Some 1,500 Eritreans have demonstrated in the Swiss capital, Bern, and handed a petition of 12,000 signatures to Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga calling for a more humane asylum policy.
The move comes after migration authorities said they will re-examine the files of 3,200 of the 9,400 Eritrean asylum seekers admitted to Switzerland on a temporary basis. Following a court ruling last year, they could lose their status and be sent back to Eritrea.
The petition handed on Friday to Sommaruga urges Switzerland to “hear migrants according to criteria that respect its humanitarian tradition, and grant asylum to all asylum seekers who risk ill-treatment in their country”. It calls for this to be done “immediately and retroactively”.
This petition was launched by “Citizen’s Action for an Asylum Policy Worthy of Switzerland”, an umbrella organisation of associations and individuals working with the Eritrean community.
Up to now, Switzerland has not been able to deport Eritreans to their country of origin, but policy on residence permits has been tightened.
The petitioners say the tightening of policy is because of pressure from the conservative right, not a change of situation in Eritrea. They say the main reasons Eritreans flee their country are “human rights violations, the unlimited length of time that military service can last, the consequent lack of perspectives and lack of freedom of expression”.
According to the petition, Eritrea is ruled by a “brutal regime which is regularly denounced, and there are very many testimonies from people who have fled the country of the numerous abuses suffered by the population, as reported by the United Nations and the Swiss government”.