“People displaced by war should still be taken in but only with the aim of sending them back later when the situation in their country of origin allows it,” Philipp Müller, leader of the influential centre-right Liberal party (FDP), told the Schweiz am Sonntag paper.
“People attempting to enter for economic reasons must be rejected,” Müller added.
Noting “chaos” on the Greek island of Kos, where thousands of migrants mainly from Syria and Iraq have turned up in recent weeks, Müller said Switzerland needed to refocus on the issue of migrants.
He said too many people have been granted permanent refugee status in Switzerland in recent years and not nearly enough have been ordered to return home.
He specifically cited Sri Lanka, where a 25-year civil war ended in 2009.
“Asylum-seekers are still not being sent back there although the country has become a tourism destination for Swiss people. That is absurd,” Müller said.
In a review of Switzerland concluded this week, the United Nations Committee against Torture voiced concern that the federation “is not sufficiently considering” circumstances in the country of origin before sending migrants home.
The UN panel specifically noted two reported cases of ethnic Tamils being subjected to torture after being forcibly returned to Sri Lanka.
Switzerland, known for its tame political climate, goes to the polls on October 18.
As in the rest of Europe, migrant and refugee policy has increasingly become a source of debate in the country.
Justice minister and current Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga earlier this month said it was “unthinkable” that Switzerland would return people to Eritrea, which is led by authoritarian regime.
She was responding to criticism from the right-wing Swiss People's Party that the government's handling of Eritrean migrants was too lenient, a complaint echoed by Müller.