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REFUGEE CRISIS

IMMIGRATION

Swiss refugee total to ‘clearly’ exceed forecast

The original forecast of 29,000 asylum seekers arriving in Switzerland in 2015 will be "clearly exceeded" according to the Secretary of State for Immigration.

Swiss refugee total to 'clearly' exceed forecast
Photo: AFP/Fabrice Coffrini

Mario Gattiker made the comment to the newspaper Basler Zeitung after the paper obtained a leaked document from the Federal Migration Office (SEM) suggesting as many as 10,000 people could arrive in Switzerland in November alone.

Gattiker wouldn’t confirm the prediction, saying instead: “We are registering the same ongoing high level of application numbers as before”.

However right-wing MP Ueli Maurer leapt on the prediction. Speaking on the SRF programme 10 vor 10, he said: “If you look at the whole situation in Europe then it would certainly be conceivable that Switzerland will receive 10,000 this month.”

Confirmed figures from the SEM show that 4,544 new arrivals applied for asylum in Switzerland in September, 645 more than the previous month.

From January to September the country received a total of 24,212 asylum seekers, a 34 percent rise on the same period last year.

Basler Zeitung estimates the figure for October – so far unconfirmed by SEM – to be 4,700.

According to the paper, Switzerland is becoming more popular with Afghan migrants, with 1,533 seeking asylum in the alpine nation in October alone, a significant rise when compared with the total 1,929 Afghan arrivals in the nine-month period from January to September.

Gattiker told the paper the influx reflects Germany’s policy of favouring Syrian refugees over Afghans.

Speaking to the NXP news agency, the president of the country's centre-right Liberals party Philipp Müller said the country must react.

“The confederation must very clearly say that Afghan refugees are only provisionally welcomed in Switzerland.”

According to NXP the government has budgeted for 24,000 refugees in 2016, at a cost of 1,47 billion francs.

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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