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Deportation flights face renewed difficulties

Switzerland has unsuccessfully resumed forced deportation flights of rejected asylum seekers, the Federal Migration Office says.

This content was published on August 15, 2010 - 14:43

A spokesman for the office confirmed a newspaper report on Sunday that the first flight since their suspension in March due to the death of a Nigerian took place on July 28.

The chartered aircraft first flew from Zurich to Mali where Swiss security personnel handed over one man to the local authorities, said Jonas Montani of the Migration Office, confirming an article in the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.

However, the plane was not granted landing rights for a second stop in Gambia where five rejected asylum seekers were to be returned.

Montani said the aircraft was turned back even though Switzerland had received a verbal green light from Gambian officials in advance of the flight. He added that Switzerland has not yet received a reason for the refusal from Gambia.

The office said it was the first time it had experienced any problems with Gambia, even though Switzerland does not have an agreement regulating the return of asylum seekers with the African state.

Plans are being made to try to fly the five asylum seekers back to Gambia later this month.

Each flight costs SFr110,000 ($105,000).

Deportation flights were suspended on March 17, following the death of a 29-year-old convicted drug dealer. He suffered a heart attack and died at Zurich airport.

The heart attack was believed to have been brought on by the fact that the man had been on a hunger strike and was in a stressed state at the time.

In 2009, 43 special flights took off from Switzerland, deporting some 360 people, mostly towards the Balkans or Africa. In 2008 there were 45 flights.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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