Switzerland’s tough stance on migrants criticized by Amnesty International

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Switzerland’s tough stance on migrants criticized by Amnesty International
File image of Eritrean asylum seekers in Switzerland. Photo: AFP

Switzerland has been taken to task by the human rights group Amnesty International for its tough treatment of asylum seekers and migrants.


The country was violating international legal principles by returning migrants and asylum seekers with rejected asylum claims to countries where they are in danger of persecution, Amnesty said in its annual report published on Thursday.

The human rights group cited the examples "of people with failed asylum claims or undocumented migrants" being sent back to countries including Sri Lanka, Turkey and Sudan where they were at risk of "serious human rights" violations.

In its report into the state of human rights in 159 countries around the world, Amnesty also said concerns remained “regarding the use of disproportionate force during the deportation of migrants” while several asylum seekers had been returned to other Schengen countries under the Dublin regulation "without duly taking into account their family ties in Switzerland".

According to EU rules enshrined in the Dublin Convention, their applications for asylum should therefore be processed in the first EU country in which they arrive.

Amnesty International also expressed concerns over a highly-controversial initiative put forward for referendum by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party which calls for Swiss law to be given primacy over international law and would see Switzerland renegotiating or even renouncing international treaties, including those on human rights, if necessary.

The ‘Swiss law instead of foreign judges (initiative for self-determination)' has been heavily criticised by the Swiss government who say it would seriously threaten the country’s stability.

No date has been set for the vote.

Geneva Papyrus project

In related news, the first round of results of a pilot project being run in Geneva with the aim of "regularizing" the position of the city’s many undocumented workers has been cautiously welcomed by the State Secretary for Migration Mario Gattiker.

The so-called ‘Papyrus’ project – developed in secret in agreement with federal Swiss authorities in what Geneva's economy minister Pierre Maudet described as a bid to “lift institutional hypocrisy and put an end to the exploitation of people without papers” – has seen 1,093 obtain legal paperwork, Geneva daily the Tribune de Genève reported on Tuesday.

A total of 81 percent of those people are from Latin America with many working as nannies or cleaners.

"I agree that a solution needs to found for these people. The Geneva experience is interesting but I am waiting on the final evaluation," state migration secretary Gattiker said after the preliminary figures were released.

The Papyrus project is to run until the end of 2018 with some 2,200 to 2,500 people expected to benefit from the scheme. Conditions are strict. Applicants must be financially independent and have no criminal record. In addition, applicants with families must have lived in the canton of Geneva for five years, while that figure is 10 years for singles. A good level of French is also a condition.

Recent figures from the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) suggest there are 13,000 undocumented workers in Geneva and 73,000 in Switzerland.


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