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Swiss Voters Should Reject Asylum Restrictions

Switzerland: Voters Should Reject Asylum Restrictions

New Law Would Place Unreasonable Barriers on the Right to Seek Asylum

(Geneva) — Swiss voters should reject proposed changes to the Swiss law on asylum (“LAsi”) in Sunday’s referendum (September 24) because the measure runs counter to the commitments Switzerland has made under international refugee law, Human Rights Watch said today. Today, Human Rights Watch released a seven-point analysis of the proposed law’s shortcomings as measured against international legal standards for the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

The new law creates obstacles for asylum seekers to have their refugee claims heard if they cannot present their identity papers within 48 hours unless they can produce a plausible explanation.

“This requirement does not take into account the extreme and chaotic situations that cause refugees to flee, their physical and emotional state upon arrival, or the fact that asylum seekers do not always speak European languages,” said Bill Frelick, refugee policy director for Human Rights Watch. “Moreover, asylum seekers may not be able to obtain such documents within 48 hours from their country of origin.”

Denying access to asylum procedures could result in refoulement, the forced return of a person to persecution, a violation of international law.

“The amendments to the Law on Asylum denying access to asylum procedures by reason of non-entrée en matière would violate Switzerland’s international obligations if the merits of refugees’ claims are not considered and they are returned to persecution or torture,” said Frelick. “In order to avoid this eventuality, Switzerland must ensure that all asylum claimants get a fair hearing, regardless of the manner in which they entered the country.”

Swiss voters will also be deciding whether to approve a new legal provision which would permit the detention for up to two years of rejected asylum seekers pending removal.

“Ultimately, our concerns are not simply with the rights of people as refugees and migrants, but their rights as human beings,” Frelick said. “Legislation that allows for extended administrative detention fails the principal test not to arbitrarily deprive a person of his or her liberty.”

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