No asylum visas yet granted under new system

The new Swiss legislation that states being a conscientious objector is no longer grounds for asylum especially affects Eritreans Keystone

No humanitarian visas have been issued at Swiss embassies to those seeking asylum since the government changed its policy in September, according to the latest data from the Federal Migration Office.

This content was published on December 10, 2012 - 16:44 and agencies

The policy enacted since September says that those seeking asylum can no longer file applications at Swiss embassies, unless they find themselves in clearly life-threatening danger.

In that case, a humanitarian visa would be issued, but no such case has gone through so far.

According to Gaby Szöllosy, spokeswoman for the migration office, humanitarian visas have been requested in ten cases, none of which have been approved by the Swiss authorities.

“Up to this point, we have not been able to accept any of these requests, because the people did not find themselves in acute danger,” Szöllosy told Swiss radio on Monday.

She added however, that the number of asylum applications at embassies abroad increased considerably ahead of the law change at the end of September and that the new humanitarian visa policy had been enacted very quickly thereafter.

Beat Meiner , secretary-general of the Swiss Refugee Council, told Swiss television that many questions remain open about the fact that no humanitarian visas have been issued in the past several months.

He particularly questioned why no visa requests had been approved in Sudan, where hundreds of asylum applications were processed every year before changes to the law came into force.

In addition to the new policy surrounding humanitarian visas, the asylum law enacted in September no longer provides refugee status to conscientious objectors and army deserters, most notably in Eritrea, and allows for the creation of special centres for unruly asylum seekers already in the country.

The government is also authorised to test different procedures to speed up asylum requests and allows federal authorities to house asylum seekers for up to three years in accommodation without asking explicit permission from cantonal authorities.

Until September, Switzerland was the only country in the world still offering the option to apply for asylum at its embassies.

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