The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has overturned a Swiss decision to expel an Ecuadorian man after his application for asylum was turned down. The court in Strasbourg said it would have been a violation of his right to a family life.
The man and his wife lodged an application for asylum together in 2002, including their daughter who is now 15. It was rejected in March 2012, but six months later a Swiss court allowed the mother and teenager the temporary right to stay in Switzerland.
The couple had separated but the daughter lived mainly with her mother, spoke hardly any Spanish and had fully integrated into Swiss life in Geneva.
The application was not the couple’s first. They had made previous attempts to gain asylum but had been turned down. The court in Switzerland finally rejected just the father, citing his criminal record for buying and selling stolen goods, along with other offences.
The man suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and had made several suicide attempts. Although doctors said his return to Ecuador would have put his health in danger, the Swiss court concluded that he would have been able to access suitable medical care if he had been sent back.
However, the ECHR found that the Swiss authorities had taken a disproportionate view of the situation and had not taken into account the effect the separation would have on his daughter. They also added that his offences were “relatively minor” when it came to their bearing on his right to temporarily remain in Switzerland.
In addition, the court held that Switzerland was to pay the man, his wife and his minor daughter €4,500 (CHF5,470) in respect of costs and expenses.
Either side in the case now has three months to ask for the case to be referred to a higher chamber of the ECHR. If this request is denied, the decision will be final, otherwise the case will be heard again and a decision made.
This is not the first time the European court has overturned Swiss decisions on deportations. In previous cases they have disallowed the deportation of a Sudanese asylum seeker, a Nigerian drug trafficker and overruled the denial of a residence permit to the foreign mother of a Swiss child.