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Covid-19 Swiss rights groups urge moratorium for asylum procedures

Kitchen in asylum centre

There are concerns that asylum seekers living in special centres get infected with coronavirus.  

(© Keystone/Marcel Bieri)

Human rights organisations in Switzerland have called for a suspension of asylum procedures due to the current coronavirus epidemic. 

A coalition of rights groups, including Amnesty Internationalexternal link and Solidarité  Sans Frontierèsexternal link, argue a fair procedure is no longer guaranteed as it is difficult to carry out medical tests under the current restrictions and due to a lack of legal advisors who have been infected with the virus. 

They criticise that migrants have been left out of by the government’s health precautions and they often have to live in asylum centres housing "hundreds of people”. 

However, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) has dismissed the criticism, saying it has reopened a number of centres closed last year. 

A senior SEM official said an additional 4,000 places would be "made available shortly”. She also pointed out that the number of asylum seekers has dropped considerably over the past weeks. 

She confirmed that there are a small number of infected asylum seekers who had been put in quarantine. Strict hygiene rules had been implemented in the centres and transfers to other regions limited to a minimum she added. 

Switzerland has closed its borders and denies entry to asylum seekers as part of the government’s measures to stem the spread of Covid-19.

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