An initiative to deport criminal foreigners will not result in more asylum seekers being sent home – the current law already authorises their expulsion for serious crimes, says Eduard Gnesa, Switzerland’s special envoy for international cooperation on migration issues.
On February 28, Swiss voters will decide on an initiative by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party calling for the automatic expulsion of non-Swiss offenders convicted of certain serious crimes or two less serious crimes committed within a ten-year period.
Gnesa, who was head of the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) from 2001 to 2004, voiced his concerns on Friday in an interview with Le Temps newspaper.
“Regarding trivial offences, I fear this will only result in more appeals, more long processes and more ‘disappearances’,” he said, referring to people whose whereabouts in Switzerland were unknown to the authorities.
He also feared that the countries of origin of people deported by Switzerland weren’t exactly going to welcome their citizens with open arms.
He gave the much-discussed example of the 350,000 or so people born in Switzerland to immigrant parents but who do not have a Swiss passport. These people, who have grown up in Switzerland, face being deported to a country they have in some cases never visited or whose language they do not speak.
Gnesa said the Swiss authorities last year lost track of some 3,000 asylum seekers who had been told to return to their country of origin.
“Either efforts to identify them failed or they disappeared after a decision to deport them,” he said, admitting that some probably remained in Switzerland. The others either returned home or moved to other countries.
But although the new asylum law will not be able to prevent these “uncontrolled departures”, Gnesa said the experience of the control centre in Zurich showed that asylum seekers were accepting decisions more easily.
“They receive preliminary information on their chances of being given asylum and are accompanied from the start by legal advisers,” he said. “This way of working will facilitate the deportation process.”
The Swiss People’s Party believes parliament watered down its 2010 initiative calling for the deportation of foreigners found guilty of certain crimes. In response, the party launched the so-called enforcement initiative which calls for its original initiative to be implemented to the letter.
The initiators want the deportation initiative, including the catalogue of offences, to be literally codified in Switzerland’s constitution. The offences include homicide, rape, robbery, human or drug trafficking, as well as abuse of the welfare system.
“If the people and cantons want a rigorous deportation practice, they must approve the enforcement initiative,” says Adrian Amstutz, a senior member of the House of Representatives for the People’s Party and of the initiative committee.
swissinfo.ch and agencies