Since 2015, according to the latest data from the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), 139’883 people, migrants or refugees, have requested asylum in Switzerland, out of which – in many years –  more than 60% of all applications were submitted by minors under the age of 6, mainly coming from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Algeria, Eritrea, Somalia, Sri Lanka and, in the last 3 years, also from Turkey. For minors, in particular, their arrival in Switzerland coincides with the end of a dramatic migration journey, when they have sometimes lost their parents or other family members, and during which their psychophysical and mental wellbeing has been severely affected. To maintain the psychophysical wellbeing of minors on the move and ensure them, upon their arrival, a safe, child-oriented, and friendly space, adjusted to their psycho-emotional and social integration needs, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, already in 2015, recommended the following:  

” The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommends to the Swiss government to apply minimum standards for reception conditions, integration support and welfare for asylum seekers and refugees, in particular children, throughout its territory, and ensure that all reception and care centres for asylum-seeking and refugee children are Child-Friendly and conform to applicable United Nations standards”

In order to apply the recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Save the Children Switzerland, since 2015, cooperates with SEM and with cantonal authorities in the field of migration – and as a priority in the context of asylum – and actively collaborates with the main Shelter Operators for the implementation of several programs to support and protect the different population groups in transit and/or on the move located inside the main Federal and Cantonal asylum shelters set up across the country to cope with this emergency. 

In line with the strategic renewal process undertaken by the Foundation in 2017, intended to respond, in a targeted manner, to the current challenges in the migration and humanitarian contexts, as well as to focus its priority intervention in migration contexts in Switzerland and Europe, Alta Mane supports Save the Children Switzerland since 2018. This collaboration aims to support the partner to design and implement, in the Swiss asylum context, an integrated child protection program, arts-based, to offer minors on the move psychosocial support, to help them start a post-traumatic resilience process, strengthen their coping mechanisms, and promote their social, emotional, and cognitive development which can facilitate their potential integration to Swiss society and public schools. 

Child-and-Youth Friendly Spaces – Phase Pilote  (2016-2018)

The Child-and-Youth Friendly Spaces (CFS) is an internationally recognized Child Protection Program, developed and implemented by Save the Children in different settings around the world whenever children find themselves in collective shelters, due to forced migration. The program includes numerous activities of advocacy, modelization and dissemination of Best Practices to ensure the implementation of minimum standards for reception conditions for minors on the move. 

In Switzerland, Save the Children launched the Pilot Phase of the CFS Project in 2016-2018 inside 3 Federal Reception Centers in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, in collaboration with SEM and ORS Service AG and AOZ, offering psychosocial support through arts and other educational activities for more than 1’000 accompanied and unaccompanied minors of whom the majority under the age of 6. During the first two years of the Pilot Phase, all artistic and educational activities – painting, drawing, murals, crafting, crafting music instruments, singing, and dancing, the promotion of basic language and numeracy skills through the arts, games, health-promotion, and hygiene activities – run 5 days per week (5 hours per day), focused on the social, cognitive, and emotional development of minors and fostered their participation and inclusion. Recognized by SEM as a model of success for the psychosocial support and promotion of the social, emotional, cognitive and motor development of refugee and asylum-seeking minors; replicable and adaptable in all reception and transit centers nationwide; CFS and regular activities for children are mandatory by the SEM in all Federal asylum shelters since 2019.  Till today, Save the Children supported the set-up of CFSs in 19 Federal and Cantonal asylum shelters, to offer minors on the move a safe, secure and child-friendly space to regain, through artistic creation, their right to childhood, and with a smile, the joy of living and the hope of a better future. 

Creative Toolkit and Activity Box –  (2018-2019)

On the basis of the excellent results obtained during the Pilot Phase of the CFS Project, Alta Mane decided to support in 2018-2019 the modelization of the “Creative Toolkit and Activity Box”, a child-friendly mobile learn and play cart packed into a handcart, ready for use any time, any place, containing a basic supply of play and craft materials. The mobile learn and play cart is designed to make child and adolescent- appropriate care and support possible even where space is limited. The cart can be used both indoors and outdoors and can easily be moved by one person. The modelization of the mobile learn and play cart has been matched and completed by the elaboration of an easy-to-apply guidance to train the Shelter Operators to the use of the mobile learn and play cart, its dissemination and replication inside the asylum shelters. Key element to the Child Protection Program and intended to improve the psychophysical wellbeing and foster the resilience of minors on the move, the mobile learn and play cart allows the implementation of creative and pedagogic activities that promote different children and teenagers’ skills, such as thinking and speaking, social interaction or fine and gross motor skills. Moreover, the games and creative activities are fun for the children and provide a friendly diversion in their everyday life inside the asylum shelters.  

Throughout the project duration, the partner scaled the implementation of the mobile learn and play cart inside 4 asylum shelters (2 Federal and 2 Cantonal) in the German and French-speaking parts of Switzerland; selected the Best Practices of arts-based creative and pedagogic activities, previously tested in the framework of the pilot phase of the “Child-and-Youth Friendly Spaces” Project implemented in a Federal Reception Center; supported 18 directors and co-directors of 12 Federal Asylum Shelters on general questions concerning accommodation and care of children in their shelters, and trained 33 Shelter staff of 16 Federal and Cantonal Asylum Shelters, on the use and the autonomous implementation of creative and pedagogic activities inside the CFSs. 

