Swiss senate rejects call to speed up deportation of failed Eritrean asylum seekers

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Swiss senate rejects call to speed up deportation of failed Eritrean asylum seekers
Eritrean asylum seekers at the Einsiedeln Abbey in Switzerland in 2014. Photo: AFP

The upper house of the Swiss parliament on Wednesday came out against a motion pushing for Eritreans who have failed to win asylum in Switzerland to be sent home as soon as possible.


The motion put forward by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) comes in the wake of successive tightening of Swiss policy regarding Eritreans living in Switzerland on a temporary basis after failing in their bid to be granted asylum.

Those rulings stated that returning to people to Eritrea could not be ruled out in all cases, even when people returning could be forced to do national service.

Read also: UN condemns Switzerland over deportation of Eritrean torture victim

In the motion presented on Wednesday, SVP MP Andrea Geissbühler called for the Swiss government to begin talks with Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki aimed at facilitating the return of Eritreans to the Horn of Africa country. She cited a recent peace agreement between Eritrea and neighbouring Ethiopia as evidence the situation had improved in the region.

Currently, there is no bilateral agreement between Switzerland and Eritrea on the return of people to the African nation.

But Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga stated the Eritrean government had proved unwilling to negotiate on the return of people despite frequent attempts by Switzerland to build relationships and establish a diplomatic presence in the country, according to comments cited by Swiss state broadcaster SRF.

The senate on Wednesday also rejected a motion by a Geneva citizen’s group calling for the Swiss government to relax the policy towards Eritreans living in Switzerland on a temporary basis.

However, the senate did end up accepting a motion from Liberals MP Damien Müller calling for Swiss authorities to push ahead as fast as possible of a planned full review of Eritreans living in Switzerland after seeing their bid for asylum turned down.

In comments made to Swiss tabloid Blick, Müller said the State Secretariat of Migration (SEM) was “doing good work” but that the agency needed to “hit the accelerator” to ensure the politicians did not lose their credibility in the eyes of the public.

In April, the SEM said it would conduct a full review of the around 3,400 Eritreans living as temporarily admitted persons in Switzerland following the recent court rulings regarding their status.

A recent pilot review of 250 cases found that around 20 Eritreans could be made to leave Switzerland, a decision criticised by rights group who argue the situation in Eritrea has not improved.


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