Switzerland's highest court on Tuesday said the treatment of the family of six last year was “illegal” because it didn't respect their human right to family life as stated in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
The case dates from May 2016 when an Afghan couple and their three children – aged three, six and eight – entered Switzerland illegally from Norway, via Germany, said the Federal Court in a statement.
At the time the mother was pregnant with the couple's fourth child.
Their request for asylum was rejected under the Dublin system, since they had already applied for asylum in Norway.
However the family refused to be sent back, saying they didn't have identity papers.
After a failed attempt to deport them on October 5th, authorities in Zug ordered the parents to be put in detention. The mother and her now four-month-old baby were placed in a centre in Zurich, the father in another centre in Zug, and their three other offspring in a children's home.
They were prevented from having contact with each other because they were deemed a flight risk.
On October 25th they were finally deported to Norway.
In its judgement the court said separating the family in that way should have been a last resort and only acceptable after an in-depth examination of other possibilities, something which did not take place.
Consequently, separating the family was “a disproportionate measure” in view of their human rights under article eight of the ECHR, said the court.
Speaking to 20 Minutes, Mirjam Klöti, a cousin of the family who lives in Switzerland, said they were still traumatized by their treatment and were receiving therapy.
Though the court's judgement can't change how they were treated, they hope it will set a precedent for others, she said.
“We fought for justice. For us, it was very important that this injustice was recognized by a high court,” she said.