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Thousands of asylum applications neglected

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13:03 CEST+02:00

Swiss justice minister Simonetta Sommaruga opened an enquiry on Wednesday to find out why thousands of Iraqi asylum requests were ignored by the country's migration authorities.

The minister also announced the dismissal of the head of the Federal Migration Office (BFM), Alard du Bois-Reymond.

No reasons were given by the BFM for Du Bois-Reymond’s termination, and Sommaruga would neither confirm nor deny that it was linked to the Iraqi asylum enquiry.

The external enquiry will investigate why between 7,000 and 10,000 asylum requests submitted by Iraqis to the Swiss embassies in Syria and Eygpt were overlooked by the BFM for several years.

Du Bois-Reymond, who took up his position in the migration office in January 2010, told Tages Anzeiger newspaper his dismissal was a coincidence: “The decision not to handle the asylum requests happened long before my time at BFM.” 

Du-Bois Reymond explained that shortly before his entry to the migration department he was informed about the embassy asylum requests and “decided to process the asylum requests as every person has the right to an individual check of their request.”

He did not inform Sommaruga when she became his boss in October 2010 because in his view there was no problem and “the need for protection of Iraqis decreased in 2006-8.” 

Du Bois-Reymond acknowledged he should have told minister Sommaruga, who found out about the asylum requests from someone outside the government administration.

A possible reason for the oversight was his poor collaboration with Sommaruga, he said: “We did not build mutual trust. The chemistry between us did not click.”

“That sounds like a luxury problem, but trust is very important because Swiss government migratory politics is constantly criticised,” Du Bois-Reymond told 20 Minuten newspaper.

The 51-year-old justice minister is a Social Democratic Party (SP) politician, a member of the Swiss Federal Council and head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police.

Whether or not Sommaruga’s predecessors Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf and Christoph Blocher knew about the events in Syria and Egypt will also be found out in the enquiry.

Mario Gattiker, De Bois-Reymond’s deputy who has worked at the migration office since 2001, will succeed him in November.

Du Bois-Reymond will get a year’s salary of 300,000 CHF ($374,500) as a pay-off.

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