Schweiz: Anni Lanz

One has to use anger so that it leads to change.

— Anni Lanz

Anni Lanz has fought for the rights and dignity of refugees for 20 years. The sociologist (59) lobbies on the political level, helps organize public events, and offers direct help by accompanying people during their visits to officials. She writes their applications and, if necessary, even takes them home with her. After years of sparing no effort the Swiss asylum law recognized the need to take into account “reasons specific to women.” In 2004, Anni Lanz was awarded a honorary doctoral degree for her work by the faculty of law of the University of Basel.

Anni Lanz lives and works in Basel. She began in the women’s movement and later, in her work with refugees was able to combine both themes. “When I joined the asylum movement in 1986, I faced a dilemma. Women were not an issue in the asylum movement and, in the women’s movement, immigrants and refugees were not an issue.” She found the bridge in working closely with women refugees and immigrants. As part of her studies in sociology she was a participatory observer working as a waitress. Later, she founded an independent restaurant with like-minded people. There, she got to know Turkish and Kurdish women, and established a self-help project with them. Afterwards, she worked for many years as a political secretary for the organization Solidarité sans frontières (Solidarity without Borders). Anni Lanz has been to the asylum and immigration authorities countless times, with hundreds of people, has filed complaints, made applications, challenged laws – and has also won. Each time, it also was about broadening the interpretation of rules. After years of struggle, the following sentence was added to the Swiss asylum law: “Reasons of flight specific to women are to be taken into account.” There used to be more success; today, there is terribly little tolerance. The biggest problem for refugees in Switzerland is the narrow definition of who is a refugee. For those who are really in danger, Switzerland has become too big a risk. Anni Lanz has always worked on two levels: on the political level as a lobbyist and street activist, and doing the basic work of accompanying refugees. “That was very important to me, because accompanying people and having direct contact with refugees gives the political work credibility.”

Solidarity Network of the Region of Basel Frauenrat für Aussenpolitik (Women’s Council for Foreign Policy)