Asylum seeker wins European court appeal against deportation from Switzerland

A Sudanese man has won his appeal against deportation from Switzerland after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said deporting him would violate his human right not to be tortured.

Asylum seeker wins European court appeal against deportation from Switzerland
The ECHR. Photo: Frederick Florin/AFP
The man in question, known only as A.I., arrived in Switzerland in 2012 and lodged an asylum request, the ECHR said in a press release.
He claimed that since secondary school he had been a member of a militant organization defending the rights of minorities in Darfur, Sudan. Since 2005 he had also been a member of armed opposition group the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). 
After being interviewed, the Swiss migration office (SEM) decided he did not meet the criteria of a refugee and therefore ordered him to be deported.
He then lost an appeal at the Swiss civil court before taking his case to the ECHR, claiming he ran a risk of being persecuted over his political activities if sent back.
In its judgement on Tuesday the ECHR said that “despite certain inconsistencies” there was no reason to doubt the credibility of his claims concerning his political activities. 
It was not therefore unreasonable to think he was on the radar of the Sudanese intelligence services and consequently there were “reasonable grounds” to think he ran the risk of being detained, interrogated and tortured on his arrival at Khartoum airport. 
Deporting him would violate articles three and two of the European Convention on Human Rights which ban torture and protect the right to life, it said. 
In a second case related to another Sudanese man, the ECHR ruled in favour of Switzerland, saying the man, known as N.A., was not at risk of being tortured or ill-treated on his return. 
The man, who also arrived in Switzerland in 2012, washed cars for a living and claimed to have been stopped and searching by the authorities for washing the car of a member of the JEM. He said he had been interrogated and ill-treated for 45 days and then imprisoned for five days. 
But since his political activities in exile were limited he was not likely to be monitored by the Sudanese intelligence services, said the court.  


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”.