"Safe" list blocks asylum requests from 40 nations

The Refugee Office says the list will speed up the time it takes to process applications Keystone

Switzerland has for the first time published a list of countries from which it will no longer accept asylum requests.

This content was published on July 30, 2003 - 12:34

The Federal Refugee Office on Wednesday said asylum applications from 40 “safe” nations - where human rights are deemed to be respected - would not be considered.

The list, which will be applied from Swiss National Day on August 1, comes three months ahead of the general elections, with asylum laws and the treatment of refugees among the most sensitive issues on the political agenda.

The Federal Refugee Office said the list was aimed at speeding up the time taken to process asylum requests.

"A decision on whether to accept an application will now be possible within a couple of days," spokesman Dominique Boillat told swissinfo.

But even if an asylum request is turned down, this does not spell immediate repatriation.

"Applicants can stay here in certain instances for example if they are threatened by the mafia, if their home state cannot protect them, or if a woman has been the victim of rape," he said.

"Safe" states

Eleven per cent of the 26,125 asylum requests recorded last year were made by people coming from “safe” countries.

Balkan states like Bosnia and Macedonia are on the list, as well as the ten mostly Eastern European countries which will join the European Union in 2004.

But the Swiss refugee council has criticised the list, claiming that vulnerable people will be put at risk as a result.

"We ask that asylum seekers who are at risk of persecution but who are from these listed countries still be given access to the asylum application process," the council said in a press release.

The council is particularly concerned that Bosnia and Macedonia are included on the list. It says neither fully meets the criteria of a "safe" country.

Correspondents say the inclusion of EU member states on the list will help Swiss authorities prevent an influx of groups like the Roma, who illegally entered Switzerland from France during the second half of 2002 before being sent back to Romania.

The African nations of Senegal, Ghana and Gambia are also listed, along with Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland, Lithuania, Mongolia, India, Albania, Bulgaria and Romania.

Human rights

Boillat explained that respect for human rights and international conventions were the two criteria that determined a “safe” country.

"The Refugee Office will be looking to answer two questions: whether asylum should be granted, and if repatriation is possible," he said

Where applications from "safe" states are successful, the stay in Switzerland will only be temporary and applicants will not be recognised as refugees, Boillat noted.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Switzerland says it will not accept asylum applications from 40 listed countries.
These states are deemed to be “safe” in terms of the respect given to human rights and international law.
EU countries – including the ten new member states - and Bosnia, Macedonia, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, Gambia, Senegal, Ghana, India, Lithuania, Mongolia, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland are included on the list.
People from these countries who seek asylum in Switzerland will only be accepted on a temporary basis.

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