Court finds Swiss immigration authorities cannot order deportation for criminal offences

A Swiss court has held that immigration officials are not able to order a person to be deported under Switzerland’s deportation initiative.

Court finds Swiss immigration authorities cannot order deportation for criminal offences

Switzerland’s Federal Court held on Wednesday that only courts, rather than administration authorities, are allowed to order a deportation against a foreigner who has committed criminal offences. 

In Switzerland, the courts have the power to order the deportation of foreigners who commit certain criminal offences after a SVP-backed referendum on the issue in 2010, Watson reports

A similar referendum in 2016 which would have had the effect of allowing foreigners to be deported for committing minor criminal offences was rejected at the ballot box. 

The case

The case concerned a Croatian man who had been found guilty of a range of criminal offences. 

The cantonal court in Vaud sentenced the man to 42 months imprisonment but did not order his deportation. 

The offences the man was convicted of are of the type of offences for which an explosion from the country is mandatory. 

According to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, it appears that the court forgot to order deportation when handing down the sentence. 

The public prosecutor in the case also forgot to apply for it, the NZZ reports. 

After cantonal authorities ordered that the man be deported, the Federal Court intervened on appeal. 

The Federal Court found that under the deportation initiative only the judiciary had the power to order a deportation, rather than cantonal authorities. 

The Federal Court said that when a deportation order is not made by the courts, the immigration authorities “must accept it in every case” even if it was simply forgotten. 

While the directive calls for ‘mandatory’ deportation, this is often avoided on hardship grounds. 

Across Switzerland, deportation orders are avoided due to hardship in 42 percent of cases – with the rate higher in French-speaking Switzerland. 


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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”.