The move comes after the Federal Administrative Court ruled in August last year that it was reasonable to return Eritrean citizens who had already previously performed military service to the African country as they were unlikely either to be required to re-join the military or to face other punishment.
Following legal requirements, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) is now reviewing the files of 3,200 Eritreans granted temporary residence in Switzerland with authorities stressing that people affected would have the right to a judicial hearing and that all cases would be dealt with on an individual basis.
People who deserted during military service are not affected by the review process.
Responding to questions from Switzerland’s SDA/ATS news agency, an SEM spokesperson on Wednesday said the review did not mean that Eritreans no longer had a right to temporary residence in Switzerland.
“Those who need protection should receive that protection in Switzerland,” the spokesperson said.
The Federal Administrative Court initially toughened its stance against Eritrean asylum seekers in February 2017 when it slammed shut an open-door policy toward Eritreans which had automatically granted them refugee status.
Previously, Switzerland had given Eritreans refugee status if they said they had left their country “illegally”. But the St Gallen-based court ruled that the policy was not justified particularly given exit visas are rarely given out in the autocratic country which enforces universal military conscription.
The Swiss Refugee Council criticized the decision to review the files of just over a third of the 9,400 Eritreans who currently hold temporary resident permits in Switzerland saying there was no indication conditions on the ground had improved in the Horn of Africa country.
But as Swiss daily Tages Anzeiger reported on Wednesday, Switzerland cannot at this time forcibly return people to Eritrea. The country has no wish to take back citizens who have fled and there is no bilateral treaty on the matter.
Eritreans were the largest group of asylum seekers in Switzerland with 3,375 applications coming from this group. However, that number was done 35 percent on a year earlier.