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Policy Brief for Reducing Irregular Labor Migrants in Switzerland Research Paper

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Updated: May 29th, 2019


Prior to developing a policy brief meant for reduction of irregular migrant labor in Switzerland for the period between 2012 and 2017, it is important to understand who irregular migrant workers are and the rationale behind the exercise. An irregular migrant worker is a migrant worker who enters a country illicitly, and those who have entered legally engage in employment without authorization (Allasino et al 2001).

There are many reasons why irregular migrant labor should be reduced or prevented. To begin with, the policy ensures that migration is effectively managed, and reliability of official immigration policies is maintained. Since it is not easy to get public support for lawful immigration policies, there is a need for measures to be taken to handle irregular migration (Boswell 2003).

The policy will also ensure that adequate salary levels and working conditions are maintained for national workers and legal migrant workers. This is because the existence of irregular migrants in a country’s economy can lower wages and working conditions, especially in low-skilled sectors of that economy (Brettell and Hollifield 2000).

A policy brief for reducing irregular migrant labor in Switzerland, will evade the creation of whole employment sectors and enterprises that mainly rely on irregular migrant labor. It will also thwart misuse of irregular migrants by employers, employment mediators or agents, smugglers and traffickers (DeBardeleben and Hurrelmann 2011).

This is because there is enough evidence to show that irregular migrants are mistreated; they receive lower salaries than their legal counterparts.

In addition, if they are laid off, illegal migrants are not in a position to receive money owed from their employers, and are rarely included in social security laws (Castles and Miller 2009). This policy brief will examine measures that must be put in order to reduce illegal migrant labor in Switzerland.

Policies/measures to be taken

There is a necessity for a holistic strategy in addressing the problem of illegal labor migration in Switzerland. The measures to be taken should be governed by four principles. To begin with, an isolationist approach should not be used as it is bound to fail. Secondly, the measures employed should be comprehensive and complementary. In addition, control or restrictive measures are not adequate (Gedde 2008).

Measures should encourage dialogue, cooperation, and partnerships in countries affected by the problem. A cross-sectoral approach is useful; the following are measures that should be taken in order to reduce illegal migrant labor in Switzerland:

Border controls and visa policy

In an effort, to come up with measures of preventing or reducing irregular migrant labor, the most common recommendations are those that relate to preventing entry of irregular migrants. Border controls need to be efficient and fair; this is because the tendency to try irregular methods is inclined to increase migrants since migrants can maneuver their way into a country by bribing border officials (Monar 2011).

Efficiency at the border can be enhanced through trust grounded ion cooperation among border officials, especially in countries with common borders. The European Union has adopted comprehensive measures to ascertain that common rules are applicable in EU external borders.

The body has also established a European agency to improve cooperation between EU Member states at these borders (Zimmerman 2005). Since Switzerland is a member of the EU, it is bound by these regulations which ensure border officials in member states cooperate to reduce illegal labor migrants.

In addition, a visa policy is required to ensure fewer migrants enter Switzerland without authorization to take up employment with minimal bureaucracy.

However, it is unfortunate that visas that are issued for entry into a country for reasons other than tourism and study are misused in not only Switzerland, but also other EU member states which apply for the three-month EU/Schengen visa for short term visits. Nevertheless, such abuses are mainly occasioned by the lack of adequate avenues to get employment (Guiraudon and Lahav 2006).

Activities in countries of origin

Switzerland should take measures to discourage irregular labor migration movements. In order to achieve this, there should be public sensitization and education campaigns on the risks of irregular migration. Emphasis should be laid on the risks of being subjecting to the cruelty of traffickers, smugglers, or corrupt labor migration mediators.

The IOM carries out programs in the countries of origins, to educate potential migrant workers concerning risks they expose themselves to when they enter into another country in an irregular manner. The focus of such campaigns should not deter migration, but promote legal labor migration.

Actions against those who facilitate irregular migration

One of the recognized methods of reducing irregular migration is the regulation of recruiting migrant workers in an effort to counter illegal recruitment practice, and punish those who aid and ease the movement and placement of irregular migrant laborers. In addition, establishing recruiters or private employment agencies should be considered.

