The Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) is reviewing asylum applications as a measure to prevent potential terrorists from entering Switzerland, checking into applicants‘ backgrounds for signs of jihadist activities.
“Asylum applications from people from certain countries are sent to the FIS for review,” Martin Reichlin, spokesperson for the Federal Migration Office, told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper. “That also happens if there are no immediate grounds for suspicion.”
The list of countries whose asylum seekers are automatically sent to the FIS for review is confidential, according to the Federal Migration Office. However, according to the newspaper, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan are assumed to be on that list.
The FIS is also called upon if an asylum seeker is suspected of having ties to terror revealed over the course of his or her asylum process.
The NZZ am Sonntag also reported that members of suspected Islamic State (IS) terror cells operating in Switzerland are believed to have entered the country as asylum seekers. In particular, officials believe one of three Iraqi citizens currently under investigation for having founded an IS cell in Switzerland entered the country in that manner.
The Federal Migration Office does not gather statistics on how often asylum seekers are investigated for links to terrorist organisations, said Reichlin. However, Jacques Repond, head of the Federal Criminal Police and of a task force investigating jihadist-motivated travel, told the NZZ am Sonntag that he doesn’t believe terrorists “systematically” enter Switzerland as asylum seekers. He added that proper cooperation among officials will lead to such cases being uncovered.
swissinfo.ch and agencies