An asylum seeker centre in Switzerland. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Undertaken by the University of Zurich but commissioned by the Federal Commission against Racism (EKR), the report analyzed the legalities of limiting the freedom of movement of asylum seekers and found that it can only be done if it respects their fundamental rights.
Fundamental rights as laid out in the Swiss constitution “are conceived as human rights; they protect all human beings, and therefore asylum seekers, however precarious their right to stay in Switzerland,” said the report.
Measures restricting movement can only be applied to individuals who threaten security or public order, the EKR said in a statement .
Any such measures “should have a legal basis, be justified by public interest or serve to protect the fundamental rights of others,” it said.
Crucially, restrictions must also be proportionate.
As a result of the report, the EKR has laid out certain recommendations for federal, cantonal and communal authorities to follow, particularly specifying that an individual asylum seeker should only be subjected to a restriction on his movements if he poses “a concrete threat of a certain strength to security or public order”.
The report criticized current policy in federal-run centres for asylum seekers which fixes certain hours during which residents may leave the premises, a measure that, although it has a legal basis, is not proportional, it said.
“It serves to keep the centre running smoothly and helps the effective implementation of asylum procedures… but it goes beyond what is necessary,” it said.
What’s more, imposing restrictions en masse that dictate where asylum seekers may or may not go when out in public “has no legal basis” and is not in the public interest, said the report.
The act of telling or showing an asylum seeker that he is not welcome in a certain public area, such as a park, can also be a violation of his fundamental rights, it added.
“Subjective feelings of insecurity and fear are not sufficient to limit the freedom of movement of asylum seekers,” it said.
“The public debate surrounding asylum seekers is too often used politically and to consolidate prejudices and negative stereotypes. … Fundamental rights must remain at the heart of the country’s asylum policy,” the EKR concluded.
In another report last week, human rights group Amnesty International also criticized Switzerland for its restrictions on the movement of asylum seekers.