Fieldwork and Research Methods
F ieldwork was conducted between January 1992 and July 1994 during which time I lived in Zürich, and concentrated research among Tamil communities in the cantons of Zürich, Schwyz, Luzern, Aargau, St. Gallen and Bern. Research was conducted in four stages. The introductory stage, lasting about six months, was one of familiarisation during which I began to make contacts within the Tamil communities and Swiss federal and cantonal authorities engaged in asylum policy and practice. My first introduction to Tamil asylum seekers in Switzerland was arranged through the LTTE office in London which put me in touch with their regional organiser for Switzerland. Through the Swiss branch of the LTTE-affiliated World Tamil Co-Ordinating Committee (WTCC), I was invited to attend meetings and events organised by welfare, art, culture, sports and 'solidarity' groups that were openly supportive of the LTTE and based in all major cities and towns.
Whilst there are obvious drawbacks in making a political group the first point of fieldwork contact, the access it afforded to Tamil communities in Switzerland was invaluable. Later it will be shown that outside of such politically inspired events there are few occasions when large numbers of Tamils are gathered together. Cultural and sporting events regularly attracted many hundreds of participants from across the social and political spectrum, and a good many of those who attended were not sympathetic to the Tigers and were often ignorant of any LTTE involvement in the organisation of such events. Often the real significance of large-