Immigration: Indian family forced to leave Switzerland after 20 years

An Indian family who has lived in Switzerland for 20 years - with two children born in the Alpine nation - has been forced to leave after a court decision upheld a decision not to extend the father’s residence permit.

Immigration: Indian family forced to leave Switzerland after 20 years
Switzerland's former President Doris Leuthard (L) walks with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the leave for a meeting in New Delhi on August 31, 2017 Image: Money SHARMA / AFP

The Bern administrative court ruled on Monday that the decision of cantonal immigration authorities not to extend the father’s residency permit was valid. 

The story has made waves in Switzerland and abroad as the family’s two children – aged 16 and 11 years – will also be forced to return despite having never lived in India

The parents arrived in Switzerland from India in 2000. 

The man’s residency permit extension request was denied due to a string of business-related offences, including embezzlement, fraudulent bankruptcy and mismanagement. 

In 2017, he served six months of a 30-month sentence in relation to the offences. 

In dismissing the man’s appeal, the court said that the man was poorly integrated into Swiss society and that the family had accrued too much debt. 

The judges did however give the potential for a reprieve to the family’s 16-year-old daughter, who began a vocational training program in mid-2019. 

The court said that the daughter may be able to stay in Switzerland due to her “special circumstances”, provided that she can prove she has sufficient financial resources and supervision. 

The court said that while the issuing of residence permits to minors was unusual in Swiss law, it was not expressly prohibited. 

The notion of ‘integration’ is a prominent consideration of migration authorities in deciding whether or not residency permits will be approved. 

Switzerland will vote on an initiative to restrict immigration in late September. 

READ: What is Switzerland's referendum to restrict migration and will it pass? 


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Amnesty decries Swiss asylum centre abuse

Minors and adults housed in Swiss asylum centres have faced serious abuses at the hands of security staff, including beatings and chokeholds, Amnesty International warned Wednesday.

Amnesty decries Swiss asylum centre abuse
An asylum centre in the Alpine village of Realp, Central Switzerland. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In a report, the rights organisation’s Swiss chapter detailed “alarming abuse” in the country’s federal asylum centres, and called for urgent government action to address the problem.

The report documents a range of abuses by staff of the private security companies Securitas and Protectas, which had been contracted by Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).

Amnesty said it had spoken with 14 asylum seekers, including two minors, who reported having faced abuse from the security officers between January 2020 and April 2021, along with 18 current and former security agents and other witnesses.

The asylum seekers described being beaten and physically restrained to the point where they could not breathe or fainted.

Some also complained about trouble breathing after being doused with pepper spray, and being locked in a metal container in freezing temperatures.

The report found that six of the alleged victims had to be hospitalised, while two said they had been denied the medical assistance they had requested.

“In addition to complaints about physical pain, mistreatment and punitive treatment, these people also voiced concerns about (security staff’s) hostility, prejudice and racism towards the residents,” said Alice Giraudel, a lawyer with Amnesty’s Swiss branch.

Such attitudes had seemed to target people of North African origin in particular, she said. Some of the abuse cases, Amnesty said, “could amount to torture”, and would thus violate Switzerland’s obligations under international law.

In a media statement, the SEM said it took the criticism “very seriously”, but rejected the suggestion that abuses were taking place in a systematic manner in federal asylum centres.

It stressed that there was no acceptance for “disproportionate constraint” of asylum seekers, and vowed to “sanction all improper behaviour.”

Giraudel hailed that the SEM had recently announced it would open an external probe into isolated abuse allegations.

But, she insisted, the situation was alarming and required the government to stop looking at allegations of abuse as the work of “a few bad apples”.