Update: 30.12.2015

Swiss Dublin practice under fire: why Swiss authorities still deport refugees back to Italy

Since August 2015, Italy has not been responding to readmission requests from Switzerland. But Swiss authorities continue to send refugees back if there is any evidence that they have entered Switzerland via Italy. In some cases asylum seekers in Switzerland have been sent to Italy even if they never travelled through that country. Organisations such as Augenauf condemn this State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) strategy and demand that Switzerland live up to its responsibilities.

Getting rid of refugees

In its December bulletin Augenauf writes that «once again, Switzerland is a country of spineless, pedantic clerks that wants to rid itself of refugees at any price, instead of using discretion in accordance with a refugee policy that favours solidarity».

This statement was issued against the following background: The Dublin Agreement states that a Dublin area member country is allowed to return asylum seekers to the first host country even if they have never asked for asylum in that country. This is considered to be legal if there is circumstantial evidence that the person has entered Switzerland via this country. Switzerland has to provide the first host country with evidence of this, otherwise the respective country generally refuses the returned refugees and the second host country has to deal with the request for asylum itself. Should a first host country not respond to the readmission requests within the stipulated period, this is considered to be a tacit understanding and the responsibility for the request for asylum is passed on.

State of emergency in Italy

Italy has not been reacting to readmission requests from Switzerland for months. Thousands of people are still crossing the Mediterranean in boats to arrive in Italy. The Italian asylum system is overburdened, there is no more room in the reception camps, and refugees frequently live on the streets in unsafe conditions. The authorities can no longer guarantee fair asylum proceedings and have stopped registering arriving refugees systematically.

The situation is similar in other EU countries; Hungary and Greece both let refugees move on without registering them. In view of the state of emergency in Italy and other Schengen border states, EU states and Switzerland have been discussing a fair distribution key for the allocation of refugees. Unfortunately there have been no practical results yet.

Germany has decided to treat requests from Syrian refugees separately in line with Selbsteintritt (self-registration). In Switzerland on the other hand, the relevant authorities have not changed their procedures and even profit from the work overload of neighbouring states.

Switzerland leaves vulnerable people to their fate

A current report from the Swiss Observatory for Asylum and Foreigners Rights (SBAA) shows the effects this deportation policy (which lacks solidarity) has on the people affected. In particular, the rights of extremely vulnerable persons in the Dublin procedure are violated and insufficiently implemented. The needs of these people frequently take second place behind a restrictive migration policy.

In its report, the SBAA documents the following case: Since her birth, «Mariama» and her family lived with a Moor. Her parents came to this person as slaves, and she was born into these circumstances. At the age of nine she was raped for the first time and at the age of thirteen she was forced into a contract marriage with an older man, who abused and mistreated her and left her with her two children after three years. In 2012 she was able to flee and managed to reach Italy and Switzerland with the help of a trafficker. In 2014 she submitted a request for asylum, but she was first locked up by the police for several days before being transferred to a registration centre. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression with suicidal tendencies. Even so, her asylum application was denied and she was asked to return to Italy.

Where is Swiss solidarity?

The SBAA analyses the situation as follows: «The large number of refugees this year has proven that questionable instruments like the Dublin System are useless and unsuitable. So what do we do? Switzerland and Europe no longer act in solidarity, but simply return refugees to Italy. The EU and Switzerland have to stop deporting refugees from one country to another so the burden can be distributed in a better and fairer manner.»

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