Reception centres are only accessible for asylum seekers. They are in principle not open to the public.
Family members and other visitors
In the federal centres, asylum seekers may receive visitors with the agreement of the staff, as long as the visitor can prove the existence of links with the asylum applicant. Visits are normally allowed every day from 2:00pm to 8:00pm, only in rooms provided for this purpose. The SEM can change the visit schedule for organisational reasons. Visitors have to check in with the reception desk on arrival and departure and identify themselves. They are subjected to the same security rules as asylum seekers. The staff in charge of security is therefore empowered to search them and seize dangerous objects and alcoholic beverages for the duration of their visit. According to the most recent report of the NCPT, not all federal asylum centres have actually arranged a visitors’ room.
Federal reception centres are equipped with public telephones, as well as internet. Asylum seekers are allowed to keep their mobile phones but there are some special rules regarding the use of mobile phones, for example not to use it in the dorms. Swiss legislation does not allow asylum seekers to sign a cell phone contract in their own name, unless they have a residence permit in Switzerland. Telephone cards for the public telephones must be bought by asylum seekers from their own limited budget.
In theory, legal representatives could enter the federal asylum centre during visiting hours. This access is granted as the legal representation is foreseen by the law. However, in practice, applicants get appointments at the offices of the legal representation, which implies that access to legal representation varies depending on the geographical location of the infrastructure and transport modalities. To the best of our knowledge and with some exceptions (e.g. the federal centre in Zurich), the legal protection has no direct access to the accommodation buildings (see chapter on Regular procedure).
NGOs and civil society organisations
Pastoral workers can access the federal asylum centres during the opening hours An agreement between the SEM and the national churches regulates cooperation in the area of church pastoral care. The pastoral care offered in the centres is aimed at all asylum seekers, irrespective of religion and culture. Upon request, the SEM may grant other persons, in particular representatives of NGOs, access to the federal centres.
The Ordinance of the FDJP states that the SEM must take organisational measures to encourage exchanges between asylum seekers and civil society actors. The platform ZiAB provides support to groups of volunteers intervening and proposing activities in or near federal asylum centres, those groups provide for example clothing markets, sport events as well as room for games and exchange with the local community.
 Article 3 Ordinance of the FDJP.
 Article 16 Ordinance of the FDJP.
 Article 13 Ordinance of the FDJP.
 Handbook SEM, C1, 2.10.
 Article 3 (3) Ordinance of the FDJP.
 Article 7 Ordinance of the FDJP.
 Plattform Zivilgesellschaft in Asyl-Bundeszentren, information available in French (and German) at: https://bit.ly/3HD86rC. List of volunteering groups available in French (and German) at: https://bit.ly/3376E1R.