Long queue for relief in wealthy Switzerland
Published: 11:18 AM, 10 May 2020
Long queue for relief in wealthy Switzerland. Photo: Collected
More than 1,000 people queued up on Saturday to get free food parcels in Geneva, underscoring the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on the working poor and undocumented immigrants even in wealthy Switzerland, reported news agency Reuters.
The line of people stretched for more than 1 km (half a mile) outside an ice rink where volunteers were handing out around 1,500 parcels to people who started queuing as early as 5:00 am.
“At the end of the month, my pockets are empty. We have to pay the bills, the insurance, everything,” said Ingrid Berala, a Geneva resident from Nicaragua who works part-time. “This is great, because there is food for a week, a week of relief...I don’t know for next week.”
According to charity Caritas, in a nation of nearly 8.6 million, 660,000 people in Switzerland were poor in 2018, particularly single parents and those with a low level of education unable to find work after losing a job.
More than 1.1 million people were at risk of poverty, which means they have less than 60% of the median income, which was 6,538 Swiss francs ($6,736) for a full-time job in 2018.
Swiss bank UBS has calculated that Geneva is the second-most expensive global city for a family of three to live in, behind only Zurich. While average incomes are also high, that helps little for people struggling to make ends meet.
“I think a lot people are aware of this, but it is different to see this with your own eyes,” said Silvana Matromatteo, head of the aid group Geneva Solidarity Caravan.
“We had people in tears who said ‘It is not possible that it is happening in my country’. But it is here and maybe the COVID-19 brought everything out and this is good, because we will be able to take measures to support all these workers, because they are workers above all.”