About the project

“An extra place at your table”, a support and solidarity project

“An extra place at your table” is a project that aims to have a direct impact on the development and integration of young migrants in Switzerland by building social ties and relationships of trust.

It is an additional resource that complements the institutional support that these young people receive, with a special emphasis on the relational aspect. It continues and complements the government's efforts in helping young migrants. Furthermore, it addresses a need expressed by the young people themselves, to help them with their social integration.

Why “an extra place at your table”?

An increasing number of minor migrants are arriving in Switzerland without their parents or guardians. These young people, called unaccompanied minor refugees (UMRs), are often isolated and in need of guidance.

On the other hand, many people in Switzerland would like to volunteer to help young people.

However, there are currently few opportunities to match young migrants with volunteer mentors.

To address this need, the International Social Service (ISS) has launched “an extra place at your table”. This project is a volunteer initiative for individuals in the host community to provide guidance and personalised support for young migrants.

Who started the project?


The International Social Service is the Swiss branch of ISS, which is present in more than 140 countries. We have been actively involved in migration and child protection for more than 80 years. For over 10 years, our organisation has been committed to the issue of unaccompanied minor refugees (UMRs), acting both in Switzerland and abroad.

In Switzerland, ISS provides direct assistance to UMRs in the form of social and legal advice, financial support and help accessing schooling and employment.

On a cantonal level, ISS contributes to harmonising care standards by providing training for people in charge of UMRs and by monitoring the quality of services offered in the various cantons.

Worldwide, the vision of ISS is to be able to guarantee protection on a transnational scale for these young people between their countries of origin, transit and destination. In this respect, it supports the development of the West Africa Network for the protection of children (WAN). Lastly, ISS Switzerland coordinates “reference people” and “sustainable solution” topics for the ISS global network as well as on platforms and advocacy networks (Migration and Development, Destination Unknown Campaign, SCEP).

For more information: www.iss-switzerland.org

What is the role of ISS?

Having instigated the project, ISS aims to launch and support the implementation of “an extra place at your table” in cantons in order to increase support for young migrants by mobilising the community. It can when appropriate reinforce the initiatives and existing projects which share the same goal as the project “another place at the table" but whose conditions can however vary.

In this respect, ISS guarantees the following services:

  • A framework to help ensure the proper functioning of the relationship
  • Support for associations operating in the cantons
  • A hotline to provide information
  • Information sessions
  • Share procedures and useful documents among local authority partners
  • Meetings between mentors to share their experiences

A local partner will be responsible for coordinating the project. The project will also be run with the collaboration of the child protection services and with foster homes.

Existing projects and initiatives

Context of young migrants in Switzerland


In the current migratory context, the number of children arriving alone in Switzerland is rising considerably. In 2015, more than 2,700 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in Switzerland, compared to 800 in 2014.

Separated children are children under 18 who find themselves outside of their country of origin and who have been separated from their parents or legal guardians. Most of them are aged between 15 and 17, although a third are younger than 15. Their arrival requires particular attention in terms of protection, care and lasting solutions for their future.

These children and young people are often confronted with a lack of cultural and family references, and insufficient information regarding their situation in Switzerland, as well as conditions of isolation that are harmful to their development and well-being.

Putting separated children in touch with a mentor, outside of the institutional care system, is a way of giving them someone who will listen, a friendly relationship, and a life in the host community.

Rolf Widmer, Board Chairman
ISS Switzerland