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European migrant rules Switzerland urged to be more flexible on vulnerable refugees

a refugee woman

Switzerland is more strict than any other country on sending refugees back to where they first set foot in Europe. 


Switzerland should stop sending vulnerable asylum seekers back to Italy so long as adequate reception for them is not guaranteed there, says the Swiss Refugee Council. 

A joint reportexternal link published on Wednesday by the Swiss and Danish Refugee Councils found that vulnerable asylum-seekers sent back to Italy under the so-called Dublin rules are at high risk and their rights are not guaranteed. The report documents 13 cases of asylum seekers sent back to Italy from Switzerland and other European countries where their conditions on arrival were miserable. 

Since the last report in February 2017, housing, health and other facilities for asylum seekers in Italy have deteriorated, the NGOs found.   

The report says Switzerland applies the Dublin rules more strictly than any other country in Europe, consistently sending asylum-seekers back to where they first set foot on European soil - most of them to Italy. There are hardly any exceptions, the report found, even for vulnerable persons. 

The consequences of this strict practice are illustrated by the example of a Turkish woman who entered Swiss territory via Italy and applied for asylum in Switzerland. Although she had to undergo psychiatric treatment in Zurich, the Swiss authorities sent her back to Italy without further clarification, according to the report. There the woman, reportedly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, was left to her own devices for a week before being put in a camp with mainly men. She fell ill there and was admitted to hospital two weeks later. It was only thanks to the intervention of a lawyer that she finally got access to a psychologist weeks later and was able to move to an emergency shelter for women. 


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