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REFUGEE CRISIS

IMMIGRATION

Mediterranean migrant count continues to rise

More than 350,000 migrants have risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean this year, and some 2,600 have died while making the perilous journey to Europe, the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration said on Tuesday.

The latest figures from IOM show that 234,778 migrants had landed in Greece and another 114,276 in Italy, with most of the other arrivals split between Spain (2,166) and the island of Malta (94).
   
The figure from 2015 already dwarfs that of 2014, when 219,000 made the crossing throughout the entire year.
   
The majority of arrivals in Greece were Syrians fleeing the country's protracted civil war, while Eritreans topped the list of migrants who have landed in Italy.
   
Aside from deaths among those trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean, IOM noted that another 1,000 people had lost their lives this year along various other migration routes, including the Sahara desert and
South Asia's Bay of Bengal.

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”.

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