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Grounds for asylum under attack

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10:50 CEST+02:00

The Council of States wants to change the law so that people cannot claim political asylum because they have deserted their country’s army. The aim is to make it harder for Eritreans to seek asylum in Switzerland.

The Council of States, also known as Switzerland’s upper house, wants to stop asylum seekers being able to use desertion as a ground upon which to claim asylum, newspaper Tribune de Genève reported.

Some two thirds of asylum seekers from Eritrea now use their desertion as the basis for the asylum applications. The introduction of desertion as a valid ground for claiming asylum in 2005 led to a dramatic increase in applications.

Number rose from 200 in 2005, to more than 1,000 in 2006. In 2011 more than 3,000 applications were registered and the first quarter of 2012 has already exceeded the figures for the first quarter of last year by some 41 percent.

It is hoped that removing desertion as a ground for asylum will dramatically reduce the number of entrants to Switzerland, but critics say it will make little difference as Eritreans will still be able to claim at least temporary asylum for other reasons due to the continuing war with Ethiopia.

Swiss People’s Party representative, Heinz Brand, is optimistic that the move will yield results.

“The decline in Eritrean applicants will not happen overnight. But it will come because of the change in conditions,” he told the newspaper.

“Social welfare will decrease and family reunification will not be allowed.”

But Michael Glauser from the Office for Migration sees the problem differently.

“Already today we do not give asylum solely on the grounds of desertion,” he said.

Glauser thinks that this group will continue being granted asylum because the applicants risk their lives if they are sent home again.

Part of the drive to reduce numbers of Eritreans entering Switzerland is because of their poor integration into Swiss society. But some point to the experience of many Tamils saying they show that people who were at first poorly integrated can flourish and contribute to society.

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