This can be achieved through temporary work agencies, or even through other labor providers. In addition to measures taken to stop illegal recruitment, punitive measures should also be taken against various factors such as transport carriers, labor migration officials, as well as migrant employers. Sanctions should be imposed on facilitators of irregular migration.


Protection should also be one of the measures of reducing irregular migrant labor in Switzerland. This is because these laborers are usually exploited during travel or transit, as well as in places where they work. They, therefore, are at the risk of having their human rights violated. The country should put minimum guarantees for the protection of irregular migrants.

These measures should consider the gender concerns of the human rights violations of the irregular labor migrants (Huysmans 2006). The international human rights law guarantees indiscriminate human rights to all persons.

Therefore, illegal labor migrants should be given protection against such inhumane practices as slavery-like practices and forced labor, with a surety of their freedom and personal security (Lavenex 2001). There are four major rights of irregular labor migrants. These include the right to a fair wage, the right to defend their rights in labor courts, the right to manage and be compensated for accidents in the workplace.


Another measure that should be implemented in order to reduce irregular labor migration in Switzerland is through regularizing the situation of irregular migrants. Although there is a controversy as to the effectiveness of this policy, it is a possible alternative since it helps in preventing further marginalization and exploitation of illegal labor migrants.

In addition, there are economic benefits for Switzerland as a host country if it regularizes its irregular labor migrants (Van den Anker and Van Liempt 2011). This can be realized through in increases taxes, as well as social security contributions. Moreover, it can be utilized in fighting the illegal labor market through affording a formal status to irregular migrant workers.


Another essential component in reducing irregular labor migration in Switzerland is by ensuring that irregular migrants leave the country in which they are living in an irregular manner. This can be effectively achieved through voluntary return as it is cheaper compared to forced return.

The IOM has implemented various programs incorporating its member states through voluntary returning or departure of irregular migrants. The body achieves through disseminating information in the immigrant communities (Weber and Pickering 2011).

Opening up more formal channels for labor migration

Although the effectiveness of this policy is questionable, its usefulness is tied on the factor that irregular migrants are important in the economy of Switzerland. They take up jobs that are disliked by Swiss nationals. In addition to the low-skilled labor force provided by the irregular migrants, countries also seek legal migrant’s labor force for highly-skilled positions (Baruah 2003).

Interstate cooperation

In order for the measures outlined here to be affective, bilateral and multilateral cooperation should be considered. One form of bilateral cooperation is the exchange and posting of immigration liaison officers. These officers are mainly seconded to the other country’s Interior of Foreign Ministry.

They may aid in the identification and prevention of potential irregular flows of migrant labor force. Another approach to interstate cooperation is the incorporation of migration issues in regional collaboration and development activity (Zimmerman 2005).


It should be realized that any effort to address the problem of irregular labor migrants should not only focus on deterrence, but also on improving the conditions of those workers who are already employed. This is because illegal labor migrants have a history of being mistreated by their employers. It should also entail cooperation with other states in the region.


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Boswell C. 2003. European Migration in Flux: Changing Patterns of Inclusion and Exclusion. London: Blackwell, p. 502.

Brettell CB, Hollifield JF. 2000. Migration Theory: Talking across Disciplines. New York: Routledge, p. 489.

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DeBardeleben J, Hurrelmann A. 2011.Transnational Europe. Promise, Paradox, Limits. London: Palgrave, p. 471.

Geddes A. 2008. Immigration and European Integration: Beyond Fortress Europe. Manchester: Manchester University Press, p. 372.

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Lahav G. 2006. Immigration and Politics in the New Europe: Reinventing Borders. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 298.

Lavenex S. 2001. The Europeanization of Refugee Policies. Between Human Rights and Internal Security. Aldershot: Ashgate, p. 312.

Monar J. 2011. ‘Justice and Home Affairs’ Journal of Common Market Studies.49 (5); 145-164.

Van den Anker, Van Liempt I. 2011. Human Rights and Migration: Trafficking for Forced Labor. London: Palgrave, p. 269.

Weber L, Pickering S. 2011. Globalization and Borders. London. Palgrave, p. 412.

Zimmermann KF. 2005. European Migration: What Do We Know? Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 302.

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