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Humanitarian tradition

Minister rebuffs attacks against asylum policy

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga has strongly criticised plans by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party to scrap current asylum laws. She said such a demand was “shameless” and “inhuman”.

She added that the proposal was contrary to Switzerland’s role as a depositary state of the Geneva Conventions of international humanitarian law and went against the country’s tradition.

“This humanitarian tradition is an element of our Swiss identity,” she told journalists on Thursday.

Last month, senior People’s Party politician Adrian Amstutz launched the idea of an initiative aimed at limiting asylum requests to people who have arrived in Switzerland via airplane and with legal personal documents.

In response, other politicians and refugee organisations called for revision of the Dublin III Regulation, which stipulates that asylum requests must be handled by the first EU member state where a claim is lodged.

Among them, Beat Meiner, of the Swiss Refugee Council, said the Dublin system should be improved as countries on the borders of the Schengen/Dublin area – such as Italy and Greece – are completely overloaded, while those who “benefit from a geographical point of view contribute too little”. He wants “a fair distribution of refugees, according to the economic power of the host country”.

The rightwing People’s Party has called for stricter enforcement of the Dublin agreement.

Haunting images

Sommaruga agreed that the latest wave of asylum seekers from Africa is putting a strain on Switzerland’s southern neighbour Italy and came out in favour of reforms.

But she said it was too easy to criticise the current system without proposing viable alternatives. She slammed opponents in the town of Aarburg who have protested against a new centre for 90 refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.

Sommaruga said it was crucial to help the people in the crisis regions. She added that images of a camp for Syrian refugees still haunted her. Sommaruga had paid a visit to a camp for about 90,000 people in Jordan last month.

swissinfo.ch and agencies



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