Residents of a quiet hamlet in northern Switzerland are up in arms over the government’s plans to convert a disused missile base into an asylum centre.

"/> Residents of a quiet hamlet in northern Switzerland are up in arms over the government’s plans to convert a disused missile base into an asylum centre.

" />
SHARE
COPY LINK

IMMIGRATION

‘Asylum centre in Schmidrüti: No thanks!’

Residents of a quiet hamlet in northern Switzerland are up in arms over the government’s plans to convert a disused missile base into an asylum centre.

Local residents in Schmidrüti protested loudly on Wednesday against the plan to provide 100 beds for refugees and have already started collecting signatures for a petition, Tages Anzeiger reports.

The village is currently home to 90 people, but should the plans go through this number would more than double.

Many residents are fiercely determined to prevent a repeat of what they remember as an unpleasant earlier experience.

In 1999, large numbers of Kosovan refugees poured into the area. Local resident Jakob Furrer recalled how they sat about by the roadside, looked into his living room, begged, and stole vegetables and washing from the clothes-lines.

“We felt constantly harassed,” he told Tages Anzeiger.

The local council intends to lodge a legal appeal against the plans on grounds that the government would need a special permit to renovate the missile base into accommodation for asylum seekers.

“We don’t want our little paradise ruined,” Yvonne Meier told the paper. She is concerned for her children, worried that they would not be able to play in the garden or take the bus.

Another resident has already ordered campaign stickers with the caption, “Asylum centre in Schmidrüti: No thanks!”

See also: Opposition mounts over planned asylum centre

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

IMMIGRATION

Amnesty decries Swiss asylum centre abuse

Minors and adults housed in Swiss asylum centres have faced serious abuses at the hands of security staff, including beatings and chokeholds, Amnesty International warned Wednesday.

Amnesty decries Swiss asylum centre abuse
An asylum centre in the Alpine village of Realp, Central Switzerland. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In a report, the rights organisation’s Swiss chapter detailed “alarming abuse” in the country’s federal asylum centres, and called for urgent government action to address the problem.

The report documents a range of abuses by staff of the private security companies Securitas and Protectas, which had been contracted by Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).

Amnesty said it had spoken with 14 asylum seekers, including two minors, who reported having faced abuse from the security officers between January 2020 and April 2021, along with 18 current and former security agents and other witnesses.

The asylum seekers described being beaten and physically restrained to the point where they could not breathe or fainted.

Some also complained about trouble breathing after being doused with pepper spray, and being locked in a metal container in freezing temperatures.

The report found that six of the alleged victims had to be hospitalised, while two said they had been denied the medical assistance they had requested.

“In addition to complaints about physical pain, mistreatment and punitive treatment, these people also voiced concerns about (security staff’s) hostility, prejudice and racism towards the residents,” said Alice Giraudel, a lawyer with Amnesty’s Swiss branch.

Such attitudes had seemed to target people of North African origin in particular, she said. Some of the abuse cases, Amnesty said, “could amount to torture”, and would thus violate Switzerland’s obligations under international law.

In a media statement, the SEM said it took the criticism “very seriously”, but rejected the suggestion that abuses were taking place in a systematic manner in federal asylum centres.

It stressed that there was no acceptance for “disproportionate constraint” of asylum seekers, and vowed to “sanction all improper behaviour.”

Giraudel hailed that the SEM had recently announced it would open an external probe into isolated abuse allegations.

But, she insisted, the situation was alarming and required the government to stop looking at allegations of abuse as the work of “a few bad apples”.

SHOW COMMENTS