“Supporting Refugee Children in Switzerland: Child Rights and Protection in Swiss Asylum Shelters”  (2020-2022)

With the aim of strengthening its intervention in the migration contexts in Switzerland and to consolidate the fruitful collaboration with the partner, Alta Mane supports, since 2020, Save the Children for the elaboration of the ambitious and crucial Three-Year National Strategic Program “Supporting Refugee Children in Switzerland: Child Rights and Protection in Swiss Asylum Shelters, 2020-2022”, a holistic program for the protection and promotion of the rights of children on the move, based on the diffusion, implementation and scaling of the “Creative Toolkit and Activity Box” and the dissemination of Best Practices inside and outside the network Save the Children. During the first two years (2020-2021), the support to the project has allowed the partner – besides the set-up of 19 CFSs in 19 Asylum Shelters (10 Federal and 9 Cantonal centres across Switzerland French and German-speaking parts of Switzerland, and Ticino), the dissemination of the “Creative Toolkit and Activity Box” in 10 Asylum Shelters (Federal and Cantonal centres across Switzerland), as well as the training of 117 Staff – to go one step further in the defense and promotion of the rights of children on the move: the recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, published on September 27th 2021, contain many calls for action, especially regarding refugee children. These action requests are based as well on the information provided by Save the Children. Among other things, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child points out that there is a need for unified minimum accommodation standards in all cantons as well as better access to education, health, and socio-cultural services for refugee children in Switzerland, confirming the importance of Save the Children’s commitment and efforts to support this target group. 

In addition, Save the Children’s constant commitment to protecting the fundamental right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts (Art. 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) has been meaningful during the global pandemic: during the several COVID-19 lockdowns (2020-2021), in order to continue to give psychosocial support to children, migrant and refugee children, developed 7 Emergency Learn and Play Kits and 1 Games with Paper and Pen Guidelines which were sent to 100 asylum structures, out of which 60 shelters for migrants and asylum seekers, in 19 Cantons, thus reaching more than 1’400 children (3-17 ages), as well as an Emergency Quarantine Box, reaching approximately 1’000 children (3-17 ages) in 31 Shelters in 11 Cantons of French, German and Italian speaking parts of Switzerland. 



minors on the move (1-18 ages) participated to different creative and pedagogic activities inside 19 Child-and-Youth Friendly Spaces set up in French and German-speaking parts of Switzerland, and in the Canton of Ticino
minors on the move (3-17 ages) benefited from psychosocial support at distance during the several lockdowns (2020-2021) in Switzerland
parents who have lived refugee experiences have been involved in numerous creative and pedagogic activities
professionals (Directors, Co-Directors, Shelter Staff, caregivers, and social workers) were trained in the set-up and management of CFSs, and on the use of the Creative Toolkit and Activity Box
Training sessions on the set-up of CFSs and the use of the Creative Toolkit and Activity Box have been organized
Creative Toolkit and Activity Box have been distributed inside the Asylum Shelters (Federal and Cantonal)
Emergency Learn and Play Kits, 1 Games with Paper and Pen Guidelines and 1 Emergency Quarantine Box have been distributed to 100, out of which 60 centers for migrants and asylum seekers
Asylum Shelters have been involved in the implementation of the Child Protection Program

“We from the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) in the reception and procedure center (EVZ) Bern consider this project a huge success. The children were supported in their development and protected from difficult situations that can rise in everyday life in the center. The project created a colorful space with loud happy children’s voices within the EVZ”.

Technical Specialist Partner and Administration of the State Secretariat for Migration

“The minute I enter in the centre, I feel I have gone to a place where I learn beautiful things that I didn’t know about before”.

Child from Child Friendly Center

“We have learnt how to implement with few resources a wide variety of games, strategies and structures for children of different age groups while also catering for children’s wishes”.

Course participant

“Our goal in the Swiss projects is to improve the living situation of refugee children by 2022. We work to ensure that their accommodation is child-friendly, that they are cared for in a child-friendly way, but also that they are protected from violence. To achieve this, we work a lot with professionals. They work either directly in the Asylum Centers, or for political authorities and cantonal agencies. All these people are either responsible for or give mandates about the care of refugee children”.

Nina Hössli, Head National Programmes, Save the Children Switzerland

“Nous avons maintenant la possibilité de nous préparer pour les années à venir et de créer des structures nécessaires pour que chaque enfant et famille reçoive une prise en charge adéquate dès le premier jour en Suisse. En outre, plus de 80% des enfants demandeurs d’asile bénéficient au moins d’une protection temporaire et restent pendant de nombreuses années en Suisse. La fourniture de soins et de soutien psychosocial de qualité aux niveaux fédéral, cantonal et municipal porte ses fruits à long terme – pour ces enfants, les familles, mais aussi pour la société dans son ensemble”.

Nina Hössli, Head National Programmes, Save the Children Switzerland