UN condemns Switzerland over deportation of Eritrean torture victim

George Mills
George Mills - [email protected]
UN condemns Switzerland over deportation of Eritrean torture victim
Eritreans at Milan's main train station in 2015. File photo: AFP

Amnesty is now calling on Switzerland to rethink its approach to application of the Dublin Regulation for at-risk asylum seekers.


The United Nations has taken Switzerland to task for failing to properly investigate the situation of a torture survivor from Eritrea before deporting him to Italy.

The Eritrean applied for asylum in Switzerland in 2015 but the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) sent the man back to Italy under the Dublin Regulation.

Read also: Switzerland's tough stance on migrants criticised by Amnesty International

According to EU rules enshrined in the Dublin Regulation, applications for asylum should be processed in the first EU country in which asylum seekers arrive.

Despite two appeals, the Federal Administrative Court of Switzerland upheld the SEM’s decision to deport the man.

But in a new ruling, the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) said Swiss immigration authorities had not properly investigated the situation and that had failed to respect human rights.

“The UN has made it clear that the Dublin Regulation must always be applied in accordance with human rights,” asylum expert Muriel Trummer, was quoted as saying in a press release put out by Amnesty International.

“The decision is non-binding but authoritative,” she told Swiss news portal 20 Minuten.

The Eritrean had been undergoing treatment at a Geneva clinic specialising in the treatment of war and torture victims when he was deported.

Trummer, who is familiar with the case, said the man was seriously traumatised after five years of torture in Eritrea. He had already previously been deported to Italy where he found himself living on the street and without access to necessary care.

The man’s case must now be re-examined in Switzerland.

Rights groups are aware of around 60 pending cases involving at-risk asylum seekers including single mothers, torture sufferers and victims of people smuggling, said Trummer. She called on Switzerland to keep in mind CAT recommendations when it came to dealing with this at-risk group.

Switzerland ramps up pressure on Eritreans

Switzerland has taken an increasingly hard line on those Eritreans who have failed in their bid to be granted asylum in Switzerland. In June, the Federal Administrative Court stated deporting failed Eritrean asylum seekers who had not carried out compulsory military service was "both lawful and reasonable".

That ruling came after a 2017 judgement stating 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.

Swiss immigration authorities are currently conducting a review of Eritreans granted temporary residence in Switzerland.

Up to 3,200 people could be affected although a recent pilot project involving a review of 250 cases found that only around 20 people could lose their right to reside in Switzerland.

Read also: Zurich man takes racial profiling case to European Court of Human Rights


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