In a statement dated July 10th, Switzerland's Federal Administrative Court (FAC) stated deporting failed Eritrean asylum seekers who had not carried out compulsory military service was “both lawful and reasonable”.
The new ruling is the latest setback for Eritreans who have seen their bid for asylum in Switzerland rejected.
It comes after an Eritrean man appealed a deportation order arguing he would face national service on his return home.
Examining the man's appeal, the FAC addressed the issue of whether military service in the African nation constituted forced labour – something which is banned by the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) and which would therefore make the man's deportation impossible.
The court noted that the length of public of military service in Eritrea was “hardly predictable and varies between five and ten years on average” and added that “various sources report cases of abuse and sexual assault.”
But the court concluded that “although the reported conditions in Eritrean national service are difficult, they are not so severe as to make deportation unlawful.”
The FAC went on to state the “ECHR only forbids deportation if there are reasonable grounds to believe that there is a real risk of a flagrant breach of the prohibition of forced labour.”
The court said the “abuse and sexual assault are not sufficiently widespread to have any bearing on this assessment”, adding that it did not feel that “anyone returning to Eritrea voluntarily faces a real risk of detention or any accompanying inhumane treatment”.
The latest FAC ruling further increases the pressure on the around 9,400 Eritreans living in Switzerland on temporary residence permits.
In August last year, the St Gallen-based court ruled 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.
In theory that ruling could lead to up to 3,200 Eritreans being deported.
The Federal Administrative Court had 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.
Switzerland currently has no treaty with Eritrea regarding the return of migrants but State Secretary for Migration Mario Gattiker said in April that this did not mean such returns were not possible.
Switzerland only has a returns treaty with every second country, he said, and while Eritrea does not accept the forced return of migrants, voluntary returns were possible, he told Switzerland’s Le Temps newspaper.