A Swiss court has ruled that the nation’s policy toward Eritrean refugees needs tightening.
The Federal Administrative Court’s decision handed down on Thursday says Switzerland will no longer recognize Eritreans as refugees solely on grounds of having fled their country illegally. The policy automatically granted refugee status to some Eritreans.
However, the court decided, "The illegal exit from (Eritrea) cannot in itself justify recognition as a refugee” because of some recent cases of Eritreans returning safely for short home visits after gaining asylum status in Switzerland. The ruling came on Monday and cannot be appealed.
The government’s policy for processing asylum requests from Eritrean refugees is important because Eritreans make up the largest single nationality among asylum seekers in Switzerland – some 5,000 a year.
Eritrean refugees are one of the largest groups trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to start a new life in Europe, where more than 47,000 Eritreans applied for asylum in 2015.
Last year, a U.N. commission of inquiry said the small Horn of Africa country’s "systematic, widespread" human rights abuses should be referred to the International Criminal Court as crimes against humanity that include enslavement of up to 400,000 people among Eritrea’s 6 million population.
Eritrea and Ethiopia feuded over their border ever since Eritrea gained independence in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war. The United Nations sent in peacekeepers under a 2000 peace agreement that ended a 2 1/2-year border war in which at least 70,000 people died.