that they can provide them with better living conditions.
The SDC makes experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) available to the UNHCR. The UNHCR benefited from the services of SHA specialists in a variety of sectors, including water and sanitation, law and the construction of shelters. In 2016, 24 SHA experts carried out missions for the UNHCR in 14 countries in Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East.
The SDC's involvement is thus based on an interdepartmental approach, «Protection in the region». The aim of this approach is to provide prompt and effective protection for refugees in their region of origin and to help the countries of first refuge to guarantee the protection they require. The SDC’s commitment in the Horn of Africa and in the Middle East – two contexts with a significant number of displaced populations – reflects this approach.
A growing phenomenon
Instability in many parts of the world causes hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homeland. The UNHCR estimates that almost 61.4 million people – refugees, stateless persons, persons displaced internally by conflicts or wishing to return home – will require its protection and assistance in 2016.
Involvement in Syria
Switzerland has been providing humanitarian aid and protection for population groups affected by the Syrian crisis since 2011. The SDC provides them with assistance through direct operations carried out by the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) and through substantial financial contributions to the multilateral aid efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross, UN agencies and NGOs on the ground.