An “individual and collective” success. Three years to the day after the launch of the operation, the Geneva authorities have taken stock of Papyrus. Conducted from 2017 to 2019, the project enabled the regularization of 2,390 clandestine workers, mainly from the domestic economy and, to a lesser extent, from the construction trades and the hotel and restaurant industry. Some 740 other candidates are still awaiting a decision.
In addition to the individual impact, the operation also generated significant benefits for the local economy by bringing some 5.7 million francs into the canton’s social insurance funds. Hailed in Geneva, the Papyrus legacy is now in the hands of Bern.
Getting out of hypocrisy and fighting against moonlighting: Papyrus, from its code name, was born out of a political will, under the impetus of State Councilor Pierre Maudet, then responsible for Security and Economy, allied with Simonetta Sommaruga, in charge at the time of the Federal Department of Justice and Police. To clean up the domestic labor market, the objective was to facilitate the regularization of illegal workers by selecting certain well-defined criteria in law. A length of stay of five years for a family and ten years for a couple without children was notably required, as well as a good level of French, financial independence and a lack of criminal record.
Suspicions of fraud
“These strict criteria have remained, each file has been thoroughly examined,” said today the head of the Department of Security, Employment and Health, Mauro Poggia, echoing the fraud attempts reported to the Public Prosecutor and relayed in the press at the end of January. “Exceptions that were stopped in time”. Of the 3,380 applications submitted, 42 were refused by the Cantonal Population Office and 5 by the State Secretariat for Migration, because they did not meet the criteria. These refusals resulted in referrals.
On the fraud front, “the prosecution is currently conducting investigations into the production of false documents in regularization procedures, confirms spokesman Marc Guéniat. Two defendants are currently in pre-trial detention. “
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The underside of Papyrus is also the immense work of associations and unions who held some 2230 hours of permanence to refer candidates, often terrorized at the idea of revealing their existence to the authorities. A convincing commitment. Only 1% of the requests prepared upstream with the associations were refused. In the wake of the project, the accompanying measures have become more democratic. The Chèque service system, intended for bosses who wish to declare their employee, thus experienced a 55% increase in memberships.
A woman aged around 45, from Latin America with, in two cases out of three, children and working as a cleaning lady or companion lady: the robot portrait of the beneficiaries of Papyrus lifts a corner of the veil on a invisible population. “Sign a lease in his name, return to see his loved ones in the country or even go out without fear of being arrested by the police: the benefits of Papyrus cannot be measured in figures for those who have been able to benefit from them,” stresses Marianne Halle, – word of the Swiss-immigrant contact center. They changed their lives. ”
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When it launched, Papyrus had raised serious fears, on the far right of course, but not only. Is the project likely to create an air intake with the massive influx of a precarious workforce replacing the regularized workers? Should we expect an increase in demands for social assistance from people who will now have rights? Will the bosses lay off their employees in good standing, now too expensive, and hire others at a lower cost?
Fears swept away
These fears have all been overturned by a study by the University of Geneva. From a sample of 543 people, regularized or not, Professor Giovanni Ferro-Luzzi and his colleagues measured the economic independence of regularized workers and the impact of the project on the labor market. “No draft effect was observed,” said the professor. Compliance, on the contrary, is helping to clean up the domestic economy. ” In addition, only 0.8% of those interviewed used social assistance, mainly due to health problems.
With these good results, will Papyrus have a future? If there is no question at the moment of renewing the project, the Geneva experience could serve as a model for the rest of Switzerland. Interrogated by the Committee on Political Institutions, the Federal Council must issue a roadmap to tackle the problem of illegal workers by the end of the year. A glimmer of hope for the approximately 10,000 invisible people who still live and work in Geneva.