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Switzerland: UN Committee Welcomes Asylum For Four Kurdish Refugee Children

GENEVA (3 February 2023) - The UN child rights committee has applauded Switzerland’s prompt action to grant asylum and residency to four Kurdish refugee children from Syria, together with their mother, who were facing deportation to Bulgaria, where they have refugee status.

In response to a complaint registered with the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Switzerland decided to reopen the asylum proceedings, to hear the children and eventually grant them asylum.

“We welcome the timely action taken by Switzerland to suspend the children’s return to Bulgaria, in compliance with the Committee’s request for interim measures. We also welcome the decision to reassess these children’s situation and their risk of being exposed to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments if returned to Bulgaria, showcasing the country’s commitment to compliance and cooperation with the Committee,” said committee member Ann Skelton.

The children, now aged 10 to 14, were born to a teenage mother and victim of sexual violence who was forced into marriage at the age of 11.

The family fled the civil war in Syria in early 2017. They arrived in Bulgaria and were granted asylum in August of the same year. Nonetheless, they were expelled from the asylum camp without access to education and health care and were forced to beg for food on the streets. Three months later, they left Bulgaria to seek asylum in Germany, where the mother was granted protection measures in 2019 as the father continued to be extremely violent.

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Fearing her husband, the mother took the children to Switzerland to seek asylum once again but failed. In August 2020, the Swiss State Secretariat for Migrations ordered the family to be deported to Bulgaria, where they had already been recognized as refugees.

The mother and children brought their petition to the Committee on the Rights of the Child after the Administrative Federal Court of Switzerland had dismissed their appeal.

In accordance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on communications procedure, the Committee requested Switzerland to adopt interim measures to suspend the deportation pending the Committee’s consideration of the complaint.

Since then, the Swiss authorities reopened the cases of these four children and their mother and eventually recognised them as refugees. Given that the family is no longer at risk of being expelled to Bulgaria, the Committee decided to discontinue the examination of the complaint on 25 January 2023.

“This is the fifth case in which Switzerland has immediately reopened asylum proceedings following the registration of the cases with the Committee and granted children residence permits after reassessing their situation. This shows the potential of the complaints mechanism to bring immediate relief to children,” Skelton added.

The Committee’s Decision is available online.

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