Update: 27.03.2009

Inacceptable Restrictions in the Asylum Law in Sight

A large coalition of fifty Swiss organisations presented its statement against the restrictions on the Asylum Law and National Act planed by the government. Indeed, the Federal Council has open for comments its revision of the Asylum Law and for the National Act, which came into effect one year ago. Because of a progression by 53% of asylum request in 2008, this proposal is necessary to answer faster and more efficiently to requests and to fight against abuse, said the Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf on 14 January 2008.

The consultation procedure among political parties and interested organisations before the final draft is sent to parliament for discussion is open until 15 April 2009. Human rights activists immediately criticised the governmental proposal. On 26 March 2009, the national coalition, which includes Humanrights.ch, handed over its statement. The coalition is composed of political parties, trade unions and organisations active in peace promotion, human rights, and migration issues. 

Content of the revision

According to the revision, refugees would no longer have the right to apply for asylum to Switzerland on the sole basis of being deserters or conscientious objectors. Political activities by asylum seekers used as argument to receive the refugee status would be sanctioned. Also, it would not any more be possible to request asylum at a Swiss representation abroad. Finally, a new procedure should be introduced in order to reduce multiple demands. There are also a few propositions with regards to the National Act.

At the same time, the Swiss government also opened on 14 January 2009 a consultation procedure aiming to  tighten residency permits for convicted foreigners sentenced to two years or more in prison. The justice ministry said the rightwing Swiss People's Party popular initiative clashed with basic guarantees for the right to privacy.The cabinet plan now goes to a three-month consultation procedure among political parties and interested organisations before the final draft is sent to parliament for discussion.

Reactions by human rights defenders and statements

Several Swiss human rights NGOs have expressed their firm reaction. The Swiss Refugee Council, the Swiss section of Amnesty International and the Swiss Observatory of Asylum Law and National Act said in a common press release that hardening conditions for asylum requests in order to lessen Switzerland’s attractively will hardly have an effect on the reality of refugees. According to Solidarite sans frontiers (Sosf), “the Asylum Law is only good enough in the eyes of the Federal Office for Migration (FOM) when no more refugees are admitted at all”.

Lead by Solidarité sans frontières (Sosf) and the Democratic Jurists of Switzerland (DJS), the national coalition confirmed the immediate critics. According to the Coalition, the revisions planed are useless, not objectives and must be refused categorically in order to respect fundamental rights and human rights. The press release summarises the main arguments.

First Reactions

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