Late-Phase Asylum Migration
1989 to 1991
B etween the years 1989 and 1991 the numbers of Sri Lankans entering Switzerland for the purposes of asylum rose steeply when compared to the previous seven years (see Table 9.1). At the end of 1988, according to official statistics, almost 8,000 Sri Lankan nationals applied for political asylum, and the total Sri Lankan population in Switzerland was estimated at around 7,000, of which 97 percent were Tamils. By the end of 1991 a further 17,000 applications for asylum had been submitted, swelling the population to almost 24,000. During the same period the numbers of asylum seekers entering Switzerland from the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Lebanon and Pakistan had grown at a similar rate.
This increase in the numbers of Tamils entering Switzerland during this period was certainly related to developments taking place in Sri Lanka. However, a major reason contributing to the increase in numbers entering Switzerland, as against for example the numbers entering Britain, Germany and Denmark, during the same period, related directly to Switzerland's asylum policy, and it is in this context that the increase in numbers will be first examined.
By 1989 Sri Lanka n agents and European schleppers arranging the passage of Tamils to Europe were, to varying degrees, aware of